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 main themes of archaeological research in Gandhāra are currently developing along a timeline that starts in the Late Bronze Age and ends in the Shahi period. The majority of scholarship, however, is focused on the chronological phase between 150 bce and 300 ce. Because of the unbalanced level of studies, it is not easy to define what archaeology can positively say about the knowledge of the ancient world in this corner of Asia. However, the overall result of archaeological research in Gandhāra shows that the region was itself a center, not simply a frontier region of interaction between Central Asia and Iran, India, and its coastlands. Gandhāra appears to have played a central role in many of the developments that occurred throughout the period considered here. With the spread of domesticated rice during the mid-2nd millennium, a double-crop agricultural system and associated farm breeding system developed, linking Gandhāra with Kashmir and trans-Himalaya. Toward the end of the 1st millennium, the northern valleys saw the diffusion of burial and settlement features and associated material culture, which allows archaeological and genetic comparisons with earlier complexes of Central Asia and Iran up to 1000 ce. The initial urban phase in Gandhāra (500–150 bce) is defined by the evidence from Barikot, Bhir Mound (Taxila I), and Charsadda. Mature urban phases (150 bce–350 ce) are defined by the evidence of the restructuring of old cities (such as Barikot) and new urban foundations (e.g., Taxila III and Charsadda/Shahikhan-dheri) during the phases of contact with the Indo-Greek, Saka-Parthian, Kushana, and Kushano-Sasanian systems of power. During the last three centuries of the mature urban phase, the Buddhist art of Gandhāra developed a narrative biographical mode, which represents its most distinctive feature. The following period until 650 ce, distinguished by uncertain or scarce assemblages, is defined as post-urban. The post-650 to c. 1000 ce evidence, marked by cultural material associated with the Shahi dynasties and the first phase of contact with the Islamic dynasty of the Ghaznavids, defines the late ancient period.
Luca Maria Olivieri
The dynamic between indigenous descendant communities, archaeologists, and other heritage professionals in Mexico and Central America embodies a distinct regional history of relations between native peoples and the state. In contrast to the United States and other regions, where indigenous polities have a history of legal sovereignty, the legacy of Spanish colonialism has created few parallel avenues for native Mesoamericans. Linguistic, cosmological, and social continuities between living and ancient indigenous populations have long been an emphasis of Mesoamericanist anthropology. Nevertheless, laws for the management of heritage in those countries often marginalize descendant communities from the use and stewardship of the material traces left behind by their ancestors. The ethical dimensions of this dynamic are further complicated by the fact that many activities that are criminalized by existing heritage laws are, in fact, consistent with long-standing traditions of landscape use and material recycling in these societies. Lacking the sovereignty principle that shapes interactions between indigenous communities and archaeologists in the United States, a more inclusive practice of heritage in Mesoamerica involves new kinds of pragmatic dialogue and accommodation.
The megaliths of the northwestern part of the Central African Republic consist of monuments built with numerous large knapped stones crested on a mound. They appear at the beginning of the first millennium cal bc underlining a socioeconomic change that needs to be better characterized. During the following millennia, the archaeological record attests to an intensification of the building of monuments, together with a diversification of their form and function. Appendages such as funeral chambers begin to appear at this stage. These features have led scholars to explore the relationship of these monuments in the social dynamics and symbolic systems of their communities. The emergence of megalithism in a society marks major shifts in their cultural, economic, and political development, as the scale of these works requires significant coordination of materials and resources. In the Eastern Adamawa Plateau, these massive stoneworks allow the excavation and pinpointing of the development iron metallurgy, the diversification of funerary practices, the political development of villages and of the centers of ceramic production.
The term “ochre” has many meanings: a colored stone, a pigment, sunscreen, a curiosity item, a mustard hue, or even an object used for ritual. Ochre found at archaeological sites is described as a range of earthy, ferruginous rocks with red–yellow–purple streaks. The use of ochre in the past has proven valuable for interpreting not only cognitive capabilities of its users but also for its potential to shed light on behavioral and social factors. The late Pleistocene, and specifically the Middle Stone Age in southern Africa, is a time of significant behavioral and cognitive advances for Homo sapiens—this coincides with the habitual use of ochre. By looking at the collection and use of ochre in the African Middle Stone Age, placed within a global and temporal context, important behavioral conclusions can be made. Ochre has many potential uses, making interpretations of ochre use in the past complicated. Ethnographic and modern analogies are considered as well as the experimental work that has been produced by numerous researchers. All accounts have deepened our understanding of the many ways that ochre may have been used in the distant past. It is likely that both its color and mineralogical content dictated its use in the past.
The contexts of hunter-gatherer rock arts of the southern Maloti-Drakensberg are characterized by enduring patterns of cultural acquisition and social transformation, resulting in communities with highly contextual identities and cultural possessions, but with nonlinear relationships between the two. Attempts to mitigate discontinuities between ethnographic source and interpretive subject, however, have left interpretive methodologies to represent authorship in more singular terms, to the exclusion of potential contextual sources who express identities not outwardly San, despite ancestral trajectories overlapping those of the artists. Recognition of the inheritances of the communities of the present Maloti-Drakensberg, and their transformative histories, necessitates their inclusion not only as sources, but as contributors to ethnoarchaeological process.
Reviews of southern Africa’s Later Stone Age (LSA) have seen many different iterations. Generally, however, they summarize the technocomplex from its earliest industry until it ceases to be recognizable in the archaeological record, summarizing the variety of research topics, questions, and approaches. Binding much of this together, despite the diaspora of studies, is the use of ethnography to understand past hunter-gatherer lifeways. This resource has guided interpretations of the past and helped design research approaches since the 1970s. And yet, from as early as the 1980s, archaeologists as well as anthropologists have debated the influence ethnography plays in understanding the past. Nonetheless, without it, significantly less would be written of hunter-gatherer prehistory in southern Africa, which includes belief systems, settlement structures, mobility patterns, subsistence habits, and social relations. Using ethnography as a vehicle, it is possible to navigate the LSA pathways created by scholars and examine the aforementioned contributions this knowledge system has made to interpretations of the past. From this vantage, envisioning a future for ethnography within the field is possible. This should involve expanding the ethnographies archaeologists use, moving beyond the Kalahari Desert, creating a diverse group of LSA researchers, and decolonizing the discipline.