Ancient Beads of the Necropolis of Vohemar of Northern Madagascar

Vohemar is a natural harbour and coastal town of the northern region of Madagascar. It is famous due to its archaeological heritage. The Necropolis of Vohemar comprises an archaeological and cultural significance in the history and present of the country. The literary reference of Vohemar is found in the Arab-Malagasy texts as Bimaro or Iharana. The ancient tombs of the site belong to the Rasikajy Group. These archaeological necropolises were revealed in the later 19th cent. CE in proximity with the Vohemar village. 

(Nimes Museum Collection), Credits: Colomban, P.; Simsek
Franci, G.; Koleini, F. On-Site Raman
Spectroscopic Study of Beads from
the Necropolis of Vohemar, Northern
Madagascar (>13th C.). Heritage 2021,
4, 524–540. https://doi.org/10.3390/
heritage4010031

Later on, many regional and global researchers explored these ancient tombs in the search of archaeological artefacts and many more things. Many excavations were carried out during the French era of Madagascar. The main artefacts find were Chinese ceramic shards and Carnelian and glass trade beads. The scientific analysis (Raman microscopy) shows that these beads were originated in the southern Asian nations & Europe and came to Madagascar during medieval times via trade routes. Madagascar was part of the maritime links of the Western Indian Ocean during that era. 

(Nimes Museum Collection), Credits: Colomban, P.; Simsek
Franci, G.; Koleini, F. On-Site Raman
Spectroscopic Study of Beads from
the Necropolis of Vohemar, Northern
Madagascar (>13th C.). Heritage 2021,
4, 524–540. https://doi.org/10.3390/
heritage4010031

The bead discovered during the French excavations is now part of the collection of Nimes Natural History Museum. The collection consists of 1100 beads (7 necklaces and 4 bracelets). Beads are mainly made up of carnelian, glass, and terracotta. Historically and traditionally, Carnelian and agate beads were produced in the Indian Subcontinent and exported across the Indian Ocean.

(Nimes Museum Collection), Credits: Colomban, P.; Simsek
Franci, G.; Koleini, F. On-Site Raman
Spectroscopic Study of Beads from
the Necropolis of Vohemar, Northern
Madagascar (>13th C.). Heritage 2021,
4, 524–540. https://doi.org/10.3390/
heritage4010031

From the late middle age time frame, Northern Madagascar had various little and enormous exchanging towns administered by Swahili vendors. Vohemar, one such town, was likely established around the thirteenth Century as a Swahili exchanging port.

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