Maritime and Underwater Cultural Heritage in Mauritius: Mapping Shipwrecks and Slave Trade Ships

Wed February 19th 2020, 12:00 - 1:00pm

Maritime and Underwater Cultural Heritage in Mauritius: Mapping Shipwrecks and Slave Trade Ships

Mauritius is an island created by maritime endeavour and has been a critical node in the movement of people, goods, and ideas during the period of European expansion. A research on historical and archive sources has recorded an extraordinary number of shipwrecks, over 800, demonstrating the great potential of the island’s maritime context. Starting from this huge database, a new GIS project is mapping all these shipwrecks with the aim of creating a complete frame of the potential and concrete maritime heritage in this area of the Indian Ocean.

Moreover, the maritime heritage in Mauritius is important not only for local communities i.e., Le Coureur (1821) was last illegal slaver ship and represents the actual ending of slavery but also for the wider world, e.g., HMS Sirius (1810) was part of the fleet in the battle of Trafalgar. For instance, exploring the social, craft, and biographical aspects of Le Coureur shipwreck will not only provide new evidence and help contextualize the slavery period in Mauritius, but will also make a significant contribution to the understanding of labour migration in this part of the West Indian Ocean.

Stefania Manfio is a maritime archaeologist and current PhD student in the Department of Anthropology. Her research explores how the social, craft, and biographical aspects of shipbuilding and the transportation of people can help us better understand the period of slavery and the transition to indenture. Moreover, she is broadly interested in understanding how the ‘vessel’, the ship itself, is a vehicle of culture contact and how the study of the artifacts found in the shipwreck can give us information on life at sea and the relationships on-board. For her Ph.D., she is working on materials and shipwrecks from Mauritius, serving as an ideal case for Indian Ocean labor movements.

She is specialized on the use of 3D visualizations, based on gaming technology, as a tool for the enhancement and dissemination of maritime heritage. She is also involved in developing the Marine Spatial Plan for Mauritius, developing ways to integrate maritime heritage into the Blue Economy mandate, and contribute to resilience in Small Island Developing States.