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date: 26 September 2022

Community-Based Approaches to African Historyfree

Community-Based Approaches to African Historyfree

  • Peter R. SchmidtPeter R. SchmidtDepartment of Anthropology, University of Florida
  •  and Kathryn Weedman ArthurKathryn Weedman ArthurDepartment of Society, Culture, and Language, University of South Florida St. Petersburg


Several trends in the historical scholarship of Africa require recognition and remediation. The first is a quickly shrinking interest in African history of the past two millennia, with a shift in emphasis to early hominins and to the modern period. The precolonial history of Africa, once a subject of considerable excitement for historians, historical linguists, and archaeologists, is fading from interest. The high cost of interdisciplinary research is one reason, but a deeper, more alarming cause is the rapid erasure of oral traditions by globalization, disease, and demographic changes. Archaeologists and heritage experts are faced with a need to find innovative means to investigate and recover historical information. One proven path is partnerships with communities that want to initiate research to document, recuperate, and preserve their histories. Community approaches in other world regions have shown important research results. Adapting some of the philosophy and methods of other experiments as well as innovating their own approaches, archaeologists and heritage managers in Africa are increasingly involved in community projects that hold out significant hope that the quickly disappearing oral and material history of Africa can be preserved and studied into the future. Two case studies—one from the Haya people of Tanzania and the other from the Boreda Gamo of Ethiopia—illustrate that long-term and trusting partnerships with local groups lead to important historical observations and interpretations. Such collaborations also lead to thorough documentation and preservation of historical sites and information that otherwise would be lost to posterity. Moreover, they account for the ability of local groups to initiate and to conduct their own research while recognizing local control over heritage and history.


  • Archaeology
  • East Africa and Indian Ocean
  • Historiography and Methods

Changing Trends in Historical Research in Africa

Historical studies of precolonial history in Africa face a crisis. Increasingly researchers are turning away from ancient history to the study of the modern period or they are devoting more attention to deep antiquity such as early hominin studies that are exclusively archaeological.1 With trends favoring either deep antiquity or the modern period, scholars of heritage are left with some alarming lacunae for late Holocene Africa, especially for the past 2000 years. Further, historians interested in Africa’s deep time history over the past several millennia employ archaeology and historical linguistics, while investigations of the modern period are primarily based in historical documents, both paying less attention to perhaps Africa’s greatest historical resource, knowledge keepers—men and women who hold histories and cultural knowledge in their memories.

The trend since the 1990s reverses a significant growth of research into the precolonial period that arose with the development of African history in tertiary education during the 1960s and the decades following. There was an optimism both in Africa and in the Western academy that precolonial history could be accessed through the incorporation of and rigorous study of oral traditions, a school of thought popularized by Jan Vansina, and later by scholars such as Steven Feierman.2 Vansina popularized the notion that oral traditions could be linked with archaeology to weave a thicker and brighter fabric of history. His 1960 book, Oral Tradition as a Method, used many examples of how oral traditions could be united with archaeology, though his 1985 book on the same topic dropped archaeology from the gaze of African historians who addressed oral traditions.3 Vansina’s initial perspective was also taken up by Roland Oliver, another important figure in the launching of African history as a historical discipline. In Oliver’s case, some of his enthusiasm for the union arose directly out of his archaeological experience at Bigo, the massive earthworks site in western Uganda, where he worked with Merrick Posnansky for a short period as an apprentice archaeologist.4 The early optimism that infused African history about the hope for interdisciplinary research has since waned significantly for a plethora of reasons not anticipated fifty years ago, though scholars such as Neil Kodesh are bridging the different methodological and theoretical perspectives of the two eras.5 Among the reasons discussed here are extended training time for researchers, demanding financial requirements, and a shifting interest toward modernity.

Despite the enthusiasm and optimism that gripped historical studies of Africa in its earlier development, there were clearly difficulties with an interdisciplinary approach that initially were not recognized. First, young scholars inclined toward such efforts faced formidable odds against such broad research objectives, with extended field research one of the foremost requirements; this meant more extensive training, in multiple disciplines (e.g., history and archaeology with anthropology or history and linguistics). Graduate study for such interdisciplinary research is both time-consuming and costly, particularly in the early 21st century academy. Second, extended research in a field setting, for example, where archaeology is practiced alongside oral tradition research and archival research demands significant financial resources. In decades past, when costs had not escalated to their level as of 2018, field research with such multiple goals could be sustained on what in the early 21st century appear to be modest budgets. In the late 1960s, when Peter Schmidt engaged such research in northwest Tanzania, a two-year stay with one year of archaeological survey and excavations cost $22,000, which after five decades of inflation would cost $143,000—way beyond the means of most young scholars. Such costs require multiple applications for highly competitive grants, with some students having to devote long periods of time to repeated applications, and then obtaining only a fraction of the funding required. Many federal agencies providing larger funds for research in the United States are progressively demanding that researchers describe the broader impacts of their research to society.

The third trend that has emerged since roughly the year 2000 is an increasing engagement of the modern period by scholars of the historical disciplines. There are complex and interwoven reasons for this trajectory, including the more national focus of US research granting agencies, but several primary causes can be identified. Since the 1990s, historical scholarship on the modern era has grown more significantly than that of the precolonial era.6 Ready access to archives, the presence of mentors in history departments disposed toward archival research, and an increasing interest in African Diaspora—from African societies to the reformulation of societies in the New World—has contributed significantly. Archaeological research in Africa has seen a parallel trend, with increasing attention paid to the enslaved and the slave trade.7 These are important developments, particularly when they focus on the impact of the slave trade on African societies.8 When African states respond to a growing interest in the Atlantic slave trade to generate revenue from American heritage tourism, local heritage interests may be eclipsed. For example, in Sierra Leone tourism led to an emphasis on the enslavement fort on Bunce Island, and places and narratives of significance to Sierra Leoneans were excluded from development plans and state histories.9 Whatever the complications that arise from an increased emphasis, this shift in focus has drawn the concerned attention of historians; for example, when Nancy Hunt observed that African history (and allied historical disciplines like archaeology) is at risk to fade into diaspora studies, particularly in North America where “diversity agendas there prescribe histories that view Africa only through the lens of Atlantic mobility and slavery.”10

Paralleling these changes is another influence coming out of North American historical archaeology from its inception, a perspective that insists that historical archaeology must be the study of the modern world, particularly the transformation wrought by colonialism.11 This doctrine treats Africa as a laboratory for testing ideas about colonial-induced changes, with scant interest in the internal dynamics and changes in Africa independent of colonialism or colonial forces such as the slave trade.12 This perspective marginalizes African agency by eschewing a focus on indigenous histories except where they intersect with the colonial-impact agenda. Such an ideologically driven practice in archaeological studies carries a strong bias toward colonialism and the modern world as the only agency of change and empowers narratives of Euro-Americans that attempt to eliminate other peoples and cultures, rending them either passive or annihilated, thus endangering deep time precolonial history of Africa. By requiring that historical archaeology focus its study on the modern world, it ipso facto excludes inquiry that finds such entanglements peripheral or inadequate for explaining dynamics of internal economic, religious, and political change. Despite its imperial agenda, this brand of historical archaeology is becoming increasingly popular. Its deep dependency on literary sources—one index to the modern world—naturally leads it into the readily available colonial archive and Euro-American centrism.

Being replaced by the modern, rigorous inquiry into indigenous representations of history in oral form are fading from interest. Culture change is the foremost force leading to reconfigured opportunities for historical research in Africa focused on learning from knowledge keepers. While significant change may be attributed to mission activity as well as colonial imposition and interference with political institutions and economy, over the past century globalization is the leading force, driven by major changes in economy and communications. Global conservation is but one example in which African landscapes are externally defined as wilderness to benefit the West, while African peoples forced from lands such as the Serengeti still hold significant memories of it as a social landscape.13 In earlier periods of disaster and stress caused by environmental change and colonialism, elders of the Serengeti evoked memories through the landscape for healing, whereas global conservation creates hegemonic perspectives coupled with outbound migration that disconnect people from the land, resulting in decreased reliance on landscape memories as a source for healing. Inevitably, such changes ramify and significantly transform how indigenous histories are kept, related, and represented. There has been a sea change in the corpus of historical knowledge held by elders across the continent, with major diminution in hundreds of cultures. Amplifying these causes of radical change in the eastern and southern regions of the continent is HIV-AIDS.14 As the pandemic left ravaged communities across wide swaths of Africa, so too did historical knowledge suffer. While many studies have focused on the economic, educational, and health aspect of HIV-AIDS, little realization has emerged about the cultural consequences, especially about how histories and heritage identities have eroded.15 While one case study emphasizes the impact of HIV-AIDS, it is important to recognize that not all regions of Africa or regions of Tanzania have experienced similar effects; Shetler’s research in the Serengeti, for example, shows little impact on knowledge keepers.16

Experiencing Change in Knowledge Keepers and Historical Landscapes

Schmidt came to a profound understanding of the significant impact that HIV-AIDS and other changes have had on historical knowledge when he returned in 2008 to his initial field research area, northwest Tanzania (Figure 1).17 Some parts of villages were overgrown with bush, once carefully manicured village roads had become weedy paths, and people exhibited a sense of hopelessness. Stunned by the erosion of heritage identity, he encountered major spiritual landmarks like shrine trees—once monumental parts of complex memoryscapes—in ruins.18 The removal of one of Africa’s most important ancient shrines, Kaiija Tree, marked the deep transformations underway in Haya culture and history.19 The purposeful killing of Kaiija (Figure 2), known for its deep time oral traditions preserved by continuous ritual performance over several millennia, was the most obvious index to the rapid disappearance of heritage values that once would have been preserved by such a monument and essential for preserving the monument. A local Haya historian, F. X. Lwamgira, once captured the centrality of shrine trees as monuments: “It would be a shameful act to destroy all the burial and sacred places. . . . I think that everyone should consider these places as documents of important information about the history of our country. The destruction of these places would mean the destruction of the origin of the clans in our different kingdoms.”20

Figure 1. Map of study area in Kagera Region of NW Tanzania.

Map by Peter R. Schmidt.

Figure 2. Left: Trunk of Kaiija shrine tree in 1970; Right: The remains of Kaiija shrine tree after its destruction, with Benjamin Shegesha, the project director of the Katuruka community initiative.

Photos by Peter R. Schmidt.

The death of Kaiija and the destruction of other shrine trees linked to Early Iron Age (200 bce–600 ce) activities and ritual cults connected to deep time presence mark a serious departure from the indigenous principles that Lwamgira advocated. This diminution of oral traditions, the core of heritage identity along with the sacred shrines, signals a major loss of history. The disappearance of tangible mnemonic monuments effaces associated intangible heritage—deep time oral traditions and rituals. In this alarming scenario, archaeology and historical linguistics will remain the only means to recuperate the past. Without the testimonies of knowledge keepers, making sense of patterning in the archaeological record becomes even more difficult, particularly if it was structured by indigenous ontologies different from Western ones.

There is a growing body of evidence that the potential for interdisciplinary research that uses intersections of archaeological evidence with oral testimonies is quickly diminishing, at least insofar as traditional forms of inquiry are concerned. This observation arises from those with experience collecting oral traditions and oral history.21 Such severe changes do not go unnoticed in villages where at the same time other oral traditions were significantly compromised by the disappearance of so many history keepers during the HIV-AIDS pandemic.22 Profiles of communities in northwest Tanzania, for example, show a profound demographic change during the 1980s and 1990s, with a severe impact on elderly males—the traditional knowledge keepers.23 This development was accompanied by a majority of the youthful population under age fifteen, those who have not been socialized in heritage knowledge. Confronted with a significantly abbreviated historical knowledge, Africanist must consider alternative approaches to eliciting historical information and begin to experiment with new ways of acquiring knowledge that depart from the once favored method of research where historians or anthropologists go into communities as the primary investigators and ask people to provide their testimonies.

Rural and urban dwellers in Africa are keenly aware of the changes gripping their communities. They see youth who know nothing or very little about their heritage, unable to relate even the most basic of stories about the past or identify sacred places. They see children and grandchildren who are taught national and colonial histories but not their own histories in schools. A small core of remaining elders express alarm over quickly disappearing heritage, replaced by hip-hop and smart phones. Such circumstances invite reflection and are incubators for local initiatives to revitalize and preserve heritage. For example, when elders witnessed the death of Kaiija shrine, they realized that their history and very identity was under threat and in immediate danger of disappearing. Shamed by the idea that one of their own had killed Kaiija, many were reluctant for many months to openly discuss its death and its implications until it became clear that Kaiija was so closely linked to other histories that its absence required acknowledgment as well as reconciliation.

A new era in historical research is emerging in the 21st century. Local groups and communities are joining together with professionals to recuperate their histories and to protect and preserve sacred sites that are increasingly coming under threat from agricultural and exploitative activities. Since the HIV-AIDS pandemic began to compromise the integrity of historical knowledge, fresh opportunities have arisen to investigate subaltern accounts, particularly histories held by women.24 This development is even more important, as earlier historical researchers tended to focus on oral testimonies provided by elites and depended on male story tellers.

Genesis of Community Approaches in African History-Making

Community archaeology and heritage studies have a history that goes back to the end of colonialism—an observation that sometimes comes as a surprise to scholars and practitioners who have spearheaded such approaches in other parts of the world (see “Further Reading”). The leadership of Merrick Posnansky and Thurston Shaw on community approaches needs to be recognized as significantly influencing community orientations in the practice of an African archaeology grounded in history.25 Thurston Shaw’s perspective during his excavations at Igbo-Ukwu in Nigeria was to include community members as important participants and knowledgeable owners.26 For his time, Shaw exercised a visionary inclusion that privileged and respected local knowledge keepers. He also adopted a very pragmatic practice that ensured that the results of the Igbo-Ukwu research be made available to a wide Nigerian audience with the publication of an accessible publication that most Nigerians could read without being mystified by archaeological jargon.27

Shaw’s vision for community and public archaeology in Nigeria countered normal practice and is respected among Nigerians and others as a model for ethical practice. On the other side of the continent in Uganda, Posnansky was developing a practice that recognized the needs of local groups and communities by incorporating local narratives to complement the historical interpretations of archaeological sites.28 Taking ownership of his important role in the origins of community approaches in African historical students, Posnansky has shared in a retrospective view of his career how he came to a participatory practice in African historical archaeology.29 He relates how his experience in extramural engagements with communities in English archaeology helped broaden his perspective and helped to challenge normative colonial practices by including local African residents in the museum programs that he supervised.30 He also applied such views to the research that he undertook in rural areas of both Uganda and Ghana.31 Posnansky’s willingness to listen to local historical accounts led to his incorporation of oral traditions into archaeological narratives. His prescient view of history-making launched a new school of practice in African archaeology. By accepting that local collaborators held knowledge of value for historical interpretation, Posnansky valorized community approaches and engaged in the first significant decolonization of African archaeology. Since the 1960s, his views on the incorporation of ethnographic data have profoundly influenced several generations of scholars, including the authors of this article.

The legacy of long-term engagements with communities by some Africanist archaeologists includes apprenticeship and guidance from local participants, including the view that local people command deep time knowledge often associated with sacred sites, knowledge about which is often secreted in subaltern knowledge inaccessible to short-term research engagements.32 One of the stronger examples of success in working patiently and closely with communities to reveal hidden histories is Joost Fontein’s research about Great Zimbabwe where he and his Zimbabwean collaborators unveiled sacred sites that contest conventional histories.33 This genre of research follows the Shaw and Posnansky school, as do earlier community engagements by Schmidt, who devoted an entire year to ethnographic observations and collection of oral traditions in Buhaya, Tanzania, practicing an apprenticeship that set the scene for elders to understand his archaeological goals and to marry them to their knowledge of the ancient Kaiija shrine.34 Out of such familiarity came a local initiative to suggest and guide the excavations at the Kaiija and Katuruka site and thus lead the way to significant findings about the antiquity of iron production as well as deep time oral traditions tied to ritual performance.35

Figure 3. Map of the sacred shrines in and near Katuruka village, above Kemondo Bay, Bukoba Rural District.

Map by Peter R. Schmidt.

Community archaeology embodies the idea as that exercised by Haya elders in Tanzania—that the goals and research objectives of mutual research should issue from community members rather than outside investigators with agendas often incompatible with local needs. Working together to develop appropriate methods and objectives opens new knowledge that under conventional practices would remain obscured. To illustrate the future pathways for historical inquiry in Africa, this article draws on examples from eastern Africa and the Horn. The first focus is on a continuation of the story of Haya heritage in northwest Tanzania and the Haya people’s community-initiated project—an ingenious village research project to record oral traditions and preserve sacred sites, what they consider to be their core heritage (Figure 3). Subsequently, an illustration from the Horn of Africa is presented among the Boreda Gamo of Ethiopia, where Kathryn Weedman Arthur, after years of learning through careful listening, developed trust with community partners, who then disclosed sacred rituals associated with ancient ancestral sites to enlist cooperation in their protection and preservation.36

Blueprints for the Future: Local Research Initiatives

Starting in 2008, several local groups among the Haya people in northwest Tanzania have taken initiatives to rescue, study, preserve, and revitalize their histories. One initiative is in Katuruka village, the home of Kaiija shrine and King Rugomora’s burial estate, or gashani (Figure 4).37 Its residents, particularly the Balama clan (once the king’s cooks and later ritual officials at his burial estate), assign high value to archaeological findings that document the deep antiquity and reproductive meaning of a shrine that ritualized and memorialized iron working. It was a place that commanded much power and legitimacy and as such it became a primary target as a central capital of a new regime. Under the leadership of kings with pastoral identities—significantly different values and economies that excluded iron working—they arrived seeking to negotiate local legitimacy. One of the first appropriations took Kaiija shrine and transformed it from a shrine associated with nature spirits, as well as the Buyango clan (the original, indigenous ironworkers) that legends say founded iron working, to a shrine controlled by spirit mediums practicing a spirit possession by the ancient Bacwezi (hereafter Cwezi) god Wamara. This process of spiritual co-option and reorganization resembles what Rene Tantala identified as the following: “Certain Cwezi cults . . . became the patrons of new ruling lines and by extension the patrons of the polities of the Cwezi period. This suggests that local gods were sometimes assimilated to the Cwezi category (for example, the cults of Mulindwa and Wamara).”38 Venerating the origins of iron making, it was a place in the constellation of Haya life that brought together ritual performance, the acting out of structured ontologies, and the marrying of multiple metaphors for human reproduction—the reproduction of society and agricultural reproduction tied to the production of iron.39

Figure 4. Map of the gashani or burial estate of the 17th-century king, Rugomora Mahe. Once the interior palace compound, it incorporated Kaiija shrine. The Buchwankwanzi house was the divining house of the king.

Map by Peter R. Schmidt.

With such centrality to religious, political, and economic life, it is easy to understand why the shrine became the foremost target in a program of Hinda hegemony that harnessed the economic and metaphorical rights of the primary wealth producers: iron workers40 By making the shrine the center of their daily lives, identities were reformulated out of intimate, contiguous associations—relational identity—the most transforming metaphorical trope. Appropriations also included local spiritual practices, among them the practice of a python cult in which spirit mediumship plays a key role. Up until 2008 when the Katuruka experiment began, there was virtually no coherent knowledge about or understanding of the relationship among spirit possession, animals, and ancient sacred sites. Very fragmented accounts of snake possession existed as a scattered literature with bits and pieces from the early colonial era. Very little was known about practitioners at such shrines, what power they held and the significance of their rituals, but the central roles they played in ensuring prosperity and well-being were understood. In East Africa, this meant performance of New Moon ceremonies, a time of renewal, and a celebration of reproduction when the moon waxes.

Historians and anthropologists have long paid close attention to the power of the Queen Mother (the real power behind the throne), tending to pay insufficient attention to how in some cultures her spirit possessed a snake that was fed milk at her grave, as in Burundi.41 Moreover, little historical discourse had focused on the power and respect accorded guardians of sacred shrines dedicated to spirits of dead kings and clan leaders. The naming of both Queen Mothers and shrine guardians as kings in Burundi and in Buhaya begged for greater clarity in the constellation of political and ritual figures in the Great Lakes. The Katuruka research initiative developed in a manner that throws important new light on such issues, providing some of the most detailed and highly textured information on cult continuities and changes in the Great Lake region.

Women and the Unfolding of Local History

The most effective way to illustrate the potential of community history and archaeology is to present a case study from Katuruka, one of several that contributed substantively to the history of eastern Africa. Once village elders decided to launch their own research into the oral traditions and sacred places of Katuruka (Figure 5), their first step was to identify knowledge keepers. Surprisingly, given the deep tradition of male-dominated discourse, male elders identified women as the most knowledgeable local historians—a direct result of demographic changes from HIV-AIDS.42 Such change opened new avenues to knowledge previously secreted from inquiry and excluded from common daily discourse—both indices to the subaltern. Women participants spontaneously began to discuss Njeru (the white sheep), a woman who lived in the village from 1900 to the early 1960s:

Take Njeru, for example, we honor her because she was adopted [married] into the clan of Rugomora. . . . People received her with great honor; the palace was built, fences were erected and by protocol she was higher than the Mukama [king] of Maruku. If she became angry, heads of cattle had to be paid. When she became angry, she called my grandfather, that is why we are called [those who] support the kingdom. (Eudes Bambanza, November 26, 2009) (Figure 6).43

Figure 5. The reconstructed Buchwankwanzi shine (see Fig. 4), once used as a meeting place for the king; in subsequent generations it was a meeting place for his proxy wife with spirit mediums. It was also used to curate the ritual regalia of King Rugomora Mahe.

Photo by Peter R. Schmidt.

Figure 6. Ma Eudes Bambanza in her home, 2010.

Photo by Peter R. Schmidt.

The village interviewers learned for the first time about the political power of a woman who apparently commanded more respect than the king of Maruku Kingdom, which once incorporated Katuruka village. While some living residents remembered Njeru, by 2009 only two women held intimate knowledge of her ritual responsibilities. Over a short period, Eudes Bambanza revealed important memories about Njeru in her palace and sacred Kaiija shrine, particularly about her snake—King Rugomora Mahe:

As far as I know the snake . . . used to come to Njeru and coil three times on her thighs. That snake used to drink milk. It did not stay long, it went back to its house. There was also another house near there, they have even excavated there, in that house offerings were made [under Kaiija tree]. We now don’t reach the place, but there was the house of Rugomora the Great [the nyaruju palace house of Njeru]. It was there that he came out as the snake which married the woman (Ma Eudes, November 26, 2009).44

This testimony clearly relates that King Rugomora as a snake coiled on Njeru’s lap and that there was a spirit [shrine] house under Kaiija tree. The details and certainty of Ma Eudes’ accounts of Njeru riveted the authors’ attention. The special privilege that Balama clan members had as ritual assistants to Njeru came to light with Zuriat Mohamed several days later:

Those who served in the residence of Rugomora Mahe were my fathers, namely, Bambanza and Kandagara. . . .it is those two who served there. That is why I also went to work there. A few days before New Moon we would be told that the Mukama was about to appear. Then my father and his brother went to work, and we too went to perform other duties; that is, they prepared liquor to welcome the Mukama. The ancient Mukama was represented by Njeru who was regarded as his wife. On such occasions she was regarded as a newly-wed bride. That is what it meant, the appearance of the Mukama (Ma Zuriat Mohanned, December 1, 2009) (Figure 7).45

Figure 7. Ma Zuriat Mohamed in her home, 2010.

Photo by Peter R. Schmidt.

Zuriat made clear her family’s close ties as ritual interlocutors for Njeru and their responsibility to organize ceremonies during New Moon, a period during which Njeru became King Rugomora’s newly wedded bride—a ritual of renewal transforming her from his wife into a new bride. It was also a period when many gathered to celebrate, when the royal orchestra played, and when King Rugomora’s spirit possessed a snake, namely:

. . .people came from Maruku and it became a great festivity, that appearance of Mukama [Rugomora Mahe] at the occasion of the New Moon. . . .our own grandmother used to drag us there. I even witnessed the royal orchestra at Kaiija when it came there at the occasion of the New Moon. On that day one heard the orchestra. I worked there. I am explaining what I witnessed. I saw Mukama Njoka (king snake). The day the Mukama appeared, we made a great celebration; we ate and drank. . . . I worked there following instructions given to those who came to work under my supervision of six years (Ma Zuriat Mohammed, December 1, 2009).46

Zuriat’s testimony shows the intimacy of her engagement, even her witnessing the presence of the snake during rituals—a departure from many female accounts but consistent with most male accounts. Zuriat’s service in the royal court as constituted during New Moon rituals establishes that she was involved in most ritual activities, yet details about Njeru in these developed unexpectedly.

These narratives illustrate that the serpent consorting with Njeru as her husband is possessed by King Rugomora’s spirit in his burial estate (gashani) after his death. This is innovative kubandwa (spirit possession) at work under the supervision of embandwa (spirit mediums), acting out ancient practices by incorporating territorial spirits and their animal forms and later ancestral spirits. It points to a deep time legacy of a local python cult of great antiquity, a syncretic practice that continued until the 20th century as an instrument of power ensuring a continued Hinda presence on this sacred landscape.

Women, Kingship, and Python Cults

Before the veil over the history of Njeru was entirely lifted by key women participants, Leveriani Bambanza (aka Levi and Eudes’ brother) shared how Njeru was appointed to her position as a virgin bride to Rugomora Mahe:

Njeru was established . . . [by] the Mukama of Kihanja . . . called Kahigi.47 According to what I heard, there was another person before Njeru. When [she] died, Kahigi paid Njeru’s bride-price and brought her here. . . .This was under the rule of Kahigi, not that of Kalemera, nor Rugomora or Kishebuka [in Maruku] (Leveriani Bambanza, May 1, 2010) (Figure 8).48

This narrative establishes that King Kahigi of Kihanja (r. 1890–1916, whose palace in Kanazi was just 4 km away to the west) had direct authority at this time over the burial estate in Katuruka. Levi's memories add other details about Njeru and her ritual coupling with Rugomora Mahe:

Figure 8. Ta Leveriani Bambanza in his home, 2010.

Photo by Peter R. Schmidt.

They say that when she came she was still a virgin. When she got into her periods, according to what we were told, she left her house. She went into [her menstrual house at Zakayo's farm]. As soon as [her period] stopped, she would sit, legs stretched out, and it would come onto her thighs, that is, her husband slept with her. . . . Those were magic happenings. It knew that she was already clean, and it came and got on her thighs. She stretched out her legs, it settled on her thighs for some time and then left (Leveriani Bambanza, May 1, 2010).49

This sexual coupling is also recounted in a woman’s account, even more explicitly, making clear that the visitation of Rugomora Mahe at New Moon is both a nuptial ceremony and the consummation of a marriage, for example:

No, sir! I am glad I didn’t see it. Up to now I hear people [only] talk about it. Even when I walk at midday when it is very warm, I ask myself, “what should I do if I met the snake which lived here and which people said copulated with Njeru?” (Earnestine John, April 9, 2010).50

Once Njeru’s history was brought into the open by Ma Eudes and Ma Zuriat, others in the community began to share their perspectives on Njeru. A former male neighbor shared a vivid story that could arise only from intimate familiarity, from his memories as a boy, likely around 1952–1956 (age 7–11) about Njeru at New Moon ceremonies:

I still remember . . . people came and the drum was sounded in order that the people might repair the fence. . . . Then Njeru sat outside her Mushonge house, stretching out her feet which touched. By then the snake had already arrived. It [the snake] was spotted. I remember it had a few spots. Njeru stretched those legs and the snake came; then something mysterious happened. She sat respectfully in there. When the snake came and entered, it crossed Njeru’s thighs. He came to marry. . . .Oh, then bulls were slaughtered, now meat was roasted. All the people worshipped respectively. Before the snake arrived, all the people assembled, for it is the day Njeru became wife of king Rugomora. Thereafter Rugomora Mahe, through the form of this snake, disappeared into the plantation. . . . I witnessed that when I was a small child. That was a big celebration. That was the ceremonial marriage of that day (Faustine Kamaleki, February 1, 2010).51

Faustine’s account may indeed relate to one of New Moon events—likely annual—when monthly bull sacrifices had been abbreviated.

Two days after Faustine’s dramatic narrative, the Katuruka interviewers spoke with Ta Benezeti Majenge. His father had been a Cwezi spirit medium who owed his appointment to King Kahigi of Kihanja, the same king who appointed Njeru to her office. His primary obligation was to serve Njeru as her diviner, in service to the Hinda royals, ancestral and alive. His father would council Njuru, Rugomora’s wife and a Mukama in her own right, traveling to Katuruka at her request:

. . . My father and Njeru were close acquaintances. My father was an embandwa (diviner). He divined by means of castor-oil seeds. I used to go with my father into the gashani. My father was given beer, and we would talk for a long time. Sometimes she would send a messenger to ask my father to go to her that they might talk (Benezeti Majenge, February 3, 2010).52

Njeru was very much dependent on the power of diviners or spirit mediums throughout her reign at Katuruka, using a group of them—grouped together in the neighboring village just a short walk away—as interlocutors in the ritual performances at Kaiija shrine and the King’s burial estate. That these rituals were centered around the spirit possession of a snake fed milk (spotted and thus a rock python) provides profound insights useful for analyzing current historical discourse about python and spirit mediumship in the Great Lake region as well as other locales in Africa (e.g., in the Ethiopian highlands, where people venerated ancestors who are tied to physical places over deep time). It also demonstrates that conventional modes of inquiry that depend on androcentric informants will continue to fail. Outside research agendas with specifically focused goals also pass over critical information that is kept subaltern, except under conditions where the community engages in self-examination and inquiry (Figure 9). Community-based historical research thus opens new ways of uncovering new narratives, events, and places that have heritage value to African people and has the capacity to uncover some remaining subaltern threads of ontologies that transcend time in association with the landscape.

Figure 9. Members of the Katuruka Preservation and Conservation Association, 2011; Left to right: Anna Grace Bissi, Samson Kamukuru, Magreth Vedasto, Benjamin Shegesha, Donat Njunwa, Peter Schmidt, and Esther Karumuna.

Photo by Peter R. Schmidt.

The historical insights into deep time histories tied to ancient ancestral places that were unveiled by the Katuruka initiative do not stand alone in Africa. The research conducted over several decades by Kathryn Weedman Arthur among the Boreda Gamo people of the Ethiopian highlands provides other important and surprisingly parallels for deep time histories kept alive at ancient sites through continuous ritual process.

Knowledge Keepers among the Gamo of Ethiopia

However important local initiatives are in revealing subaltern histories, there are many other viable avenues in community participatory projects that lead to disclosure of meanings associated with sacred sites that have been exclusively retained by elder knowledge keepers. After Kathryn Weedman Arthur’s ethnoarchaeological research focused on living lithic technologies, she returned to the Gamo highlands of Ethiopia to launch a community-based project that focused on the Boreda (Figure 10), who revealed places on the landscape that were significant to their identities.53 Protection of these ancestral sites was tied to the sacred values lived and respected by the Boreda. Like so many other regions of Africa, the Boreda district of Ethiopia is experiencing rapid culture change that threatens the retention of history associated with ancient sacred sites. Arthur engaged the philosophical and methodological premise that she would work with the Boreda on what they wanted preserved in their historical knowledge (Figure 11).54 She worked together with diverse members of the community, including farmers, craft specialists, youth, women, men, and elders, to record their historical knowledge both through life histories and oral traditions.

Figure 10. Map locating the Boreda in Ethiopia and Eastern Africa.

Map by Peter R. Schmidt.

Figure 11. Left to right: Kathryn Weedman Arthur, Yohannes Ethiopia Tocha, Alemayehu Gunto, Baredo Badeke, Chilga Chisha, and John Arthur discussing Boreda histories.

Photo by K. W. Arthur.

By forming trusting partnerships with people in communities where she had been working for nearly two decades, Arthur gained access through elders to their Bayira Deriya, ancestral landscapes.55 Arthur had as one of her mentors a spirit medium who taught her to appreciate that learning history and landscape meanings required long-term interactions with people in highland Ethiopia within a learning paradigm best described as “bit by bit,” a local way of learning extending over decades.56 Acquiring knowledge bit by bit recognizes that individuals transformed throughout their life, and at each socially recognized stage new knowledge is shared and learned. Encapsulating the importance of individual growth and change, the Boreda commonly recite an expression to youth: “Never die, never get sick, and keep changing like a snake.”57 Snakes are essential beings in Boreda ontology, exhibiting continuous transformation and eternal life. In her early days among the Boreda, Arthur was married without children, and when she later walked back into the highlands she had shed her skin of young adulthood by bearing a child. Elders introduced her to a Boreda priest who, on the peak of Ochollo Mulato Bayira Dere, performed a ritual connecting her child to their ancestral landscape and the Boreda (Figure 12).58 Thereafter, Arthur was no longer a mishero (childless married woman), but a mischer (a mother and a full adult woman) who had the maturity to listen and learn and to preserve and communicate Boreda knowledge responsibly. The next day elder men of the King’s clan introduced Arthur to a woman who was the former spirit medium to the King (Figure 13).59 Her first words to Arthur were: “History is like a snake; it is always changing” (Askalay Damota, June 2011).60

Figure 12. Priest Melessa Kifile blessing Hannah Arthur at Ochollo Mulato Bayira Deriya with observers Chilga Chisha, Alemayehu Gunto, Baredo Badeke, and Yohannes Ethiopia Tocha (left to right).

Photo by Kathryn Weedman Arthur.

Figure 13. Spirit-Medium Askalay Damata.

Photo by Kathryn Weedman Arthur.

Arthur’s willingness to listen and learn Boreda nuances in meaning, phrases, idioms, and histories led to a better understanding of how their indigenous ontology was encapsulated in Askalay’s phrase—that all matter and non-matter is in a constant state of change, like a snake, and thus is living, including the Bayira Deriya ancestral landscapes where history molts into memories.61 In these settings, the male elders shared details of their ancestors’ settlements and wars engaged to defend their autonomy. As part of a mutually beneficial partnership, the Boreda-Gamo elders asked for maps to accompany their narratives, thus creating a concrete record that would help to preserve the locations of sacred places and settlements linked to their ancestral landscapes, the Bayira Deriya. Elder women contributed that at sacred forests surrounding the ancestor’s settlements, they made offerings to their ancestors and the Tsalahay spirits; they buried their dead; and they held community rituals commemorating changes in a person’s status in life.62 When Arthur returned with elders to further investigate the sacred forests, she found that burial grounds were once defensive berms and trenches, and places of situational offerings to Tsalahay were often walled sentry posts. Maps produced by accompanying elders on tours of their sacred mountains indicated sacred places surrounding the settlements were direct material evidence of a history of resistance and perseverance. GIS mapping illustrates that many sacred forests, walls, berms, and trenches were in ideal places to defend against their past enemies, as outlined in their oral traditions and life histories.63

By privileging local needs to record histories and sacred places, Arthur departed significantly from the usual historical and anthropological methods whereby investigators entered a community with a set of historical questions or the need to acquire specific historical narratives. No external methods or agendas were imposed on the Boreda.64 Rather, out of this community-based approach developed a synthetic approach for archaeological and ethnographic recording of ancient sacred ancestral sites with high historical importance—access that normally would not have been possible. While recording of sites histories opened local views to wider historical access, the cooperation proffered by elders was not repeated by their descendants, who took up ownership of one of the most important ancestral sites, Ochollo Mulato. The heritage values attached to Ochollo Mulato were compromised over a short time by farming. The sons of the elders, unaware of the consequences of their activities, seriously modified the site, raising questions about how it would be preserved in the future. By careful listening to local needs expressed by all parties, a political solution was negotiated to protect the site. Once Boreda elders had shared their histories, it was clear that their narratives about the ritual activities carried out at the site entangled it in a rich intangible heritage along with its “ancient garrison settlements, sentinels, and military trenches that are reimaged as sacred groves, cemeteries, and temples” (Figure 14).65

Figure 14. A sacred forest-burial ground with berms and trenches overlooking the Rift Valley.

Photo by Kathryn Weedman Arthur.

The community partnership that Arthur forged with elders revealed the presence of Ka’o’s Bura, the King’s sanctuary, a sacred grove, with details about how the king’s (ka’o) offerings of barley beer and ox blood ensured the prosperity of his people by, metaphorically, “feeding the ancestral king snake spirits, who spoke through his spirit medium.”66 A former spirit medium to the King said that she transformed into a medium one night. While she slept, a snake wrapped around her and brought her to the King’s sanctuary, where she was fed milk and butter—the food of the snakes. In a different more detailed version she explained:

One night in my bed I saw something bright. I stood up and someone told me I must leave the church and go to my father’s religion. Pray to me by having rituals under the big trees and follow me. . . . I went outside, and three snakes came from the forest, surrounded me, and told me to go to the King’s sanctuary. . . . Then King came and told me to ‘sit at my mother’s house and bring coffee to the place on earth where I first sat.’ Instead I was carried there by a great river and once I arrived I took coffee to the King’s sanctuary. The snakes came out from the forest and took the coffee and the King’s voice came again and said now people will come to me with their problems (June 17, 2011 Askalay).

Thereafter, the snake visited her speaking of the transgressions of the people and dangers in the future and how to make amends. As a medium she was empowered with sacred knowledge about how to maintain well-being, fertility, and health. At the King’s sanctuary, she examined the ox entrails and listened for the advice of Sorsha (snake spirit) to provide warnings and advice to the King about impending wars and drought. Subsequently, the King would call other high-ranking elders to his court, just to the east of the sanctuary and overlooking much of the mountainside, to discuss the advice he received concerning threats to their well-being. It was here that the King annually would recite his lineage history to these same high-ranking elders, relating the arrival of the first settler, Borchay, on the mountain top, a mountain top settlement that was abandoned when biting snakes appeared bringing drought and disease.67 Arthur’s community work illustrates that during documentation of physical places and specific oral traditions attached to those places, other very significant observations emerged, particularly when ritual performances at Bayire Deriya reanimated sacred narratives, revealing ritual processes that had wider implications.

The attention to Boreda ritual processes is now focused on the Asterio celebration during which the Gimuwa (priestess) with her assistants played the role of symbolic spouse of the ancestral snakes, the king’s ancestors. The Gimuwa was selected because she had passed her childbearing years but proved her reproductive fertility by having at least ten children.68 The Gimuwa acquired her position in the community through a ritual in which her sagayo, 108 metal anklets, wrapped like snakes around her ankles, the part of the female body that represents beauty and strength for many Boreda. In the women’s sacred forest near a spring (Figure 15), annually the Gimuwa, other elder women, and the Bazo Ka’o, a ritual proxy from the king’s clan, went into the rock and grass house referred to as the King’s Snake House.69 The rituals took place at the beginning of the winter solstice, parallel to the darkness of the New Moon. Sacrifices were offered on the rocks of the King’s Snake House, rocks where the women fed snakes butter while the Bazo Ka’o fed the snakes sheep’s blood: “The old women rub the boulders with butter. This is for all of Tsalahay. For children’s health and women for pregnancy and birth” (Badehso Tera, June 13, 2008).70

Figure 15. An Asterio spring at Ochollo Mulato Bayira Deriya. The buttered sacrificing stones are no longer visible on the surface.

Photo by Kathryn Weedman Arthur.

By patient exploration of ancestral landscape, bit by bit, Arthur brought to the fore important historical rituals that celebrated deep ancestral ties to place. At the epicenter was the ancestor-possessed snake who was fed butter. The parallels to the Katuruka rituals are vivid, suggesting powerful cross-cultural ritual processes in settings where there are deep time identities, with landscape features that also include ficus trees. In King Rugomora’s burial estate, his proxy wife fed milk to her snake, and during her ritual union with the snake she was smeared with butter fat. Both community-based history projects have opened new ways of thinking about history and the role that ancestors play on physical landscapes—a significant contribution to African history. The historical observations that arise from these community engagements relate directly to current discussions in African history. David Schoenbrun has noted that locales with deep time identities in the Great Lakes are associated with nature spirits.71 This thesis is of significance for ancestral places like those of the Gamo and Haya tied to the historical rituals, knowledge of which has slowly emerged from these community history projects.

Questioning Historical Continuities in the Absence of Community-Based Research

Schoenbrun elaborated on his thesis by beginning with a discussion about a python cult in Uganda, using a short observation by John Roscoe in the early 20th century about a cult center north of the Kagera River on the Lake Victoria shore, to the north of the border of Buhaya in Tanzania.72 The key element that drew his attention was the spirit medium at Bulonge, who was possessed by the spirit of a python, with the medium who “went down on his face and wriggled about upon his stomach like a snake.”73 This reference is a bridge to the argument that the oldest python cult practices are marked by human ancestral spirits possessing animals, such as leopards and snakes. The argument further progresses with the assertion that such practices were displaced and transformed during a period of more public and mobile practices at the end of the first millennium ce and into the first of the second millennium ce. This framework, based in part on interpretations about the public meaning of python mediumship at Bulonge, builds from the earlier thesis that spirit possession of snakes is tied to deep time identities at specific locales—precisely what happened in Katuruka and along the northern shore of Lake Victoria.74

The python thesis draws on historical documentation, historical linguistics, and interpretation of ceramics rather than consultation with communities. The idea is proffered that many other changes occurred coevally on the northwestern Lake Victoria littoral about this period, including the innovative practice of spirit mediumship, with mobile practice and more accessibility. Manifestations of an early python cult is seen, speculatively, in the materiality of the Luzira Group (a head and two torso fragments) plus ceramics—Classical and Transitional Urewe wares as well and Entebbe ware.75 Using ceramics that supposedly stretch over a period of four to six centuries, recovered with the figurines during a rescue colonial era excavation,76 a provocative interpretative construct is woven—that the python cult transformed from a cult of ancestral spirit possession to one that was more public whereby healers extended “their spiritual authority beyond particular territorial bases.”77 Schoenbrun emphasizes the meaning of “èmmandwà” in Ganda,78 a North Nyanza language subgroup, as a shared term meaning spirit, medium, python, and bull as evidence that public mediums tended to a large network of shrines by 1000 ce.

These changes are accompanied by python possession of spirit mediums—what he believes Roscoe saw at Bulonge, an isolated performance that requires very cautious analysis. There are no other historical or ethnographic observations that substantiate this thesis. Based on histories in Tanzania, it is apparent that such an extension of mobile public python cults did not occur on the littoral in a contiguous region, virtually next door to the Bulonge locale. If the ancient ancestral spirit python cult was eclipsed by a more public and animal possession cult, then there is a dilemma: how do historians explain the history of royal wives at Haya burial estates who cared for and were wedded to pythons (and other constrictors) possessed by ancestral spirits? In partial answer, it is important to recognize that one of the primary attributes of the guardian of the shrine “was a woman who might never marry,” just as Njeru, the guardian of Rugomora’s shrine, could not marry.79 The parallels go further: Njeru officiated at the New Moon ceremonies, a rite of renewal when fertility and reproduction were ensured; likewise, at the Bulonge shrine, “the time for worship was at the new moon.”80

Schoenbrun’s contribution to the historical literature regarding the strong association of nature spirts with specific deep time locales is invaluable.81 It is affirmed in significant antiquity of nature spirits with ancient dated shrines in Buhaya. Yet, it is equally apparent that the evidence from Katuruka contradicts the conclusion that “Python work held out the promise of forgetting local belonging.” The Katuruka histories show that this thesis cannot be affirmed, and instead show that python cults associated with ancestral possession, spirit mediumship, and deep time relationships with specific places continued for far longer than the public python thesis allows.82

Community-initiated research revealed that until the 1950s, there was an active practice in which python rituals were performed under restricted (not public) access and centered on the human spirit’s possession of a snake who was fed milk—much like observations elsewhere, including Bulonge.83 This continuity of practice is strongly manifest in Katuruka history from the first millennium ce. The Katuruka findings are not isolated to one locale, however. The presence of large python-like constructors at shrines in Kyamutwara and Kiziba Kingdoms point to similar practices.84 Women invested with the care of shrines in Kiziba suffered from the disruption caused by a long-term succession dispute that cut off tribute paying from the Mukama at the end of the 19th century. Brigitta Larsson shows that when left impoverished, they sought refuge at Kashozi mission, where some were converted to Christianity.85 Their service at each of the king’s burial estates would have mirrored Njeru’s at Katuruka—showing the widespread adoption of local deep time python cult practices into royal identity and ancestral continuity.

The ritual practices of the Boreda Gamo also instruct us that community approaches provide avenues of inquiry not available under conventional historical and anthropological inquiry. While there is currently no information about the species of snakes that are present in Boreda Gamo ritual, the fact that they are milk-drinkers, like pythons in eastern Africa, points to strong parallel ritual processes. Longitudinal historical studies take a significant investment of time, much of which is devoted to building trust and mutuality. Arthur’s research demonstrates that to arrive at the point where one is accepted as accomplished enough to learn about sacred rituals and places requires listening and learning bit by bit through long-term community engagement—one of the few remaining options available to historians in a rapidly changing continent.

Historical Representations and Lived Heritage

The changes wrought in the historical fabric of Africa since the 1960s have profoundly influenced the way historians and anthropologists now research and write about African history. No longer are traditional academic approaches adequate to uncover histories that have survived over the past 2000 years. In the face of increasing trends toward privilege, archaeological approaches to hominin history, and the history of colonial entanglements and the diaspora, African memories are increasingly marginalized. Gaining knowledge of ways that Africans conceptualize and represent histories compels the historian to listen to knowledge keepers who command deep time histories linked to ancient sacred places. Such deep time places evoke memories of ancestors who continue to play active roles through ritual processes and spirit mediumship.

Building long-term relationships with communities under conditions of mutuality and trust open opportunities to serve community needs and goals while unveiling deep time histories. Increasingly communities are realizing the impoverishment of historical and heritage values and are seeking means to recuperate and preserve their pasts. The people of Katuruka embarked on their own historical research because they saw what change had eroded. Their activism developed into a synergistic and reciprocal relationship with archaeologists and historians and led to the revelation of significant knowledge about the antiquity of ancient ancestral possession of pythons at highly venerated places. Similarly, when the Gamo elders came to realize the advantages that community archaeology had for the preservation of their ancient ancestral sites, they actively engaged their archaeological counterparts in a joint investigation into ways to preserve their physical ancestral sites and thus allow critical memories to unfold under normally very restricted ritual knowledge.

Community history projects offer hope in these times of shrinking academic interest and capacity to undertake long-term interdisciplinary research. They also provide an important avenue of expression and engagement for communities that are keenly aware of the need to effect preservation and documentation projects to cope with rapid cultural change and economic development. Thus, community engagements provide hope that historians and archaeologists may move deeper into the 21st century with the anticipation that the value of history and place will remain vital.

Discussion of the Literature

The perspectives presented here on community collaborations are gaining wide and rapid currency throughout archaeological and heritage practice around the globe.86 Optimism about the potential and future of participatory approaches to history-making appears to be gaining significant momentum, particularly in the Western Hemisphere. Christina Halperin writes that, “collaborative archaeologies are starting to become the new norm, even if the nature of community engagement, collaboration with descent communities, and public involvement are quite varied.”87 This may be an overly optimistic view, as there is a broad spectrum of community engagements ranging from resistance and opposition, to limited local participation where goals are developed from outside, to jointly developed research goals where there is mutual learning and ideas flow freely, to full local control where agendas are set by the community.88 For participatory approaches to be successful in Africa, full participation, with free exchange of ideas and mutually developed goals, is a baseline requirement.

Though community approaches are growing in popularity, such methods appear to be more limited to settings where descendant and indigenous communities have grown alienated from colonial practices that fail to account for local research questions and sensibilities as well as local heritage needs. With a focus on indigenous and descendant communities, Australian and American archaeologists have demonstrated a broad spectrum of research findings, with sometimes significant insights and discoveries that otherwise would not have been uncovered.89 Michael Heckenberger’s work in Amazonia illustrates how participatory research may lead to results of significant historical importance. He trained his local counterparts as fully qualified archaeologists who understood archaeological principles and put them to work for the benefit of their community, copublishing professional papers about the archaeology they helped to perform in their communities.90

The theoretical contributions of scholars such as Laurajane Smith, Sonya Atalay, Joe Watkins, and Chip Colwell have set a new standard for ethical practice in a wide variety of circumstances in which communities have a stake in how their histories and heritage are represented in both scholarly publications and the popular media.91 Many African experiments in community history, heritage, and archaeology find inspiration in the principles of trust and mutual listening and learning that are emphasized in their standpoints.92

African-Based Practice and Perspectives

Africanist archaeologists such as Thurston Shaw and Merrick Posnansky blazed a new path by foregrounding African peoples’ perspectives concerning their intangible heritage and tangible heritage. Emboldened by this precedent, a small cadre of the next generation of Africanist historians and archaeologists embraced the wisdom of African knowledge keepers, demonstrating their power to overturn long held Eurocentric stereotypes of African peoples and revealing in explicitly rich detail their complex histories, monumental architecture, and technologies.93 With these few exceptions, African and Africanist historians and archaeologists have been slow to embrace the potential of community-driven research, in part because of deeply engrained assumptions that local groups do not have the capacity to inquire into their histories and that they lack the skills to understand research goals and methods. This attitude has long marginalized communities, placing them in subservient roles such as support staff and informants to be used to extract important historical knowledge. A conscious attempt to decolonize archaeological practice in Africa has been spearheaded by those adopting a community-based approach, ranging from Mali to South Africa.94

One of the primary issues facing community-based research is the intersection of local and professional needs and goals. Webber Ndoro and Shedreck Chirikure argue that the challenge in management of heritage sites, including deep time ancestral sites of great interest to historians, is an approach that integrates the best Western and best local practices.95 The successful search for such intersections can only come through continuous experiments and practice. Pragmatic pathways will be mapped through community projects that learn from successful lessons. Yet, there remains skepticism in some Africanist circles that community projects are unscientific because they include untrained participants—the knowledge keepers.96 With such perspectives in mind, and with an awareness that our local interlocutors are the foundation of our intellectual engagements, deep subaltern knowledge and best local practices will remain obscured until such time that researchers open themselves to genuine local participation.

Despite contrary views, archaeologist-historians of Africa are making good progress. Among the leaders in community approaches are several scholars from Zimbabwe.97 Four Zimbabwean archaeologists (Chirikure, Pwiti, Manyanga, and Ndoro) examined southern African cases to illustrate community participation through a management lens, one dimension of local engagement. Most of the projects described were initiated from the top-down, with sparse evidence for communities that took initiatives to study and preserve their histories.98 Since these publications, other African scholars have pioneered collaborative history projects. Innocent Pikirayi has produced one of the first African accounts of community research, focusing on the Limpopo Province in South Africa and demonstrating the necessity to bring local people into the investigation of what they consider to be sites that hold their histories.99 Pikirayi draws attention to his engagements with Zimbabwe farmers, revealing how Western education may hinder successful archaeological inquiry. Recognizing that farmers held invaluable knowledge of soils and landscapes, Pikirayi privileged local knowledge over conventional survey, leading to important discoveries and deep respect for community elders’ knowledge of landscapes.100

Some community initiatives offer significant hope that new, decentralized approaches to managing significant heritage sites of archaeological importance will develop in the future. The systemic issue of central institutional control (e.g., national museums and antiquities departments) and repeated transcontinental failures to protect, manage, and interpret the historical importance of heritage sites is of growing interest to those who believe in the potential of community approaches. Patrick Abungu’s narrative about an important community project at the Shimoni slave site on the Kenyan coast richly illustrates that cutting the leash of centralized control allows the flowering of community initiatives, multivocal interpretations of contested histories, and the development of local priorities—all of which would have been suppressed by central authorities.101 The acceptance of community research projects is quickly spreading to other parts of the continent. Jonathan Aleru and Kola Adikola were invited by the leaders of a Yoruba community to conduct collaborative research into the history of the Elise stone figurines. Their project contributed significant information about the diversity of figurine production but also led to their elite hosts trying to prevent the publication of key findings at odds with official histories—illustrating the need for explicit protocols in some communities before undertaking joint research.

Initiating full community-based approaches in Africa are African archaeologists, who began demanding the dissolution of antiquity laws entrenched in colonial policies and the building of local museums with local ownership and management.102 They effectively argue that communities rather than national governments and foreign researchers should be in control of heritage management. Local communities, as a human right, should be entitled to determine how, what, and where their histories should be conserved, preserved, and integrated into their educational systems.103 As Segobye wrote, “My concerns with how to use the past as a tool for education and development to address challenges facing communities take priority over the obsession we had as students of African history to disprove colonial history texts.”104

Since the 2010s, there has been a significant growth of community-based projects, ranging from diagnostic analysis of community readiness to enter into collaborative projects, to projects that develop deep trust over time to unveil subaltern histories and ritual processes.105 Community work by Nic David and July Sterner in northern Nigeria has shown that trust-building over many years may lead to preservation of major historical sites of significant heritage importance.106 Innovative projects, such as the “culture banks” in Mali, hold hope that African communities will see distinct advantages in working with archaeologists to protect their quickly eroding history heritages.107 Initiatives by archaeologists in Ghana to bring their expertise to bear on solving development conflicts through community engagement offer hope for deeper collaborations in the future.108 In Tanzania, initiatives by local researchers and foreign scholars provide critical insights into how to avoid the alienation created by foreign researchers in their rejection of interaction and trust-building with the Maasai community living near Olduvai Gorge.109 Moreover, researchers are embarking on innovative programs of heritage mapping through local expertise, a willingness to engage at the local level that has been a hallmark of the Archaeology and Heritage Studies Department at the University of Dar es Salaam for some decades.110 The examples cited here as well as other heritage projects of equal importance but too numerous to cite display a demand by African peoples to preserve and secure their precolonial heritages. This means that many people are expecting a future in which they control the narratives and material manifestations of their histories. It is the historian’s ethical obligation to ensure equitable alternative futures for historical inquiry in Africa, the most viable avenues for which are partnerships with community initiatives.

Primary Sources

Primary sources for the community research conducted in northwest Tanzania are located in both hard copy and digital form in the Bukoba Regional Library and with the Katuruka Preservation and Conservation Committee, Katuruka, Bukoba Rural District, Tanzania. They will be public after a privacy embargo expires in 2024.

Further Reading

  • Abungu, G., and A. Githitho. “Homeland of the Mijikenda People: Sacred Mijikenda Kaya Forests, Kenya.” In World Heritage: Benefits beyond Borders. Edited by A Galla, 147–157. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2012.
  • Abungu, P. “Heritage, Memories, and Community Development: The Case of Shimoni Slave Caves Heritage Site, Kenya.” In Community Archaeology and Heritage in Africa: Decolonizing Practice. Edited by P. R. Schmidt and I. Pikirayi, 91–111. London: Routledge, 2016.
  • Arthur, K. W. The Lives of Stone Tools: Crafting the Status, Skill, and identity of Flintknappers. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2018.
  • Arthur, K. W., Y. Tocha, B. Lakew, M. C. Curtis, and J. W. Arthur. “Seniority through Ancestral Landscapes: Community Archaeology in the Highlands of Southern Ethiopia.” Journal of Community Archaeology and Heritage 4, no. 1 (2017): 101–114, esp. figure, 107.
  • Atalay, S. Community-Based Archaeology: Research with, by, and for Indigenous and Local Communities. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2012.
  • Beardsley, J., ed. Cultural Landscape Heritage in Sub-Saharan Africa. Washington DC: Harvard University Press, 2016.
  • Belcher, S.Oral Traditions as Sources.” In Oxford Research Encyclopedia, African History, 1–21. Oxford: Oxford University Press, February 2018.
  • Chirikure, S., M. Manyanga, W. Ndoro, and G. Pwiti. “Unfulfilled Promises? Heritage Management and Community Participation at Some of Africa’s Cultural Heritage Sites.” International Journal of Heritage Studies 16 (2010): 30–42.
  • Colwell, C. “Collaborative Archaeologies and Descendant Communities.” Annual Review of Anthropology 45 (2016): 113–127.
  • Colwell-Chanthaphonh, C., and T. J. Ferguson. Collaboration in Archaeological Practice: Engaging Descendant Communities. Lanham, MD: AltaMira Press, 2007.
  • Fontein, J. The Silence of Great Zimbabwe. London: UCL Press, 2006.
  • Halperin, D. “Anthropological Archaeology in 2016: Cooperation and Collaborations in Archaeological Research and Practice.” American Anthropologist 119, no. 2 (2019): 284–297.
  • Heckenberger, M. J. “Mapping Indigenous Histories: Collaboration, Cultural Heritage, and Conservation in the Amazon.” Collaborative Anthropologies 2 (2009): 9–32.
  • King, R.Primary Historical Sources in Archaeology: Methods.” In Oxford Research Encyclopedia, African History, 1–43. Oxford: Oxford University Press, July 2017.
  • Mayor, A., and E. Huysecom. “Cultural Pathways to Development among Communities: The Culture Banks of Mali.” In Community Archaeology and Heritage in Africa: Decolonizing Practice. Edited by P. R. Schmidt and I. Pikirayi, 153–180. London: Routledge, 2016.
  • Ndoro, W., S. Chirikure, and J. Deacon, eds. Managing Heritage in Africa, Who Cares? Abington, UK : Routledge, 2018.
  • Pikirayi, I. Tradition, Archaeological Heritage Protection and Communities in the Limpopo Province of South Africa. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: OSSREA, 2011.
  • Pikirayi, I., and P. R. Schmidt. “Introduction: Community Archaeology and Heritage in Africa: Decolonizing Practice.” In Community Archaeology and Heritage in Africa: Decolonizing Practice. Edited by P. R. Schmidt and I. Pikirayi, 1–20. London: Routledge, 2016.
  • Posnansky, M. “Archaeology and the Local Community in Africa: A Retrospective.” In Participatory Archaeology and Heritage Studies: Perspectives from Africa. Edited by P. R. Schmidt, 31–33. Abington, UK: Routledge, 2018.
  • Reid, R. “Past and Presentism: The ‘Precolonial’ and the Foreshortening of African History.” Journal of African History 52 (2011): 135–155.
  • Schmidt, P. R. “Rediscovering Community Archaeology in Africa and Reframing Its Practice.” Journal of Community Archaeology and Heritage 1, no. 1 (2014): 38–56.
  • Schmidt, P. R. Community-Based Heritage in Africa: Unveiling Local Research and Development Initiatives. Abington, UK: Routledge, 2017.
  • Schmidt, P. R., and I. Pikirayi, eds. Community Archaeology and Heritage in Africa: Decolonizing Practice. London: Routledge, 2016.
  • Smith, L., A. Morgan, and A. van der Meer. “Community-Driven Research in Cultural Heritage Management: The Waanyi Women’s History Project.” International Journal of Heritage Studies 9 (2003): 65–80.
  • Vansina, J. Oral Tradition: A Study in Historical Methodology. Chicago: Aldine, 1960.


  • 1. For changing trends in African history, see R. Reid, “Past and Presentism: The ‘Precolonial’ and the Foreshortening of African History,” Journal of African History 52 (2011): 135–155. For parallel trends in African archaeology, see A. Holl, “Worldviews, Mind-Sets, and Trajectories in West African Archaeology,” in Postcolonial Archaeologies in Africa, ed. Peter Schmidt (Santa Fe, NM: SAR Press, 2009), 129–148; and P. R. Schmidt, “Archaeology in East Africa: Past Practice and Future Directions,” Journal of African History 57 (2016): 183–194.

  • 2. J. Vansina, Oral Tradition: A Study in Historical Methodology (Chicago: Aldine, 1960); S. Feierman, The Shambaa Kingdom: A History (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1974); also see D. P. Henige, Oral Historiography (New York: Longman., 1982).

  • 3. J. Vansina, Oral Tradition as History (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1985); and Joseph Miller, The African Past Speaks: Essays on Oral Tradition and History (Hamden, CT: Archon, 1980).

  • 4. R. Oliver, In Realms of Gold: Pioneering in African History (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1997); also see R. Oliver, “Discernible Developments in the Interior, 1500–1840,” in History of East Africa, ed. Roland Oliver and Gervase Matthews (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1959), 169–211; for a critical perspective on Oliver’s speculative histories of Uganda, see P. R. Schmidt, “Oral Traditions, Archaeology and History: A Short Reflective History,” in A History of African Archaeology, ed. P. Robertshaw (London: James Currey, 1990), 252–270; and P. R. Schmidt, “Deconstructing Archaeologies of African Colonialism: Making and Unmaking the Subaltern,” in Rethinking Colonial Pasts Through Archaeology, ed. N. Ferris, R. Harrison, and M. Wilcox (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 445–465.

  • 5. For example, N. Kodesh, “History from the Healer’s Shrine: Genre, Historical Imagination, and Early Ganda History,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 49 (2007): 527–552; and N. Kodesh, “Networks of Knowledge: Clanship and Collective Well-Being in Buganda,” Journal of African History 49 (2008): 197–216.

  • 6. Reid, “Past and Presentism.”

  • 7. For example, C. DeCorse, An Archaeology of Elmina: Africans and Europeans on the Gold Coast, 1400–1900 (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institute Press, 2001); J. C. Monroe, “In the Belly of Dan: Space, History, and Power in Precolonial Dahomey,” Current Anthropology 52 (2011): 769–798; J. C. Monroe and A. Ogundiran, eds., Power and Landscape in Atlantic West Africa: Archaeological Perspectives (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2012); K. G. Kelly, ed., Connecting Continents South Carolina and the Guinea Coast, special issue, Atlantic Studies Global Current 15, no. 3 (2015); and L. W. Marshall, ed., The Archaeology Slavery: A Comparative Approach to Captivity and Coercion (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2014).

  • 8. See N. Norman, “Hueda (Whydah) Country and Town: Archaeological Perspectives on the Rise and Collapse of an African Atlantic Kingdom,” International Journal of African Historical Studies 42 (2009): 387–410; I. Thiaw, “Atlantic Impacts on Inland Senegambia: French Penetration and African Initiatives in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Gajaaga and Bundu (Upper Senegal River),” in Power and Landscape in Atlantic West Africa: Archaeological Perspectives, ed. J. C. Monroe and A. Ogundiran (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2012), 49–77; N. Swanepoel, “Socio-political Change on a Slave-Raiding Frontier: War, Trade and ‘Big Men’ in Nineteenth-Century Sisalaland, Northern Ghana,” Journal of Conflict Archaeology 1 (2013): 265–293; and B. W. Kankpeyeng, “The Slave Trade in Northern Ghana: Landmarks, Legacies and Connections,” Slavery & Abolition 30 (2009): 209–221.

  • 9. P. Basu, “Confronting the Past? Negotiating a Heritage of Conflict in Sierra Leone,” Journal of Material Culture 13 (2008): 233–247.

  • 10. N. Hunt, “Whether African History,” History Workshop Journal 36, no. 1 (2008): 259–265.

  • 11. C. E. Orser, A Historical Archaeology of the Modern World (New York: Plenum, 1996); C. E. Orser, “An Archaeology of Eurocentrism,” American Antiquity 77 (2012): 737–755; and B. M. Fagan and C. E. Orser, Historical Archaeology (New York: HarperCollins, 1995). The 2012 article by Orser is a trenchant Eurocentric perspective on historical archaeology, including rejection of historical archaeology in Africa if it does not include colonial entanglements.

  • 12. For an African-based perspective on Orser’s thesis, see P. R. Schmidt and I. Pikirayi, “Will Historical Archaeology Escape Its Western Prejudices to Become Relevant to Africa?Archaeologies, Journal of the World Archaeological Congress. Published online July 11, 2018.

  • 13. J. Shetler, Imagining Serengeti: A History of Landscape Memory in Tanzania from Earliest Time to Present (Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2007), 233–234.

  • 14. For examples of the social impact of HIV-AIDS, see the chapters in C. Baylies and J. Bujra, eds., AIDS Sexuality and Gender in Africa: Collective Strategies and Struggles in Tanzania and Zambia (London: Routledge, 2002); N. Poku and A. Whiteside, eds., The Political Economy of AIDS in Africa, (Abington, UK: Routledge, 2017); P. Setel, A Plague of Paradoxes: AIDS, Culture, and Demography in Northern Tanzania (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999); and I. Susser, AIDS, Sex, and Culture: Global Politics and Survival in Southern Africa (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009).

  • 15. For the impact of HIV-AIDS in Kagera Region, Tanzania, which, along with Rakai District of Uganda, was the epicenter of the outbreak, see A. K. Mutembei, Poetry and AIDS in Tanzania: Changing Metaphors and Metonymies in Haya Oral Traditions (Leiden, The Netherlands: Research School of Asian, African, and Amerindian Studies, Leiden University, 2001); G. Lwihula, L. Dahlgren, J. Killewo, and A. Sandstrom, “AIDS Epidemic in Kagera Region, Tanzania: The Experiences of Local People,” AIDS CARE 5 (1993): 347357; D. Ndamugoba, M. Mboya, K. Amani, and K. J. Katabaro, The Impact of HIV/AIDS on Primary Education in Bukoba Rural and Kinondoni Districts of Tanzania (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania: UNICEF, 2000); and F. Kaijage, The AIDS Crisis in Kagera Region, Tanzania, in Historical Perspective,” in Behavioral and Epidemiological Aspects of AIDS Research in Tanzania: Proceedings from a Workshop in Dar es Salaam, ed. J. Z. Killewo and G. K. Lwihula (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania: SAREC, 1989), 52–61.

  • 16. Shetler, “Imagining Serengeti.”

  • 17. P. R. Schmidt, “Hardcore Ethnography: Interrogating the Intersection of Disease, Poverty, Human Rights and Heritage,” Heritage and Society 7 (2014): 170–188; and “Emerging Female Subaltern Histories in Tanzania: Oral History and the HIV/AIDS Epidemic,” in Female Voices in Narratives about the Past, ed. Susan Kus and Kimberly Kasper (Boulder: University of Colorado Press, forthcoming).

  • 18. P. R. Schmidt, “Trauma and Social Memory in NW Tanzania: Organic, Spontaneous Community Collaboration,” Journal of Social Archaeology 10 (2010): 255–279; and P. R. Schmidt, Historical Archaeology: A Structural Approach in an African Culture (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1978).

  • 19. To clarify the local names: the Bahaya or Haya (used here) live in Buhaya and speak Kihaya; for 20th-century meanings attached to Kaiija shrine, see Schmidt, Historical Archaeology; and, Historical Archaeology in Africa: Representation, Social Memory, and Oral Traditions (Lanham, MD: AltaMira Press, 2006).

  • 20. F. X. Lwamgira, Amakuru ga Kiziba na Abakama Bamu (Kashozi, Tanganyika: Rumuli Press, 1949), 5.

  • 21. Fred Kaijage, an historian at the University of Dar es Salaam, shared how his attempts to elicit oral histories about S. Kagasheki, a Haya businessman and early political leader, were frustrated by significantly abbreviated memories (personal communication, August 15, 2009).

  • 23 Schmidt, “Trauma and Social Memory”; and P. R. Schmidt, Community-Based Heritage in Africa: Unveiling Local Research and Development Initiatives (Abington, UK: Routledge, 2017).

  • 23. Schmidt, “Trauma and Social Memory”; and Schmidt, Community-Based Heritage.

  • 24. Schmidt, Community-Based Heritage.

  • 25. Shaw’s and Posnansky’s legacies in contemporary community approaches are reviewed in P. R. Schmidt, “Rediscovering Community Archaeology in Africa and Reframing Its Practice,” Journal of Community Archaeology and Heritage 1, no. 1 (2014): 38–56; and P. R. Schmidt, “Intersectionality at Work in Participatory Approaches to African Archaeology and Heritage Studies,” in Participatory Archaeology and Heritage Studies: Perspectives from Africa, ed. P. R. Schmidt (Abington, UK: Routledge, 2018), 1–11.

  • 26. T. Shaw, Igbo-Ukuu: Archaeological Discoveries in Eastern Nigeria (London: Faber for Institute of African Studies, 1970).

  • 27. T. Shaw, Unearthing Igbo-Ukuu: Archaeological Discoveries in Eastern Nigeria (Ibadan, Nigeria: Oxford University Press, 1977).

  • 28. M. Posnansky, “The Excavation of an Ankole Capital Site at Bweyorere,” Uganda Journal 32, no. 2 (1968): 165–182; M. Posnansky, “Kingship, Archaeology, and Historical Myth,” Uganda Journal 30 (1966): 1–12; and “Bigo bya Mugenyi,” Uganda Journal 33 (1969): 125–150.

  • 29. M. Posnansky, “Archaeology and the Local Community in Africa: A Retrospective,” in Participatory Archaeology and Heritage Studies: Perspectives from Africa, ed. P. R. Schmidt (Abington, UK: Routledge, 2018), 31–38.

  • 30. Posnansky, “Archaeology.”

  • 31. M. Posnansky, “Processes of Change: A Longitudinal Ethnoarchaeological Study of a Ghanaian Village: Hani 1970–90,” African Archaeological Review 21 (2004): 31–47; and M. Posnansky, Reflections on Begho and Hani: 1970–1998 (Encino, CA: Author, 2010).

  • 32. For example, G. Abungu and A. Githitho, “Homeland of the Mijikenda People: Sacred Mijikenda Kaya Forests, Kenya,” in World Heritage: Benefits beyond Borders, ed. A. Galla (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2012), 147–157.

  • 33. J. Fontein, The Silence of Great Zimbabwe (London: UCL Press, 2006).

  • 34. P. R. Schmidt, “Listening and Waiting, Excavating Later,” in Archaeologies of Listening,” ed. P. R. Schmidt and A. B. Kehoe (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, forthcoming).

  • 35. P. R. Schmidt, “Listening and Waiting, Excavating Later,” SAA Record 17, no. 4 (2017): 36—7; and A. B. Kehoe and P. R. Schmidt, “Introduction: Expanding Our Knowledge by Listening,” SAR Record 17, no. 4 (2017): 15–20.

  • 36. K. W. Arthur, “Ethnoarchaeologies of Listening: Learning Technological Ontologies Bit by Bit,” in Archaeologies of Listening, ed. P. R. Schmidt and A. B. Kehoe (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, forthcoming).

  • 37. P. R. Schmidt, Historical Archaeology; Historical Archaeology in Africa; P. R. Schmidt, “Oral History, Oral Traditions and Archaeology: Application of Structural Analysis,” in Oxford Handbook of African Archaeology, ed. P. Mitchell and P. Lane (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 37–47; and P. R. Schmidt, “Historical Archaeology: Colonial Entanglements and Recuperating 'Timeless' Histories through Structuralism,” in The Death of Prehistory, ed. P. R. Schmidt and S. Mrozowski (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 92–116.

  • 38. R. L. Tantala, “The Early History of Kitara in Western Uganda: Process Models of Political and Religious Change” (PhD diss., University of Wisconsin–Madison, 1989).

  • 39. P. R. Schmidt, “Serpents Forgotten, Ontology Unveiled, Time Reconfigured,” in Time in History and Prehistory, ed. E. Baysal, S. Souvatzi, and A. Baysal (Abington, UK: Routledge, 2018), 58–76.

  • 40. Hinda is a contraction of Bahinda, King Rugomora Mahe’s clan and the royal clan of Greater Kyamutwara, and several other Haya kingdoms.

  • 41. A. Lestrade, Notes d 'ethnographie du Rwanda, Archief voor Antropologie 17 (Tervuren, Belgium: Koninklijk Museum voor Midden-Afrika, 1972), 164; and Tantala, “Early History,” 643.

  • 42. Schmidt, “Trauma and Social Memory.”

  • 43. Schmidt, Community-Based Heritage, 149.

  • 44. Schmidt, 151.

  • 45. Schmidt, 151–152.

  • 46. Schmidt, 152–153.

  • 47. For a period during German rule, Mukama Kahigi of Kihanja Kingdom controlled the area where Kaiija shrine and Rugomora’s burial estate were located; by tradition the Kings of Kihanja had an appointive right to the office held by Njeru.

  • 48. Schmidt, Community-Based Heritage, 154.

  • 49. Schmidt, 154.

  • 50. Schmidt, 155.

  • 51. Schmidt, 156.

  • 52. Schmidt, 157.

  • 53. K. W. Arthur, Y. Tocha, B. Lakew, M. C. Curtis, and J. W. Arthur, “Seniority through Ancestral Landscapes: Community Archaeology in the Highlands of Southern Ethiopia,” Journal of Community Archaeology and Heritage 4, no. 1 (2017): 101–114.

  • 54. Arthur et al., “Seniority,” esp. figure, 107.

  • 55. Arthur et al., “Seniority.”

  • 56. K. W. Arthur, “An Ethnoarchaeology of Deep Listening,” ed. A. B. Kehoe and P. R. Schmidt, special issue, SAA Archaeological Record 17, no. 4 (2017): 20–21; and K. W. Arthur, “Ethnoarchaeologies of Listening”; The Lives of Stone Tools: Crafting the Status, Skill, and Identity of Flintknappers (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2018), 65.

  • 57. Arthur, The Lives of Stone Tools, 72.

  • 58. K. W. Arthur, “Preserving and Reconstituting Feminine Prestige and Dignity through Heritage,” in Engendering Heritage: Contemporary Approaches to Archaeological and Heritage Practice, ed. Teresa Raczek and Tiffany Cain (Washington, DC: AP3A, forthcoming).

  • 59. K. W. Arthur, “Material Entanglements: Gender, Ritual, and Politics among the Boreda of Southern Ethiopia,” in African Study Monographs (Kyoto: CAAS Supplement 46, 2013), figure, 57.

  • 60. K. W. Arthur, The Lives of Stone Tools, 62.

  • 61. K. W. Arthur, 63–73.

  • 62. K. W. Arthur, “Preserving and Reconstituting Feminine Prestige.”

  • 63. K. W. Arthur, S. Stretton, and Matthew C. Curtis, “Mapping Historical Spaces in Southern Ethiopia” (paper presented at the Society for American Archaeology Meetings, Washington, DC, April 13, 2018).

  • 64. Arthur et al., “Seniority,” 101.

  • 65. Arthur et al., 3–4.

  • 66. K. W. Arthur “The King’s Snake House: Heritage, Gender, and Change in the Gamo Highlands of Southern Ethiopia,” in Snakes, Archaeology, and Heritage: African Archaeology in Practice, ed. K. W. Arthur, Peter R. Schmidt, and J. Walz (forthcoming).

  • 67. Arthur “King’s Snake House.”

  • 68. K. W. Arthur, “Material Entanglements: Gender, Ritual, and Politics among the Boreda of Southern Ethiopia,” African Study Monographs (Kyoto: CAAS Supplement 46, 2013), 53–80.

  • 69. Arthur, The Lives of Stone Tools, 113.

  • 70. Arthur, 69.

  • 71. D. Schoenbrun, A Green Place, a Good Place, Agrarian Change, Gender, and Social Identity in the Great Lakes Region to the 15th Century (Portsmouth, NH: Heineman, 1998).

  • 72. D. Schoenbrun, “Python Worked: Constellating Communities of Practice with Conceptual Metaphors in Northern Lake Victoria, ca. A.D. 800 to 1200,” in Knowledge in Motion: Constellations of Learning Across Time and Place, ed. A. Roddick and A. Stahl (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2016), 216–246; J. Roscoe, “Python Worship in Uganda,” Man 9 (1909): 88–90; and J. Roscoe, The Baganda: An Account of Their Native Customs and Beliefs (London: Macmillan, 1911); also see N. Kodesh, “History from the Healer’s Shrine,” 541–542.

  • 73. Roscoe, “Python Worship,” 89.

  • 74. Kodesh, “History from the Healer’s Shrine,” 530–538.

  • 75. C. Z. Ashley and A. Reid, “A Reconsideration of the Figures from Luzira,” Archaeological Research in Africa 43, no. 1 (2008): 95–123; and A. Reid and C. Z. Ashley,” A Context for the Luzira Head,” Antiquity 82 (2008): 99–112.

  • 76. The use of “supposedly” here qualifies the presence of only one sherd of later Entebbe ware. The use of one ceramic to project several hundred years beyond Transitional Urewe invites skepticism and requires confirming evidence given the disturbed conditions.

  • 77. Schoenbrun, “Python Worked,” 238.

  • 78. Schoenbrun, 235.

  • 79. Roscoe, “Python Worship,” 89.

  • 80. Roscoe, 89.

  • 81. For more on misambwa spirits, see N. Kodesh, “History from the Healer’s Shrine,” 538–547.

  • 82. Bulonge was in Buddu, a Buganda possession only in the late 18th century; it is only 50 km from Kiziba Kingdom of Buhaya. See numerous mentions of Kiziba influence in this region of Ugana in Lwamgira, Amakuru.

  • 83. R. L. Tantala, “Early History,” 604–605, 644.

  • 84. See Lwamgira, Amakuru, 300; and Schmidt, “Community-Based Heritage,” 144–146.

  • 85. B. Larsson, Haya Christians Conversion to Greater Freedom? Women, Church, and Social Change in Northwestern Tanzania under Colonial Rule (Uppsala, Sweden: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2001).

  • 86. For overviews, see D. Halperin, “Anthropological Archaeology in 2016: Cooperation and Collaborations in Archaeological Research and Practice,” American Anthropologist 119, no. 2 (2017): 284–297; and C. Colwell, “Collaborative Archaeologies and Descendant Communities,” Annual Review of Anthropology 45 (2016): 113–127.

  • 87. Halperin, “Anthropological Archaeology,” 291.

  • 88. C. Colwell, “Collaborative Archaeologies.”

  • 89. For example, see L. Smith, A. Morgan, and A. van der Meer, “Community-Driven Research in Cultural Heritage Management: The Waanyi Women’s History Project,” International Journal of Heritage Studies 9 (2003): 65–80; M. J. Heckenberger, “Entering the Agora: Archaeology, Conservation and Indigenous Peoples in the Amazon,” in Collaboration in Archaeological Practice: Engaging Descendant Communities, ed. C. Colwell-Chanthaphonh and T. J. Ferguson (Lanham, MD: AltaMira Press, 2008), 243–272; and M. J. Heckenberger, “Mapping Indigenous Histories: Collaboration, Cultural Heritage, and Conservation in the Amazon,” Collaborative Anthropologies 2 (2009): 9–32.

  • 90. M. Heckenberger, A. Kuikuro, U. T. Kuikuro, J. C. Russell, M. Schmidt, C. Fausto, and B. Franchetto, “Amazonia 1492: Pristine Forest or Cultural Parkland?” Science 301, no. 5640 (2003): 1710–1714.

  • 91. L. Smith, Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples (London: Zed Books, 1999); J. Watkins, Indigenous Archaeology: American Indian Values and Scientific Practice (Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press, 2000); L. Smith and E. Waterton, Heritage, Communities and Archaeology (London: Bristol Classical Press, 2009); C. Colwell-Chanthaphonh and T. J. Ferguson, Collaboration in Archaeological Practice: Engaging Descendant Communities (Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press, 2007); and S. Atalay, Community-Based Archaeology: Research with, by, and for Indigenous and Local Communities (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2012).

  • 92. For example, the African-oriented chapters in P. R. Schmidt and A. B. Kehoe, Archaeologies of Listening (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, forthcoming).

  • 93. S. Kus, “Archaeologist as Anthropologist: Much Ado about Something After All?” Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 4, no. 3–4 (1997): 199–213; S. Kus and V. Raharijaona, “Between Earth and Sky There Are Only a Few Large Boulders: Sovereignty and Monumentality in Central Madagascar,” Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 17, no. 1 (1998): 53–79; P. R. Schmidt, Iron Technology in East Africa: Symbolism, Science and Archaeology (Bloomington: University of Indiana Press, 1997); P. R. Schmidt and D. H. Avery, “Complex Iron Smelting and Prehistoric Culture in Tanzania,” Science 201, no. 4361 (1978): 1085–1089; E. N. Wilmsen and J. Denbow, “Paradigmatic History of San-Speaking People and Current Attempts at Revision,” Current Anthropology 31, no. 5 (1990): 489–424; and E. N. Wilmsen, Land Filled with Flies: A Political Economy of the Kalahari (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989).

  • 94. I. Pikirayi and P. R. Schmidt, “Introduction: Community Archaeology and Heritage in Africa: Decolonizing Practice,” in Community Archaeology and Heritage in Africa: Decolonizing Practice, ed. P. R. Schmidt and I. Pikirayi (Abington, UK: Routledge, 2016), 1–20; and G. Pwiti and W. Ndoro, “The Legacy of Colonialism: Perceptions of the Cultural Heritage in Southern Africa with Special Reference to Zimbabwe,” African Archaeological Review 16 (1999): 143–153.

  • 95. W. Ndoro and S. Chirikure, “Caring Matters: The Future of Managing Heritage in Africa,” in Managing Heritage in Africa, Who Cares?, ed. W. Ndoro, S. Chirikure, and J. Deacon (Abington, UK: Routledge, 2018).

  • 96. N. Ndlovu, “Old Archaeology Camouflaged as New and Inclusive? South African Community Archaeology in the Twenty-First Century,” in Community Archaeology and Heritage in Africa: Decolonizing Practice, ed. P. R. Schmidt and I. Pikirayi (New York: Routledge, 2016), 136–153; and Pikirayi and Schmidt, “Introduction: Community Archaeology.”

  • 97. For example, M. Murimbika and B. Moyo, “Archaeology and Donor Aid in the ‘Developing World’: The Case for Local Heritage in Zimbabwe,” Managing Archaeological Resources: Global Context, National Programs, Local Actions 58 (2008): 87–105; G. Pwiti and G. Mvenge, “Archaeologists, Tourists and Rainmakers: Problems in the Management of Rock Art Sites in Zimbabwe, a Case Study of Domboshava National Monument,” in Aspects of African Archaeology, ed. Pwiti and R. Soper (Harare: University of Zimbabwe Publications, 1996), 817–824; P. Taruvinga, “Community Participation and Rock Art Management in Zimbabwe,” in African Rock Art: The Future of Africa’s Past, ed. J. Deacon (Nairobi, Kenya: Trust for African Rock Art), 39–48; and I. Pikirayi, “Public Involvement in Archaeological Excavations in Southern Africa,” in From Concepts of the Past to Practical Strategies: The Teaching of Archaeological Field Techniques, ed. P. Ucko, Q. Ling, and J. Hubert (London: Saffron, 2007), 305–320.

  • 98. For overviews of the failures and successes of community heritage approaches in southern Africa, see S. Chirikure and G. Pwiti, “Community Involvement in Archaeology and Cultural Heritage Management: An Assessment from Case Studies in Southern Africa and Elsewhere,” Current Anthropology 49 (2008): 467–485; and S. Chirikure, M. Manyanga, W. Ndoro, and G. Pwiti, “Unfulfilled Promises? Heritage Management and Community Participation at Some of Africa’s Cultural Heritage Sites,” International Journal of Heritage Studies 16 (2010): 30–42.

  • 99. I. Pikirayi, Tradition, Archaeological Heritage Protection and Communities in the Limpopo Province of South Africa (Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: OSSREA, 2011).

  • 100. I. Pikirayi, “Archaeology, Local Knowledge, and Tradition: The Quest for Relevant Approaches to the Study and Use of the Past in Southern Africa,” in Community Archaeology and Heritage in Africa: Decolonizing Practice, ed. P. R. Schmidt and I. Pikirayi (London: Routledge, 2016), 112–135; and I. Pikirayi, “Sharing the Past: Archaeology and Community Engagement in Southern Africa,” in Sharing Archaeology: Academe, Practice and the Public, ed. P. G. Stone and Z. Hui (New York: Routledge, 2007), 150–166.

  • 101. P. Abungu, “Heritage, Memories, and Community Development: The Case of Shimoni Slave Caves Heritage Site, Kenya,” in Community Archaeology and Heritage in Africa: Decolonizing Practice, ed. P. R. Schmidt and I. Pikirayi (London: Routledge, 2016), 91–111.

  • 102. P. Abungu, “Heritage, Memories, and Community Development.”; G. Abungu and L. Abungu, “Saving the Past in Kenya: Urban and Monument Conservation,” African Archaeological Review 15, no. 4 (1998): 221–224; Karega-Munene “The Future of Archaeology in Kenya,” African Archaeological Review 13, no. 2 (1996): 87–90; Karega-Munene, “Towards Recognition of the Right to a Cultural Past in the 21st Century: An Example from East Africa,” in Postcolonial Archaeologies in Africa, ed. P. R. Schmidt (Santa Fe, NM: SAR Press, 2009), 77–94; C. M. Kusimba, “Archaeology in African Museums,” African Archaeological Review 12, no. 3 (1996):165–170; C. M. Kusimba, “Practicing Postcolonial Archaeology in Eastern Africa from the United States, ”Postcolonial Archaeologies in Africa, ed. P. R. Schmidt (Santa Fe, NM: SAR Press, 2009), 57–75; W. Ndoro, “Heritage Laws: Whose Heritage Are We Protecting?,” South African Archaeological Bulletin 70, no. 202 (2015): 136–137; and W. Ndoro and G. Pwiti. “Heritage Management in Southern Africa: Local, National and International Discourse,” Public Archaeology 2, no. 1 (2001): 21–34.

  • 103. Karega-Munene, “Towards Recognition”; Ndoro, “Heritage Laws”; and A. Segoybe, “Weaving Fragments of the Past of a United Africa: Reflections on the Place of Archaeology in the Development of the Continent in the 21st Century,” South African Archaeological Bulletin 60, no. 182 (2005): 79–83.

  • 104. Segoybe, “Weaving Fragments of the Past,” 81.

  • 105. For example, J. Humphris and R. Bradshaw, “Understanding ‘the Community’ Before Community Archaeology: A Case Study from Sudan,” Journal of Community Archaeology & Heritage 4, no. 3 (2017): 203–217; N. Makoena, “Community Involvement and Heritage Management in Rural South Africa,” Journal of Community Archaeology & Heritage 4, no. 3 (2017): 189–202; and S. O. Keitumetse and M. G. Pampiri, “Community Cultural Identity in Nature-Tourism Gateway Areas: Maun Village, Okavango Delta World Heritage Site, Botswana,” Journal of Community Archaeology & Heritage 3, no. 2 (2016): 99–117; for example, J. R. Walz, “Healing Space Time to Medical Performance and Object Itineraries on a Tanzania Landscape,” in Things in Motion: Object Itineraries in Anthropological Practice, ed. R. A. Joyce and S. D. Gillespie (Santa Fe, NM: 2015), 161–177; and J. R. Walz, “Routes to History: Archaeology and Being Articulate in Eastern Africa,” in The Death of Prehistory, ed. P. R. Schmidt and S. Mrozowski (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 69–91; for long-term interactions, see C. M. Kusimba, “Community Archaeology and Heritage in Coastal and Western Kenya,” Journal of Community Archaeology & Heritage 4, no. 3 (2017): 218–228.

  • 106. N. David and J. Sterner, “In Lieu of Community Archaeology? Mandara Archaeological Project (1984–2008): Outreach and Involvement in Heritage issues,” in Community Archaeology and Heritage in Africa: Decolonizing Practice, ed. P. R. Schmidt and I. Pikirayi (London: Routledge, 2016), 224–249.

  • 107. A. Mayor and E. Huysecom, “Cultural Pathways to Development among Communities: The Culture Banks of Mali,” in Community Archaeology and Heritage in Africa: Decolonizing Practice, ed. P. R. Schmidt and I. Pikirayi (London: Routledge, 2016), 153–180.

  • 108. W. Apoh and K. Guvua, “We Will Not Relocate until Our Ancestors and Shrines Come with Us: Heritage and Conflict Management in Bui Dam Project Area, Ghana,” in Community Archaeology and Heritage in Africa: Decolonizing Practice, ed. P. R. Schmidt and I. Pikirayi (London: Routledge, 2016), 204–223.

  • 109. A. Mehari and K. P. Ryano, “Maasai People and Oldupai (Olduvai) Gorge: Looking for Sustainable People-Centered Approaches and Practices,” in Community Archaeology and Heritage in Africa: Decolonizing Practice, ed. P. R. Schmidt and I. Pikirayi (London: Routledge, 2016), 21–45.

  • 110. B. Mapunda and P. Lane, “Archaeology for Whose Interests—Archaeologists or Locals?,” in Public Archaeology, ed. N. Merriman (London: Routledge, 2004), 211–223; and E. B. Ichumbaki, M. Cherin, F. Masao, and J. Moggi-Cecchi, “Local People’s Perceptions and Interpretations of the Hominin Footprints at Laetoli, Tanzania,” Community Archaeology and Heritage, forthcoming.