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African Maritime Archaeology  

Edward Pollard

The continent of Africa has had a lengthy involvement in global maritime affairs and archaeological research with Middle Stone Age people using marine resources on the coasts of southern Africa, the Classical Pharos lighthouse of Alexandria, and Medieval Indian Ocean trade on the Swahili coast to the Atlantic triangular slave trade. Maritime archaeology is the identification and interpretation of physical traces left by people who use the seas and oceans. Middle Stone Age sites in South Africa such as Klasies River Mouth and Pinnacle Point have the earliest evidence for human use of marine resources including birds, marine mammals, and shellfish. This exploitation of marine resources was also coincident with the use of pigment, probably for symbolic behavior, as well as the production of bladelet stone tool technology. The extensive timespan of human activity on the coast around Africa occurred during changing relative sea levels due to Ice Ages and tectonic movement affecting the location of the coastline relative to maritime archaeological sites. Geomorphological changes may also take place over shorter periods such as the 1909 ce shipwreck of the Eduard Bohlen in Namibia lying c. one and half thousand feet landward of the shoreline. Ancestors of sea-going vessels have been recorded on rivers from dugout canoes excavated at Dufuna in northern Nigeria and the first plank-built boats, such as the Old Kingdom Royal Ship of Cheops of Khufu, found at the Giza pyramids, which imitated the shape of earlier papyrus rafts. Classical documents such as the Periplus Maris Erythraei and Ptolemy’s Geographia record Arabian and Indian trade with eastern Africa including ivory and rhinoceros horn and describe fishing practices using baskets and sewn-hull boats of the inhabitants. The increase in oceanic trade links here during the medieval period encouraged the formation of Swahili port cities such as Kilwa and Mombasa. The former was in a strategic position to manage much of the gold trade between Sofala in Mozambique and the northern Swahili Coast. Portuguese forts, constructed in the 15th and 16th centuries on their trade routes around Africa, such as Elmina Castle in Ghana, Fort Jesus in Mombasa, Kenya, and Fort São Sebastião on Mozambique Island, dominate the ports and harbors. The first sub-Saharan underwater scientific investigations took place in 1976 of the Portuguese frigate Santo Antonio de Tanna that sunk during an Omani siege from 1696 to 1698. At Elmina in West Africa, studies were made of wreck-site formation processes around the 17th-century Dutch West India Company vessel Groeningen, which had caught fire when firing its guns in salute to Elmina Castle after arrival. More broad-based studies that interpret the functioning of the African maritime society in its wider environmental setting, both physically in the context of its religious buildings, harbors, fishing grounds, sailing routes, and shipwrecks, and by taking account of non-material aspects of the beliefs that influence behavior of coastal societies, have led to interpretations of their maritime outlook.


Italian Colonial Architecture and City Planning in North and East Africa  

Mia Fuller

Italian colonial architecture began with styles directly transplanted from Italy to Eritrea—Italy’s first African colonial territory—in the 1890s. By the late 1920s, when Italy also held Libya and Italian Somalia, it had already created a substantial set of buildings (cathedrals and banks, for instance) in any number of unmodified Italian styles ranging from the classical to the neo-medieval and neo-Renaissance. Moorish (or “Oriental”) effects were also abundant, in another transplant from Europe, where they were extremely popular. Following the rise of design innovations after World War I, though, at the end of the 1920s, Italian Modernist architects—particularly the theoretically inclined Rationalists—began to protest. In conjunction with the fascist regime’s heavy investment in farming settlements, prestigious city centers, and new housing, architecture proliferated further, increasingly incorporating Rationalist design, which was the most thoughtfully syncretistic, aiming as it did to reflect particular sites while remaining Modernist. After Ethiopia was occupied in 1936, designers’ emphasis gravitated from the particulars of design theory to the wider canvas of city planning, which was driven by new ideas of racial segregation for colonial prestige and control.


Middle Kingdom  

Wolfram Grajetzki

The Middle Kingdom covers roughly the first half of the second millennium bce. It is the Middle Bronze Age. In the Eleventh Dynasty, around 2000 bce, Egypt was again united after a period of disunity. In the following early Twelfth Dynasty, Egypt was a decentralized country with many local governors in charge of the provinces. At the royal court, seven kings with the names Amenemhat and Senusret as well as the ruling queen Sobeknofru ruled the country for about two hundred years, which attests to great political stability. The kings conquered Lower Nubia, raided South Palestine, and started to replace many local, mud-brick built temples with those built in stone. Kings were buried in pyramids. Itj-tawy was founded as the new capital. Within the dynasty, further towns were built as part of an inner colonization. Part of this colonization was also the cultivation of the Fayum, a river oasis that was before not suitable for agriculture on a larger scale. Within the dynasty, there is also a visible trend of centralization that reached its peak under king Senusret III, who reduced the power of the local governors. An institution called the great enclosure organized corvée work. In the Thirteenth Dynasty, over about 150 years there were many kings who each ruled for a short time, which attests to a politically unstable period, while the administration went on without a major break. However, at the end of the period, the unity of the country felt apart. People from the Levant took over part of the Eastern Delta, while in the south, Egypt lost control of the Nubian provinces and struggled with attacks from the powerful Nubian empire of Kerma. In terms of art and culture, the Middle Kingdom was seen by the Ancient Egyptians as their classical period. The language of the period became the classical Egyptian language. Works of literature were still read hundred years later, and the art production of this time was the model for many later periods.