81-93 of 93 Results  for:

  • Archaeology x
Clear all

Article

The stretch of the Nile River upstream from the First Cataract corresponds to the Middle Nile and extends from southern Egypt to the confluence of the White Nile and the Blue Nile in central Sudan. Its water basin is wider than that of the Lower Nile Valley and includes considerable tributaries and groundwater outlets springing in oases, wells, or boreholes, which could support human populations in otherwise uninhabitable arid and semi-arid lands. The Middle Nile Valley and the adjacent western and eastern deserts feature a range of significant sites belonging to the Early Stone Age (ESA), the Middle Stone Age (MSA), and the Later Stone Age (LSA). The earliest hominin occupation goes back to the Oldowan. Sites dating to this period are not numerous but are dispersed in different areas and suggest that some may have been lost due to taphonomic agents. Acheulean techno-complexes attest to a more consistent human presence in northern Sudan, western Sudan, and eastern Sudan. Research along the Red Sea coast and inland has provided strong evidence on green corridors for hominin dispersals connecting East Africa to the eastern desert. A variety of MSA techno-complexes appear in different territories. The most frequent industries have been assigned to the Sangoan, Lupemban, Nubian Complex, Aterian, and Khormusan. Early MSA Sangoan and Lupemban sites concentrate in the main Nile and White Nile areas, whereas Middle MSA Nubian Complex sites also appear in the eastern desert. Almost unknown in the Egyptian Nile Valley, the Aterian is well attested to in the Middle Nile Valley, as well as in the western desert. Finally, the Late MSA Khormusan and the LSA are mostly restricted to northern Sudan, with the exception of an LSA evidence in eastern Sudan, at Khashm el-Girba. The renowned LSA cemetery at Jebel Sahaba with signs of interpersonal violence is located in northern Sudan. Thanks to their favorable intermediary position, the Middle Nile Valley and the adjacent western and eastern areas likely contributed to both the northern and the southern routes of out-of-Africa hominin dispersals. The northern route that led East African hominins into Southwest Asia and onward almost inevitably traversed Sudan. At the same time, Sudanese technological traditions also appear across the Red Sea, in the Arabian Peninsula and seemingly spread via the southern route.

Article

This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Anthropology. Please check back later for the full article. Throughout history, trails, paths, and roads have been fundamental components for the development of human societies, particularly in the case of those that achieved complex forms of organization. In this sense, many ancient states implemented road systems that facilitated the flow of people and goods throughout their domains, at the same time that they strengthened control over conquered populations and sustained the structure of the government apparatus. In the case of Tawantinsuyu, the powerful state built by the Incas, rulers ordered the construction of a vast and sophisticated network of roads that extended from southern Colombia to the central region of Chile and the Argentinian northwest, running through territories currently belonging to Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia. Although the entire network is known today as Qhapaq Ñan, this term originally referred only to the major axis of the system, represented by the great royal road that connected Cusco, the Inca capital, with Quito and the northern border of the empire. Due to the advanced technology used in their design and construction, Inca roads garnered the admiration of the earliest Europeans in the Andes, who praised the level of organization and administration of communications handled by the state, as well as the integral infrastructure of the whole road system. Features of the system that were especially praised by the Spanish were bridges, storehouses, and facilities known as tambos, which were frequently used as inns for travelers during Spanish rule. Later, these references made 19th-century explorers and 20th-century researchers of different nationalities turn their attention to the study of Qhapaq Ñan. Since the 1990s, these studies have shown a marked increase and are being carried out from different disciplinary fields, theoretical perspectives, and methodological approaches. After the inclusion of the Qhapaq Ñan in the UNESCO World Heritage List, modern populations from the different localities associated with the Inca roads are increasingly claiming a role in research, conservation, and cultural management projects carried out by governments, institutions, and academics in their respective countries. This has opened an important debate on the processes of cultural heritage declarations, at the same time that it has highlighted the importance of the Qhapaq Ñan as a powerful element of cultural vindication and as a device with great potential for the promotion of Andean integration.

Article

Augustin F. C. Holl

Sustained archaeological research has been conducted in different parts of the continent from the early 1980s on. Evidence of copper and iron metallurgies is documented in the continent, in West, Central, and East Africa. Early copper metallurgies were recorded in the Akjoujt region of Mauritania and the Eghazzer basin in Niger. Surprisingly early iron smelting installations were found in the Eghazzer basin (Niger), the Middle Senegal Valley (Senegal), the Mouhoun Bend (Burkina Faso), the Nsukka region and Taruga (Nigeria), the Great Lakes region in East Africa, the Djohong (Cameroons), and the Ndio (Central African Republic) areas. It is, however, the discoveries from the northern margins of the Equatorial rainforest, North-Central Africa, in the northeastern part of the Adamawa Plateau that radically falsify the “iron technology diffusion” hypothesis. Iron production activities are shown to have taken place as early as 3000–2500bce in habitation sites like Balimbé, Bétumé, and Bouboun, smelting sites like Gbabiri, and forge sites like Ôboui and Gbatoro. The last two sites provide high-resolution data on the spatial patterning of blacksmiths’ workshops dating from 2500 to 2000bce. Challenging data such as these are usually ignored or dismissed without serious consideration, but patient and sustained long-term research is contributing to a new understanding of the development of copper and iron metallurgies in Africa, enriching the long-term history of technologies.

Article

Elgidius B. Ichumbaki and Edward Pollard

The urbanization and globalization being experienced in Africa in this early 21st century have deep foundations in the continent’s history. In Sub-Saharan Africa, for example, theories on the origin of urbanization have developed through the 20th century from an external origin emphasis. There was little recognition of the greater part played by the local people. The producers of these cultures engaged in activities shaped by the environment and sociocultural, political, and economic connections. For instance, in Eastern Africa, Iron Age people became united by language and religion, and exploited the coast and sea during the medieval period (from the end of the early Iron Age c. 500 ce to the arrival of the Portuguese at the end of the 15th and to the early 16th century). Iron Age people traded with inland Africa, East and Southern Asia, and Europe, producing what has become popularly known as the “Swahili civilization.” This civilization along the coast of Eastern Africa is marked by material culture of iron working, cloth production, pottery, beads, and glass as well as monumental constructions that range from stone-built mosques, tombs, and palaces. A maritime trade assisted by seasonally reversing monsoon winds exported gold, slaves, animal skins, ivory, and mangrove poles from Eastern Africa and imported beads, porcelain, and silks. The evidence that marks the Swahili civilization is spread over an area that extends along the coast of Eastern Africa about 3,000 km from Mogadishu (Somalia) in the north to Inhambane (Mozambique) in the south. The Swahili civilization locale also includes the islands of Unguja (Zanzibar), Pemba, Mafia, Comoros, and northern Madagascar. Some remnants marking the Swahili civilization include UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Lamu Old Town, Zanzibar Stone Town, Ruins of Kilwa Kisiwani and Songo Mnara, and Ilha de Mozambique. The civilization continues in this early 21st century with its oral traditions and maritime technology that are testimony of coastal Swahili culture continuing through Eastern Africa’s social and economic challenges.

Article

Humans have utilized and exchanged ivory from different species of elephant living on the African continent for millennia, with ivory from both forest and savannah species being exploited. Starting around 4600 bp, elephant ivory sourced on the African continent also began to be exported to other parts of the world. The ways of working ivory, the uses to which it has been put, and its symbolic and representational meanings have all varied according to context across space and time. Different agents have played diverse and varying roles in its acquisition, crafting, and distribution. From early on, ivory’s malleability and comparative strength relative to other raw materials made it particularly sought after. Its color and texture, as well as the variation between species and in its structure at different points on a tusk, have also been critical aspects of its material affordances. Archaeological evidence from sub-Saharan Africa, especially material dating from after the bce/ce transition, combined with ethnographic and historical data, provides important insights into the deep history of ivory, where it has been sourced on the continent, what is known about how it was worked in the distant past, and the changing history of its trade and exchange both within and beyond the continent. Regional and global shifts in its circulation, along with some of the societal and ecological consequences of these have also been studied, with particular reference to eastern Africa. Despite many advances in recent years, there is still a need for further multidisciplinary and multi-sited research informed by posthumanist perspectives and ethics.

Article

Verónica Pérez Rodríguez

Urban societies have been defined as stratified, and sometimes literate, societies that build large, densely populated, and monumental centers that serve specialized political, economic, and ritual functions for their regions. Mesoamerica is one of six world regions where urban societies developed, independently, in antiquity. Mesoamerican cities sometimes fit traditional definitions, and other times defy them. There are examples of dispersed low-density urban settlements (Classic Maya, Veracruz) or cities where evidence of writing remains elusive (Teotihuacan). Functional urban definitions have led to debates regarding the urban standing of earlier, Middle Formative Olmec centers, as no contemporary settlements match the monumentality and regional prominence of La Venta or San Lorenzo. The regional settlement studies that have proliferated in the Basin of Mexico and Valley of Oaxaca since the 1960s have helped scholars demonstrate the demographic and political might of Late Formative, Classic, and Postclassic cities such as Monte Albán, Teotihuacan, and Tenochtitlan. Urbanism was demonstrably shown to be a regional phenomenon, one that developed from autochthonous processes as settlements became prominent population centers whose functions, monuments, and institutions served and ruled over their larger regions. While some of the best-known Mesoamerican cities were the capitals of large regional states (Teotihuacan, Tenochtitlán, Monte Albán, and Tzintzuntzan), researchers have documented an even greater number of city-states, which are defined as small states socially and territorially centered around their capital city. The Classic and Postclassic cities of the Maya lowlands, the Postclassic polities or altepemeh of the Basin of Mexico, and the kingdoms of Postclassic Oaxaca are examples of city-states. Among Mesoamerican cities, there was diversity in the form of government, ranging from cities where rulers’ names and royal tombs appear prominently in the archaeological record (Classic Maya cities, Postclassic Oaxacan city-states), to cities where, despite decades of research, no single royal palace or tomb has been found (Teotihuacan). The material record of cities of the latter type suggests that they were governed through more corporate forms of political organization. In the early 21st century research has focused on the role of collectives in city construction, configuration, and governance and the challenge of archaeologically identifying neighborhoods, districts, or other suprahousehold social groups (tlaxilacalli and calpolli, social units above the household in Postclassic Nahuatl polities). Although Classic period Maya centers were not originally considered urban, thanks to settlement studies and, later on, LiDAR technology, scholars have demonstrated that beyond their monumental acropolises there was extensive low-density settlement that was unmistakably urban. The Maya model of low-density lowland urbanism features dispersed populations and extensive urban footprints that integrate complex webs of agricultural areas, terraces, raised fields, hydraulic features, and house mounds. This model may have useful applications for modern-day planning efforts in low-lying cities that need to adapt to climate change. Indeed, Mesoamerican urbanism has much to contribute as the world’s population becomes increasingly urban. Humanity must learn from its past successes, and failures, with urban living.

Article

When the tell site of Jenne-jeno was brought to light in the vast floodplain of the southern Middle Niger of Mali, archaeologists had to question certain expectations about just what constitutes an ancient city. The city was certainly too early (3rd century bce rather than the expected late first millennium ce) and Jenne-jeno did not conform to the standard city form (a mosaic of satellites rather than the expected agglomeration). But it was the persistent lack of evidence of a centralized ruler, social strata of elites, and of the hierarchical decision-making mechanisms of the state that set this urban landscape so at odds with then prevalent urban theory. The seventy apparently contemporaneous hamlets and specialists’ occupation mounds surrounding Jenne-jeno form the Jenne-jeno Urban Complex. It is a classic example of African originality in evolving urban landscapes. In place of the top-down, often despotic state control as the organizing principle of the city, here there is a classic city without citadel—and thus heterarchy (authority and power relations arrayed horizontally) instead of a social and political hierarchy at the heart of the city can be posited. The search for the pre-Jenne-jeno antecedents has taken a newer generation of archaeologists to look at “pre-urban” landscapes in other, now-dry parts of the Middle Niger deep in the northern. Sahel and Sahara. Back to the second millennium bce, the single site can be found to be the exception; clustering had roots deep in time.

Article

Franz Krause

Water is key to human life, both biophysically and socioculturally. Having long been regarded in anthropology as a circumstantial backdrop to human society and culture, water—alongside other nonhuman substances and beings—has received growing attention as a material with specific potentials and histories in the 21st century. This research explores the fundamental connectivity and relationality of water, through which social relations and hydrological flows are often two sides of the same coin, shaping and transforming each other. Watery materiality is frequently characterized by movement and instability, defying control but also intersecting with other social and material processes to create ever new arrangements. Water practices, infrastructures, and experiences participate in the formation and transformation of spaces and landscapes, and may inspire novel theoretical insights on meaning-making, kinship, learning, and space, among other topics. Water’s valuation and the tensions that arise regarding how to govern it emerge in part from its material properties. Ongoing discussions explore the links between these properties, water infrastructures, unequal distribution, and political power. Watery materiality is not a single thing, but has multiple manifestations, including saltwater, ice, and humidity. Some scholars therefore propose studying water and materiality in terms of various forms of wetness or amphibious processes. Research into water and materiality suggests that the material world consists of open processes rather than of fixed objects, and that water’s multiple manifestations and flows actively participate in shaping human lives.

Article

Terje Oestigaard

There are many different and distinct types of religious waters: holy, sacred, neutral, and even evil. The ways various divinities invest waters with specific qualities and capacities depend upon a wide range of ecological, theological, and eschatological factors; some are shaped by the environment while others are purely ontological and concerned with otherworldly realms, and often there is an intimate relation between the mundane and the divine. Rivers, rain, lakes, springs, and waterfalls are some specific forms of religious water, which also relate to seasonality and changing hydrological cycles. All these variations create different dependencies not only to ecological factors but more importantly to divine actors. Religious water may heal and bless individuals and be a communal source for fertility and plentiful harvests, but may also work as a penalty, wreaking havoc on society as floods or the absence of the life-giving rains in agricultural communities. Given the great variation of religious waters throughout history where even the same water may attain different qualities and divine embodiments, divine waters define structuring practices and principles in ecology and cosmology.

Article

Djibril Thiam and Isis Mesfin

Although the data are incomplete, the Acheulean seems to occupy the longest share of the prehistoric period of West Africa. Whereas some sites suggest the arrival of the first hominids beginning in the Early Pleistocene, the majority of the Acheulean sites show evidence of activity throughout almost the entirety of the Mid-Pleistocene. From the Sahel to tropical forests, numerous valleys in nearly every West African country have offered up lithic artifacts dated to the Acheulean. The available data from the primary regions that have been studied suggest a colonization of the coastal and forest zones, of the Senegal River Basin as well as the Falémé Valley, of Niger, the Adrar in Mauritania, the Tilemsi, the Volta, and Lake Chad. However, this idea is based primarily on the continuous geographic repartition of “Acheulean localities” defined in this article as the entire collection of areas in which only a few artifacts attributed to the Acheulean on the basis of typological criteria have been found. On the other hand, the “Acheulean sites,” which are very scarce, are defined here as places where excavations have taken place or as the area layout of significant collections. The repartition of Acheulean sites and localities marked by this geography bears witness to the adaptation of human groups to a great, mosaic-like diversity of environments.

Article

This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Anthropology. Please check back later for the full article. One of the major debates in African Iron Age research has focused on the origins of iron production (what, where, when, and how), including evolving technological strategies from bellows-driven to natural draft furnaces and associated production levels, and whether ironworking technology in sub-Saharan Africa was borrowed or had independent origins. While the debate continues, research has revealed a stunning diversity of furnace construction, the use of natural draft furnaces since perhaps as early as the first millennium B.C.E, clear evidence of ore selectivity, and improved technological processes via trial and error. The importance of West (and sub-Saharan) African iron production can best be understood within its various cultural contexts, rather than from a strictly Western technological perspective. What were the various impacts of iron production and technology on West African societies? These include demographics (population growth, settlement system dynamics, and sedentism); economics (increased food production, wealth accumulation (especially in cattle) and trade; environmental (deforestation, mining, and watersheds); social ramifications (changes in the social organization of production, including specialization; changes in social status, including castes) and in the rise of social hierarchies or heterarchies; political organization (links to political power and the rise of political centralization ); and, finally, its links to magic, religion, and societal ontologies (including birth, life or existence, sexuality and renewal, other liminal experiences, truth, and death), especially the tightly woven nexus of technology and ritual in smelting and to a lesser degree in smithing. In terms of theoretical issues and associated research goals, how were the materials and processes of ironworking integrated into societal belief systems, and to what extent were these systems reinforced, modified, or expanded as a result of the rise of ironworking technology? How does this process in the context of different cultural beliefs and practices lead to different technological styles? How does the colonial and postcolonial history of Africa impact what researchers decide to study and how they interpret results? How did the rise of ironworking affect material culture beyond ironworking technology itself? For example, there appears to be a correlation with the rise of ironworking technology and changes in ceramic vessel forms and associated decorative motifs. In terms of methods, what practically oriented strategies for resolving specific research questions are currently available? They include intensive regional sample surveys; extensive surveys linked to opportunistic sampling and a focus on local oral traditions; ethnoarchaeological approaches combining oral traditions and selective excavations to yield information on ceramics and chronology, smelting and smithing technologies, iron-production levels, dietary information and mortuary practices, all with the goal of understanding African cultural matrices of which ironworking became an integral part. The study of the trade in smelted iron and iron tools requires a multidisciplinary study of historical and colonial archives, oral traditions, and the identification of the chemical signatures of various ore sources that can be tied to iron ore and tools over local and regional spaces. In addition, the study of ironworking technologies requires funding and access to expensive recording and investigative technologies, which limits its accessibility and often requires the development of joint research programs.

Article

Philip Allsworth-Jones

In terms of artefacts present, West Africa is not short of evidence relating to human occupation during the Quaternary. The problem hitherto has been one of context and dating; there has been some progress in this regard but poor preservation conditions still restrict the presence of organic remains prior to the beginning of the Late Stone Age (LSA). Nonetheless, an excellent climatic record for the last 520 kya has been established on the basis of cores obtained from Lake Bosumtwi. Stratified Acheulean sites have been excavated at Sansandé and Ravin Blanc on the Falémé River in eastern Senegal. The succeeding Sangoan is an entity for which a consistent and reliable classification remains to be achieved. Despite this, excavations at Anyama in the Ivory Coast have produced a sizeable quantity of material, with a terminus post quem thermoluminescence (TL) date of 254 ± 51 kya. Our knowledge of the Middle Stone Age (MSA) has been transformed by the work carried out at Ounjougou in Mali. More than twenty-five distinct archaeological occurrences have been detected, extending from about 75 to 25 kya. The MSA elsewhere is abundant, and at Adrar Bous is in place beneath the Aterian, but much of it lacks a good stratigraphic context. The following dry period, the Ogolian, must have had a dramatic effect on human settlement, and the majority of LSA sites postdate this episode. There is no apparent link between them and the MSA. Nonetheless, the LSA at Shum Lake in Cameroon does have 14C dates in the range 32,700–12,800 BP. The most significant LSA site is Iwo Eleru, notable for the presence of modern human remains with “archaic” characteristics. A parallel situation has been detected at Ishango in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo both indicating a hitherto unsuspected “deep substructure” in Late Pleistocene African populations.

Article

World Heritage and Sustainable Development are connecting, complex, and inseparable global concepts operating at the local levels of World Heritage sites in developing nations. World Heritage is defined as cultural and natural sites considered to have outstanding universal values (OUV) and are legally protected by international treaties, in this case the 1972 World Heritage Convention, which provide the criteria for inscribing such sites and for keeping them on the World Heritage List. World Heritage promotes conservation of such heritage for the benefit of humanity. Sustainable Development, however, refers to development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs, and its implementation is largely directed by guidelines and principles endorsed by a broad range of stakeholders. Both concepts, World Heritage and Sustainable Development, have present and futuristic functionalities, but the former appears to be more emphasized than the latter in their application to heritage management. The present and futuristic functionalities of these two concepts constitute a complex but continuously evolving relationship that remains topical in the 21st century and beyond. As such, and in order to deepen our understanding the relationship between World Heritage and Sustainable Development, empirical analysis of their respective implementation at the local levels is a continuous process. Advancing the localization of World Heritage and Sustainable Development, including reducing theory into practice for the benefit of both conservation and the well-being of society, remains a mutually beneficiary process for both concepts. While conservation is premised on maintaining and retaining the significance of a heritage site, the well-being of society is driven by efforts toward meeting society’s diverse and growing needs on a daily basis. The balancing of World Heritage, Sustainable Development, conservation, and the well-being of society remains a contested but unavoidable engagement. All these aspects are still yet to find full acceptance and a localization matrix in the geo-socioeconomic and cultural contexts of Africa. Conservation and socioeconomic development for the well-being of society are viewed as issues that are as old as humanity itself. Both are embedded in the traditional management systems that guided protection of heritage and utilization of both renewable and nonrenewable resources available to communities in Africa. Therefore, these issues are a local phenomenon before becoming issues of global concern. While solutions from outside the context of these local phenomena may assist and bring good practices for World Heritage and Sustainable Development, they cannot be effective without being infused with local input and adaptation of local experiences to improve policy implementation. Understandably, the well-being of society has always been in existence and remains a priority; however, what is changing is the scale, diversity, and urgency of the needs of society due to multiple factors. Continuous research is required to find a balance between global processes and the local needs of society at World Heritage sites in Africa. The future of World Heritage in Africa lies in its adaptive ability to embrace continuously emerging local dynamics of sustainable development, offering alternative and creative solutions, embracing an inclusive stakeholder governance approach, and quantifying the contribution of heritage to development targets. World Heritage has to be part of a broader localized solution to local socioeconomic challenges in Africa.