Academy of the Dhivehi Language
Archaeological Excavations of a Monastery at Kaashidhoq (Maldives)
Kaashidhoo, an island located in Kaafu atoll is a large island which in earlier days had been a port for trade and exchange of goods for cowrie shells took place.
The first scientific excavation conducted in Maldives was carried out in Kaashidhoo, in Male' atoll by Professor Dr. Egil Mikkelsen and his team in collaboration with the National Centre for Linguistic and Historical Research from J 996-1998. The site is a mound called "Kaashidhoo Kuruhinna Tharaagandu' located in the island. This excavation revealed a lot of information about Maldives' ancient Buddhist past.
The excavations at Kaashidhoo which took place from the 22nll of February to the 71h of March 1996, were continued in J 997, from 3ru to zo" of March and were finished from 24th February to 121h March 1998.
This project was a co-operation between Professor Dr. Egil Mikkelsen (University of Oslo, Norway) and the National Centre for Linguistic and Historical Research in Male', Drawing and documentations and all three excavation campaigns took place with the collaboration of: Museum director and archaeologist Solbritt Benneth from the Museum of Medieval Stockholm.
Kaashidhoo Kuruhinna Tharaagandu is situated just outside the houses of the village at Kaashidhoo in a plantation of coconut, papaya and banana trees. During the three excavation campaigns, an area of 1,880 square metres with 64 ruins was investigated. This is only a part of the original monastery where its total size is not known. Except for one. the structures uncovered were coarse coral stone with sand and stones. Square, rectangular, circular and semi-circular extensions arc different variations of shapes of the structures found. The sizes varied between one metre and 11.5 metres. The lowermost parts of the structures (30-40 Cm) had normally been preserved; the rest had been used as building material over the years. Numerous stones were collected during the excavations which were worked and profiled.
In a corner of a ruin, by the steps leading to it was a pit consisting of cowrie shells amounting to 62,000. These shells have been dated to AD 165-345 (T12495). Cowrie shells played an important role in the Buddhist culture and religion, representatively as well as economically. Around AD 500, when cowrie shells spread to northern and central Europe, they were also mentioned as trading products from the Maldives, as shown in the archaeological finds in the region.
In another ruin, it is a 16-sided structure with a height of 1.3m and a diameter of 6m, with a platform at the top and a flight of stairs on the south side. This is one or the biggest and best preserved structures at the site.
In conclusion, this excavation proved that Buddhist culture was recognized in the Maldives in the first part of the first Millennium. Archaeological evidence proves that the ancient people who lived here, built large monuments, monasteries temples and dagobas, which were eventually destroyed in later centuries.