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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.

Article

“Medieval” Ethiopia  

Alessandro Bausi and Jacopo Gnisci

Ethiopia is located in the northern Horn of Africa. As a choronym or place name in modern scholarship, Ethiopia has been used to designate several past and present entities with different cultural, ethnic, and territorial configurations. Here, the term is used to refer to a predominantly Christian state in the northern Horn of Africa that was ruled by a Christian sovereign. Terms such as medieval and Middle Ages have been used and continue to appear in historical writing about Ethiopia’s past, but it is important to bear in mind that such terms were used by early modern historiography to establish a time frame for studying European history. Their relevance to non-European contexts is questionable, but they may have value as a means to help situate the study of Ethiopia within the broader field of global history. There are no universally accepted criteria or terms for the periodization of Ethiopian history. However, most works focusing on the centuries between c. 500 and 1500 ce, dates that do not neatly align with major turning points in Ethiopian history, have adopted periodizations that are based on episodes of dynastic succession.

Article

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.

Article

Second Intermediate Period  

Danielle Candelora

The Second Intermediate Period of ancient Egypt was the second of three eras of political fragmentation in pharaonic history, traditionally spanning from approximately 1773 to 1550 bce. It encompasses the late 13th–17th dynasties of Egypt, which ruled semi-contemporaneously from several different political centers. The beginning of the era was a continuation of the proceeding unified period, the Middle Kingdom, and was also marked by the increased influx of immigrants from Southwest Asia, the Eastern Desert, and Nubia. At the height of the Second Intermediate Period, a dynasty of foreign kings known as the Hyksos (Dynasty 15) ruled the north of Egypt from Avaris, modern Tell el Dabʿa, in the Eastern Delta, while a native Egyptian dynasty ruled from Thebes (Dynasty 17). These Theban kings began a war to expel the Hyksos from Egypt, formally ending this period and ushering in the New Kingdom. Although this period has long been characterized as one of decline and crisis, it actually featured an unprecedented level of innovation and regionalism, not least of all due to the impact of immigrants on Egyptian society and culture.

Article

Stone Tools: Their Relevance for Historians and the Study of Historical Processes  

Justin Pargeter

From at least 3.4 million years ago to historic periods, humans and their ancestors used stone as the raw material for tool production. Archeologists find stone tools on all the planet’s habitable landmasses, even in its cold and ecologically sparse Arctic regions. Their ubiquity and durability inform archeologists about important dimensions of human behavioral variability. Stone tools’ durability also gives them the ability to contribute to the study of long-term historical processes and the deeper regularities and continuities underlying processes of change. Over the last two millennia as ceramics, livestock, European goods, and eventually Europeans themselves arrived in southern Africa, stone tools remained. As social, environmental, economic, and organizational upheavals buffeted African hunter-gatherers, they used stone tools to persist in often marginal landscapes. Indigenous Africans’ persistence in the environment of their evolutionary origins is due in large part to these “small things forgotten.” Stone tools and their broader contexts of use provide one important piece of information to address some of archaeology and history’s “big issues,” such as resilience in small-scale societies, questions of human mobility and migrations, and the interactions of humans with their environments. Yet, stone tools differ in important ways from the technologies historians are likely to be familiar with, such as ceramics and metallurgy, in being reductive. While ceramics are made by adding and manipulating clay-like substances, stone tools are made by removing material through the actions of grinding, pecking, or fracture. Metals sit somewhere in between ceramics and stone: they can be made through the reduction of ores, but they can also be made through additive processes when one includes recycling of old metals. Stone-tool technologies can also be more easily and independently reinvented than these other technologies. These distinctions, along with the details of stone tool production and use, hold significance for historians wishing to investigate the role of technology in social organization, economy, consumption, contact, and cultural change.