A coral box dating back to the ninth century has been discovered buried underground on the island of Hanyaameedhoo in Alif Dhaal atoll.
The box contained about a kilo of cowrie shells and an idol resembling a cow. Cowrie shells were used as currency in antiquity and the cow idol is believed to have been an object of worship.
The relics were discovered by Jamshaad Mohamed in his house last week. He was digging a hole to plant trees.
“It was buried about two feet under the ground. I didn’t think anything of it at first. I just cleaned the shells and gave them to my children to play,” he said.
Jamshaad’s house is located at the centre of the island. According to him, the area was a hill before the government distributed land plots in the 1990s.
“I haven’t heard about anything else discovered in the area. But it may have been discarded as garbage without knowing,” he said.
The island’s council handed over the relics to the department of heritage on Wednesday. Officials from the department could not be reached for comment at the time of publication.
However, the heritage department told online news outlet CNM last week that based on similar relics at the national museum, the box is estimated to be 12 centuries old. The relics will be displayed at the museum in Malé.
It is unclear whether other discoveries had been made on Hanyaameedhoo in the past. However, the island is believed to have been inhabited since the first wave of settlers arrived in the Maldives about 3,000 years ago.
The island is also home to a mausoleum for Sultan Ibrahim Kalaafaanu III, who died in a battle at sea with invading Malabars in 1609AD.
In October 2009, former President Mohamed Nasheed opened a display of historical manuscripts adjacent to the Kalaafaanu mosque in Hanyaameedhoo.
The manuscripts dated back 400 years and were discovered in Malé. It contained instructions about building and maintaining the Kalaafaanu mausoleum.
Photo from heritage department via CNM.