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|Notes:||Essay on the interaction of technology and society, or how technology shapes the social order, in Swahili city states. Lamu, being the last and best preserved Swahili community, offers the case study for showing how the ruling class (waungwana) selectively encouraged or disdained certain technologies (e.g., agricultural ones). Houses and furnishings were regarded as important in maintaining a cultural superiority; hence, technologies associated with architecture and building were emphasized--wood carving, plasterwork and masonry. Accumulation of wealth took the form of more and more attention to architectural display and importation of luxury items, such as porcelain.
The prestige economy of the Swahili trading class, which flourished in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (particularly in Lamu), lost its pre-eminence with the coming of the Omani Arabs and later the Europeans. As a result these technologies declined, no longer needed to serve a now declining elite.