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date: 08 December 2023

The Archaeology of Natural Disasters and Their Impacts on the Ancient East African Communitieslocked

The Archaeology of Natural Disasters and Their Impacts on the Ancient East African Communitieslocked

  • Elinaza MjemaElinaza MjemaUniversity of Dar es Salaam


Archaeological research on natural disasters has increased significantly since the 1970s, with archaeologists paying more attention to the potential cultural effects of natural disasters. In the 21st century, archaeological investigations of natural disasters have become more sophisticated, and researchers have produced substantial literature on the topic. In Eurasia and the Americas, archaeological studies increasingly invoke natural disasters as the cause of socioeconomic transformations in past societies. In East Africa, however, few archaeological studies have yet considered the impact of natural disasters on local communities. As media coverage and research on natural disasters increases globally, East African archaeology is beginning to contribute to the discussion. Preliminary works in East Africa have applied disaster-study basic concepts to investigate ancient natural disasters that befell early coastal communities in the area. Researchers studying the Pangani Bay on the northeast Tanzanian coast, for example, have deduced from archaeological and geological evidence that ocean-originating floods caused the destruction of an early Swahili village there a thousand years ago. Researchers in this new field of study are focusing on the relationships between natural disasters (floods), their cultural impacts, and human responses to them. Disaster archeology focused on East Africa is expected to increase significantly because such research may provide historical records (including strategies people employed to cope with extreme natural events in the past) to inform researchers and policymakers dealing with extreme natural-event impacts in the 21st century.


  • Archaeology

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