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Kenya: Secret caves uncovered in Mombasa

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Booker Gant
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« on: September 28, 2007, 01:27:45 am »

Kenya: Secret caves uncovered in Mombasa
Posted on Monday 24 September 2007 - 10:39

By Dipesh Pabari, AfricaNews reporter in Kenya. Photo: Fort Jesus in Mombassa, source:

There has been a recent resurge of interest in the famous tunnels in Mombasa, Kenya. The story uncovered so far begins during the 16th Century Omani siege of Fort Jesus. When resident archaeologist, Hans Martin began investigating the tunnel, it made him realise that this might have been one possibility as to how the Portuguese were able to survive the siege for so long.
“Nobody is asking the question as to how the Portuguese got food and ammunition supplies into the Fort during this period. They must have brought some in through small boats but I don’t think that would have been enough,” states Hans.

The Portuguese must have been very determined or desperate to dig through one and half kilometres of solid coral rock although Mr. Martin does suspect that they could have been assisted by natural formations: “When you go down to the ocean front, you will notice that there are several caves. I think the Portuguese found some caves and connected them.” Nevertheless, this was no simple engineering feet.

Adding to the intrigue are the series of other tunnels that run in several different directions. However, the Museum’s archaeological team are quite certain that they are much more recent and can be credited to British fears of invasion either during the First or Second World War.

There is still a lot of work to be done once the Museum can consolidate and gazette all the sites under one title. “Somebody really needs to get into the tunnel and demystify what there purpose was,” says, Mr. Katana, the Principal Curator.

Plans for excavation and restoration are underway with Mombasa hosting the Africa 2009 in August for Heritage Management.  “It is really exciting because this has been a discussion for sometime. Right now most of it is speculation. We know a little about the one from Fort Jesus to Rasarani but we don’t know anything about the others.”

See also Dipesh Pabari's weblog.


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