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This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Anthropology. Please check back later for the full article. The dichotomy between communities and archaeology (as a scientific discipline and practice) draws on the colonial experience in Africa. However, due to these colonial conditions, there has been a recurring false dichotomy between communities and the protection of their heritage (archaeological material). Since pre-colonial times in Africa, communities, especially at local grass-roots levels, have devised safeguarding measures to protect their valuable heritage (both cultural and natural), their so-called material culture and archaeological material. For many African communities, heritage resources are not mute but inscribed and imbued with meaning, symbolism, and interpretation that entrench local community claims to heritage and further underpin their experiences in protection and conservation management. This validates the indivisible but dynamic relationship between communities and archaeology, where communities have the opportunity to claim, engage, and interact with their heritage, even though issues of public access to “Protected Areas” is still problematic. On the contrary, disruptions by the colonial project in Africa sought to privilege and impose Eurocentric practices in the name of science through archaeology, among other disciplines that have since become dominant fixtures for interpretation and protection of heritage still featuring prominently in the post-colonial context. The popularization of the decolonization project in Africa has witnessed attempts to foreground communities as custodians and as main participants (beneficiaries) in archaeological practices in conservation management.

Article

The roots of contract archeology were laid even before the development of a legislative framework that prescribed the processes to be followed. Contract archeology was being seen by the museums and universities as the best avenue to the subsidizing of archeological research. The increased research funding of the 1960s and 1970s was on the decline in the 1980s. Universities, therefore, were at a disadvantage and needed to explore other avenues of funding. Legislative changes over the years, which made it mandatory for developers to fund impact assessments to mitigate potential damage of valuable heritage resources from their proposed activities, have led to a significant proliferation of private archeological companies. These have been established to provide developers with the expertise they need to satisfy these legal requirements. The approach used in South Africa is that the developer must pay to assess the nature of the likely impact of their proposed activity. Government entities are then tasked with the responsibility of reviewing studies undertaken by specialists subcontracted by developers. The subdiscipline of archeology has grown significantly in South Africa, specifically enabled by legislative changes over the years requiring that predevelopment assessments of heritage sites be undertaken prior to approvals being made. However, archeology has continued to be defined as racially unrepresentative of the South African demography. In addition, the management of heritage resources through the use of contract archeology has been characterized by a variety of administrative challenges.

Article

Siméon Kouassi, Léon Fabrice Loba, and Ettien N'Doua Etienne

The shell middens of Côte d’Ivoire span almost the entirety of the southern coastal zone of the country. Unearthed in the second half of the 1930s, they are sites of almost unparalleled preservation, providing a wealth of information about the lives of the area’s ancient inhabitants. While they are very often prey to pillaging, archaeological studies of these middens have enabled the exhumation of lithics, ceramics, metals, and burial remains that offer insight into the ideologies, social organizations, and health of the people that made them. Data recorded in geological reports, scientific publications, site explorations, ethnoarchaeological studies, surveys, and field excavations have highlighted the major characteristics of these shell middens. While invaluable as archaeological resources, their location and material value make them sensitive to encroaching urbanization and economic exploitation.

Article

Nonofho Mathibidi Ndobochani

Africa is the cradle of humankind, with the origin, evolution, and dispersal of hominids understood from this continent. It was not left out in the quest for knowledge on how human beings lived in the past, where they lived, what they used and ate, as well as changes that occurred through time. The development of archaeology in Africa, as elsewhere, had two aspects to it—the volume and inclination of work done as evidenced by extensive fieldwork and publications, and the change in approach that saw a shift toward philosophical and methodological concerns. Terminology broadened as there was a shift from merely establishing evidence of occupation and the presence of material culture, to studying the subtleties and processes underlying the material culture. The human mind is complex; it generated a dynamic material culture temporally and spatially, and notwithstanding the environmental impact on past cultures, humanity also colonized landscapes. Appreciation of an interchange between humanity and the environment became necessary to sync and contextualize the development of ideas, concepts, and worldviews, and whether they emerged from within societies or were externally influenced, they were shared across time and space—necessitating multidisciplinary approaches to studying the past. To an archaeological scholar in Africa, the problem is compounded. The study of the past has always been from an observer’s point of view, resulting in the call to “decolonize archaeology”—Africans were alienated in studying the past and the tendency was to have them not see this past as their heritage. Archaeology must be relevant to Africa’s issues of environmental management, food security, and socioeconomic challenges such as youth and women’s empowerment. What can the discipline offer? Is the archaeology of Africa accessible to its population, and do we see possibilities for an intergenerational beneficiation of Africa’s past? Most importantly, Africa still has a wealth of knowledge to offer in the study of the paleoenvironment, human evolution, food production and processing, historical ecology, multidisciplinary approaches, and computer technology. Their contribution to a better understanding of the rich, complex, and dynamic African past is of utmost importance.

Article

Contract archaeology (CA) is a relatively new concept in world archaeology. It first became prominent in the United States five decades ago and in southern Africa four decades ago. Many archaeologists in the region are employed as contract archaeologists. CA has contributed significantly to the development of archaeological methods and techniques and, to a lesser extent, theory. The development of CA in southern Africa experienced an important transition five decades ago. Despite the progression of CA in the region, the quality and standards of reports are major problems. CA structures have to be developed in order to protect cultural heritage from destructive projects. The elaboration of a relevant and active CA program that engages stakeholders is also vital. The future of CA depends on several factors, including strong legislative frameworks and policies that make pre-development studies mandatory, funding of projects, public consultations, and protection of cultural resources. In addition to implementing several cultural heritage structures, the “polluter pays” principle should be reinforced to safeguard southern African cultural heritage. It is important to develop CA statutes that move beyond archaeological studies, pay attention to heritage, and stress intangible heritage.

Article

Analysis of Late Pleistocene fauna exploitation (~130,000–12,000 years ago) in southern Africa is of global academic relevance. Faunal analyses from southern African sites have led to the development of influential hypotheses on the evolution of modern human hunting methods and subsistence economies. In the 1970s and 1980s, analysis of faunal remains from the Middle Stone Age site Klasies River informed the hypothesis that Middle Stone Age humans were less effective hunters than ethnographically documented hunter-gatherers. This was based on the underrepresentation of dangerous prey species in the bone assemblages. The development of detailed taphonomic research in the 1990s and 2000s demonstrated that the accumulation of faunal assemblages was the result of complex processes involving both human and nonhuman agents. These studies helped establish that Middle Stone Age hunters were as capable as those in ethnographically documented societies. Since then, important progress has been made in the identification of the weapons systems that were used to hunt animals. Analyses of lithic implements indicate bow-and-arrow use in southern Africa going back to at least 65,000 years ago. Animal exploitation strategies do change over time. Hunting strategies probably focused on large antelope during the Middle Pleistocene, and the importance of smaller animals increased This change was likely caused by a shift in prey populations that stemmed from a combination of environmental change and perhaps human population pressure. Late Pleistocene archaeological sites show increasing evidence for intensification; that is, an increase in the amount of food extracted from the environment by more thorough processing of prey, exploitation of new prey types, and development of new exploitation strategies. This pattern is usually linked to animal overexploitation and may be a result of human population expansion or environmental change if decreasing productivity limits the supply of animal prey. Notable examples of this are shellfish middens at coastal sites, the abundance of tortoises, and the presence of large numbers of small mammals that were likely snared instead of pursued.

Article

Catrien van Waarden

Agro-pastoralists arrived in Botswana in the 6th and 7th centuries, five groups of the Urewe Tradition of the Bantu migrations, of which two of the Nkope Branch or Central Stream, two of the Kwale Branch or Eastern Stream, and the fifth settled in the zone of contact between these two branches. A sixth group had links with the Naviundu Tradition in the southeastern Democratic Republic of Congo. There is no evidence of a Western Stream of the Bantu migrations, also known as the Kalundu Tradition, in Botswana. During the second phase of the Early Iron Age, c. 800–1000 ce, east-central Botswana was dominated by the Zhizo culture.

Article

The Early Middle Stone Age (EMSA) from South Africa occurred, broadly, between 300,000 and 130,000 years ago. This is a crucial phase in the history of Homo sapiens, as genetic and fossil evidence increasingly indicate that the roots of Homo sapiens reach back to this time. The fossil evidence from South Africa from this period is sparse, but the c. 260,000-year-old Homo helmei partial skull from Florisbad is especially significant in understanding modern human origins. A detailed chronological and regional framework for the EMSA is still in progress, but on the available evidence, the earliest EMSA occupations seem to be centered in the interior and northern regions. Transitional entities such as the Fauresmith and Sangoan and the first EMSA without large cutting tools, from Florisbad, are found in these areas. In the EMSA, biface technology as well as bipolar, discoidal, blade, and Levallois technologies were used to manufacture a wide variety of blanks, some of which were retouched into an array of tool types. Before lithic types such as hand-axes and bifacial points can be used as diagnostic criteria to define, for example, the Fauresmith and Pietersburg, further extended technological analyses are needed to determine their production sequences and context. Prepared core or Levallois technology occur frequently, but not always, in the EMSA. Prepared core technology entails careful planning to shape stone nodules geometrically prior to knapping the preformed blanks. EMSA hunters used Levallois and other pointed flakes as armatures in hafted thrusting spears. Levallois and composite tool technology reflect complex problem solving and hierarchical organizational cognitive capabilities. These competencies are also evident in early pigment processing. The clear footprint of the EMSA on the South African landscape indicates that several human groups populated this region during the Middle Pleistocene. It is highly likely that such groups were linked across Africa and that they collectively developed into Homo sapiens.

Article

How and in what ways did socially complex societies emerge on the East African coast and southern Africa? Scholarship has shown that elite investment in interregional trade and in extractive technologies, monopolization of wealth-creating resources, and warfare may have played a key role in the emergence of early states. To what extent was elite and non-elite engagement in local, regional, and transcontinental economic networks crucial to development of social complexity in eastern and southern Africa? Extensive research on the eastern coast of Africa (Kenya and Tanzania) and southern Africa (Zimbabwe, Botswana, and South Africa) has yielded adequate data to enable a discussion on the trajectories of the evolution of social complexity and the state. So far, three crucial factors: (a) trade, (b) investment in extractive technologies, and (c) elite monopolization of wealth-creating resources coalesced to propel the region toward greater interaction and complexity. Major transformations in the form and increase of household size, clear differences in wealth and status, and settlement hierarchies occurred toward the end of the first millennium ad. Regional scholarship posits that elite control of internal and external trade infrastructure, restricted access to arable land and accumulation of surplus, manipulation of religious ideology, and exploitation of ecological crises were among the major factors that contributed to the rise of the state. Could these factors have also favored investment and use of organized violence as a means to gain access to and monopolize access to information and wealth-creating resources? Scholarship in the 21st century favors the notion that opportunistic use of ideological and ritual power enabled a small elite initially composed of elders, ritual specialists, and technical specialists to control the regional political economy and information flows. The timing of these transformations was continent-wide and date to the last three centuries of the first millennium ad. By all measures, the evidence points to wealth accumulation through trade, tribute, and investment in agrarianism, pastoralism, and mining.

Article

Yonatan Sahle

The Stone Age record is longer and better documented in eastern Africa. Archaeological and fossil evidence derives particularly from sites within the Rift Valley of the region, often with secure radiometric age estimates. Despite a relatively late start and disproportionate focus on earlier periods and open-air sites within the rift, scientific research into the region’s Stone Age record continues to play a central role in our understanding of human evolution. Putative stone tools and cutmarked bones from two Late Pliocene (3.6–2.58 million years ago or Ma) contexts are exclusive to eastern Africa, as is conclusive evidence for these by 2.5 Ma. The earliest indisputable technological traces appear in the form of simple flakes and core tools as well as surface-modified bones. It is not clear what triggered this invention, or whether there was a more rudimentary precursor to it. Neither is it certain which hominin lineage started this technology, or if it hunted or only scavenged carcasses. Well-provenienced archaeological occurrences predating 2.0 Ma are limited to sites in Ethiopia and Kenya, becoming more common across eastern Africa and beyond only later. By 1.75 Ma, lithic technologies that included heavy-duty and large cutting tools appeared in Ethiopian and Kenyan localities. Several details about this technological tradition are still inadequately understood, although its appearance in eastern Africa roughly coincides with that of Homo erectus/ergaster. By far the longest-lived Stone Age tradition, hominins with such technologies successfully inhabited high-altitude environments as early as 1.5 Ma, and expanded within and beyond Africaeven earlier. Hunting and use of fire probably started in the earlier part of this technological tradition. Small-sized and highly diverse tool forms gradually and variably started to replace heavy-duty and large cutting tools beginning c. 300 thousand years ago (ka). Conventional wisdom associates this technological and behavioral shift with the rise of Homo sapiens, although the oldest undisputed representatives of our species continued to use large cutting tools in eastern Africa after 200 ka. In addition to small retouched tools, often on products from prepared cores, significant innovations such as hafting and ranged weaponry emerged during the length of this technological tradition. Increasingly complex sociocultural behaviors, including mortuary practices, mark the later part of this period in eastern Africa. The consolidation of such skills and behaviors, besides ecological/demographic dynamics, may have enabled the ultimately decisive Out-of-Africa dispersal of our species, from eastern Africa, 50–80 ka. Even smaller and more diverse stone tool forms and other sociocultural innovations evolved in many areas of eastern Africa by 50 ka. Miniaturization and diversification allowed for the adoption of more complex technologies, including intentional blunting and microlithization. Some of these were used as parts of sophisticated composite implements, such as the bow and arrow. Complex behaviors involving personal ornamentation, symbolism, and rituals that resembled the lifeways of ethnographically known hunter-gatherer populations were similarly adopted. These dynamics eventually led to the development of new technological and socioeconomic systems marked by the inception of agriculture and attendant lifeways.

Article

Iron Age archaeological research in Zimbabwe and surrounds has shifted from traditional concerns with culture histories and reconstruction of the sociopolitical and economic organization. Archaeologists have become concerned with a wider range of issues such as ritual, the meanings of material culture as well as the ideological backgrounds and contexts within which societies produced and reproduced themselves, and how archaeological invisibles may inform different aspects of the organization and development of past cultures. The quest to read more into the material remains from the past in context, beyond their materiality, was the inspiration behind the development of ethnoarchaeology. It is against this backdrop that the study of faunal remains from Iron Age sites in southern Africa, particularly those of cattle, has been shifting from analysis and interpretation of the bones, from a subsistence-economic-organization point of view, to attempts to read more from this class of archaeological data. Here, the contemporary Bantu cattle-keeping societies have been the subject of studies aimed at gathering data that may be usable in engaging with the bone remains from archaeological sites. The ethnoarchaeological approaches have initiated a new methodological dimension to the study of faunal remains. Gender studies have been one of the most important areas of concern in archaeology over the past five decades. In this regard, cattle-based ethnoarchaeological studies in southern Africa have opened opportunities for alternative ways of thinking about cattle ownership and sociopolitical organization and development in the past. Here, the traditional perceptions and interpretations of cattle as an exclusively male domain have been questioned as it has emerged that women would in fact have been active players in the cattle world. Within the context of the archaeological interest in ritual, ethnoarchaeological studies have also been informative from various dimensions where indications are that the cattle-bone remains that are recovered from archaeological sites could have resulted from a variety of ritual activities, rather than food alone. Ultimately, such ethnoarchaeological studies in the region have persuaded archaeologists to begin to think about cattle bones beyond the obvious.

Article

Faunal analysis (or zooarchaeology) in African archaeology is the identification, analysis, and interpretation of the remains of animal bones recovered from archaeological sites in Africa. Its methods and theoretical underpinnings derive from archaeology, paleontology, biology, and geochemistry, and they extend across all faunal categories. Much of the work in African faunal analysis concerns large-bodied mammalian taxa, but the approach encompasses analysis of fish, shellfish, birds, reptiles, and indeed all animal remains found in association with archaeological sites. The diversity of research encompassed within faunal analysis is also especially high in Africa, where the earliest reported archaeological site is far older than the earliest archaeological site outside of Africa. The extra time depth affords the African archaeological record a wide arena of research questions that are answerable using faunal data. Major themes in African faunal analysis include the origins of unique components of human diet and hunting ability, reconstruction of the transition from hunting and gathering to food production, and analysis of the historical use of animals in trade, exchange, and social status.

Article

Silje Bentsen

Fire is one of the oldest technologies of humankind; indeed, the earliest signs of fire appeared almost two million years ago. Traces of early fire use include charcoal, baked sediments, and burnt bone, but the archaeological evidence is ambiguous due to exposure to the elements for hundreds of thousands of years. Thus the origin of fire use is debatable. The first fire users may have been occasional or opportunistic users, harvesting flames and heat-affected food from wildfires. The art of maintaining the fire developed, and eventually humans learned to make fire at will. Fire technology (pyrotechnology) then became a habitual part of life. Fire provided warmth and light, which allowed people to continue activities after dark and facilitated moving into colder climates. Cooking food over or in the fire improved digestibility; over time, humans developed a culinary technology based on fire that included the use of cooking pits or earth ovens and preservation techniques such as smoking the food. Fire could even help in the procurement of food—for example, in clearing vegetation for easier hunting, to increase the fertility of the land, and to promote the growth of certain plants or to trap animals. Many materials could be transformed through fire, such as the color of ochre for use in pigments or the knapping properties of rocks for production of stone tools. Pyrotechnology ultimately became integral to other technologies, such as the production of pottery and iron tools. Fire use also has a social component. Initially, fires for cooking and light provided a natural meeting point for people to conduct different activities, thus facilitating communication and the formation of strong social relationships. The social organization of a campsite can sometimes be interpreted from the artifact types found around a fire or in how different fires were placed. For example, access to household fires was likely restricted to certain family members, whereas communal fires allowed access for all group members. There would have been conventions governing the activities that were allowed by a household fire or a communal fire and the placement of different fire types. Furthermore, the social uses of fire included ritual and ceremonial uses, such as cleansing rituals or cremation. The fire use of a prehistoric group can, consequently, reveal information on aspects such as subsistence, social organization, and technology.

Article

The discoveries at Ounjougou (Mali), an open-air site in the Dogon Country, shed new light on the “early Neolithic” in Africa. The stratigraphic sequence and a cluster of absolute dates established a terminus ante quem of 9400 cal bc for ceramic sherds associated with a small bifacial lithic industry. The emergence of this typo-technical complex corresponds to one of the wet phases of the Pleistocene–Holocene transition in West Africa, most probably that of the climatic upturn at the beginning of the Holocene, between 10,200 and 9,400 cal bc. Paleoenvironmental results, particularly archaeobotanical ones, indicate that the landscape was in a state of change and that, for several millennia, the surfaces covered by desert overlapped an open steppe with grasses, some of which were edible. This environmental situation allowed the dispersion of prehistoric groups over the continent and probably encouraged a new behavior: the practice of intensive selective gathering (i.e., the targeted and rational harvesting of wild grasses for their seeds). However, not only must seeds be kept dry and protected from rodents, they must also be processed through cooking or fermentation. This process helps the human body to assimilate the starch, as the digestive enzymes necessary for its digestion are not naturally present. Ceramics would have been particularly useful in this process. Ceramics emerged in sub-Saharan Africa and seem to have spread toward the central Sahara during the early Holocene at the end of the 10th and the beginning of the 9th millennium cal bc, while the desert zone became increasingly greener. It has yet to be understood whether the Nile Valley was an important corridor for the diffusion of this technology or if ceramics appeared as the result of a second independent process of innovation.

Article

Gender is frequently invoked as a core explanatory factor for many aspects of past African metallurgy, including conceptualizations of the technological process by its practitioners, the organization of—and participation in—metallurgical production activity, and the acquisition of power and wealth that is associated with it. If a study of technology is to contribute to our understanding of the African past, an exploration of the socioeconomic framework of a production activity is as important as understanding the materiality of a technology; gender is an essential part of that framework. Ethnographies offer an unparalleled opportunity to consider concepts such as technological style, symbolic expression, and gender in relation to technological activity and materiality—structuring principles that can be of limited visibility in the archaeological record. It is through ethnographic and historical documentation that gender has been made highly and dramatically visible in African smelting and metalworking processes. A stark focus has tended to rest on the cosmologies of fertility and human reproduction that permeate many (though certainly not all) iron smelting technologies across the continent. Metal production is positioned as a form of social reproduction, enabling the continuation of cultural activity through technological production. Metaphors of transformation are reproduced through the design and decoration of technological artifacts, through taboos and prohibitions, and through the symbolic songs, words, and actions of the metal workers, and have been closely tied with narratives of female exclusion from (and conversely male access to) metallurgical activities. Insights from the ethnographic and historical records of sub-Saharan Africa have been used to inform archaeological interpretations, both implicitly and explicitly, within and far beyond the continent. Yet the insights they provide need to be tempered by a critical evaluation of the ways in which such analogies are selected from a vast bank of historic and ethnographic data and how they can be most appropriately utilized. Importantly, the variability that is present within the ethnographic record cautions against the construction and promulgation of overgeneralizations, and strongly suggests that gender and gendered work roles within African metallurgy, past and present, are not yet fully understood.

Article

Genetic analyses of southern African livestock have been limited and primarily focused on agricultural production rather than the reconstruction of prehistory. Attempts to sequence DNA preserved in archaeological remains of domestic stock have been hampered by the discovery of high error rates in the morphological identification of fauna. As such, much DNA sequencing effort that was directed at sequencing southern Africa’s domestic livestock has been expended sequencing wild forms. The few genetic data that are available from both modern and archaeological domestic stock show relatively low genetic diversity in maternally inherited mitochondrial lineages in both sheep and cattle. Analyses of modern stock show, in contrast, that the bi-parentally inherited nuclear genome is relatively diverse. This pattern is perhaps indicative of historic cross-breeding with stock introduced from outside Africa. Critically important to moving forward in our understanding of the prehistory of domesticates in southern Africa is attention to the high error rates in faunal analyses that have been documented both genetically and through ZooMS.

Article

Abidemi Babatunde Babalola

The earliest glass beads in the archaeological record in West Africa dates to the 7th through 5th centuries bce, predating the Islamic trade in the region. By early 2nd millennium ce, the occurrence of glass beads had increased exponentially following the influx of goods and people. Thus, glass beads on the subcontinent are traced to outside sources. Compositional analysis has revealed that most glass beads in West Africa were made from soda-lime-silica glass fluxed with either mineral soda or plant ash. A group with soda-lime-alumina and another with high concentration of lead have also been identified. The origins of the glass beads of these compositional groups have been traced to the Middle East, Mesopotamia, the Levant, the Eastern Mediterranean, South Asia, and medieval Europe connecting West African to the global interactive system. Archaeological investigations since 2010 at Ile-Ife, Southwest Nigeria have revealed the existence of the first-known West African primary glassmaking workshop dated to early 2nd millennium ce. The workshop at Ile-Ife mass-produced glass beads and became a regional center supplying glass beads to the trade network. Three techniques of glass bead manufacture are common in West Africa: drawn, wound, and molded/powdered. While drawn and wound beads have early occurrence in West Africa, molded/powdered beads appeared later, popular from the 16th century. Morphologically, glass beads of all colors, shapes, size, and diaphaneity have been recovered from archaeological context. Glass beads are ubiquitous materials in West Africa. They are materiality of globalized world, insignias of power and status, indicators of West African ingenuity and creativity, and emblems of social, political, and religious complexity.

Article

Composite, multi-component tool technologies held together by means of a join (or haft) have a well-established record within southern Africa, temporally spanning the region’s Middle Stone Age through the Later Stone Age to historic and ethnographic narratives. The use of hafting adhesives, the glue of composite technologies, is a similarly well-established phenomenon, ensuring that users can create reliable, maintainable tools. The main organic components of these malleable technologies are sourced from plant exudates, including resins, gums, and latexes derived from several plant families, alongside animal fats, waxes, and inorganic minerals. Hafting adhesive finds within southern Africa’s archaeological record broadly fit into three categories: complete or relatively complete hafted implements, trace on inserts, and lumps of material. The frequency and location of these largely organic artefacts are invariably associated with differential preservation and regions where significant archaeological surveys have been conducted since the 1960s. Compositional information of hafting adhesives, however, comes from disparate sources: a handful of archaeometric studies on chemical composition from Middle Stone Age and Later Stone Age contexts as well as historic and ethnographic observations. Ethnographic accounts have provided models in the complexity of adhesive manufacture and ingredient acquisition, while archaeological case studies in chemical composition of adhesives emphasize differences in adhesive production and the use of resources that are wholly absent from the records of the last two centuries. Despite these discrepancies, research demonstrates that these components of composite tools remain high-value commodities in their own right and more than a step in the chaîne opératoire of a composite implement.

Article

Patrick Schmidt

In archaeology, heat treatment is the intentional transformation of stone (normally sedimentary silica rocks) by fire to produce materials with improved fracture properties. It has been documented on all continents, from the Africa Middle Stone Age up to subrecent times. It was an important part of the Mediterranean Neolithic and it sporadically appeared in the Paleolithc and Mesolithic of Asia and Europe. It may have been part of the knowledge of people first colonizing North and South America, and it played an important role for toolmaking in the Australian Prehistory. In all these contexts, heat treatment was normally used to improve the quality of stone raw materials for tool knapping; especially its association with pressure flaking has been highlighted, but a few examples also document the quest of making tools with improved qualities (sharper cutting edges) and intentional segmentation of large blocks of raw material to produce smaller, better-usable modules (fire fracturing). Two categories of silica rocks were most often heat-treated throughout prehistory: relatively fine-grained marine chert or flint and more coarse-grained continental silcrete. The finding of stone heat treatment in archaeological contexts opens up several research questions on its role for toolmaking, its cognitive and social implications, and the investment it required. Important venues for research are, for example: Why did people heat-treat stone? What happens to stones when heated? How can heating be recognized? By what technical means were stones heated? Which cost did heat treatment represent for its instigators? Answering these questions allows light to be shed on archaeologically relevant processes like innovation, reinvention, convergence, or the advent of complexity. The methods needed to produce these answers, however, often stem from other fields such as physics, chemistry, mineralogy, or material sciences.

Article

Rebecca Bradshaw and Geoff Emberling

As a discipline with colonial origins, archaeology is increasingly addressing ways in which it has supported historical and current inequalities. One essential aspect of this work is engaging in conversations and collaborations with local communities, particularly to understand varying conceptions of heritage. Another is through attention to the benefits that derive from archaeological research—does fieldwork primarily support (foreign) archaeologists and their careers, or do local communities and professional colleagues also benefit? These issues have been developing particularly rapidly in Sudan, where development and international funding have supported a number of fieldwork projects in various forms of community engagement.