241-260 of 263 Results

Article

Techno-cultural Groups of the Middle Paleolithic of West Africa  

Djidere Baldé

The West African Middle Paleolithic is characterized by industrial assemblages “on flakes” and “on picks,” which the regional literature has designated “Mousteroid,” “Aterian,” and “Sangoan” because they present morpho-technological characteristics that differ from those of Europe. Within these industrial complexes, Levallois reduction and discoid techniques were regularly developed, along with types of tools that imparted a particular cultural cachet to each assemblage. Despite the discovery of numerous and varied sites and industries, these West African Middle Paleolithic cultures remain very poorly understood, both in terms of their geographic distribution and their chronology.

Article

The Archaeology of Soapstone Figurines in West Africa  

Kola Adekola

Stone working technology is very rare in West Africa. Unlike other artistic techniques, stone working even in ancient times was limited to certain locations. This could be a result of the fact that not all stones can be worked even by those who have the skills to do so. The raw material for stone working—steatite—must be present in a locality or nearby where it can easily be harvested. A second requirement is the presence of highly skilled individuals who have knowledge of stone carving. Also fundamental, perhaps, is a social environment that enables stone working technology to thrive: for a society or group to engage in carving stones, the group must be administratively stable—that is, the organs of government (whether sophisticated or elementary) must have the capacity to cater to the artisans, or groups of artisans. Such a society must have a stable food supply. Outside Nigeria, among the Mende people of Sierra Leone, stone carvings called “Nomoli” are found in caves and earthen mounds and are mostly discovered by farmers. The Mende believe in the spiritual potency of the carved objects. Hence, they place them in shrines and by their rice fields to increase the fertility of the crops. If the crops do not fare well, the little figures are whipped so that they will do better the following year. The Esie figrines which were over a thousand pieces have been subject of study by scholars who have used the lenses of their different disciplines to have insights into what the soapstone represents as well as the identity of their makers. The makers of the soapstone figurines were agrarian people who organized themselves as a mini state. This enabled them to mobilize the necessary labor force that was required for the manufacture of the Esie soapstone figures.

Article

The Challenges of Planning for High-Impact Research  

Brian L. Foster

In major universities, research must be seen in many dimensions: the different disciplines, basic vs. applied, incremental vs. transformative, disciplinary or interdisciplinary, single researcher or collaborative, and much more. A fundamental difference that receives increasing attention is the distinction between incremental research vs. transformative research. Incremental research takes existing research results to the next step while transformative research opens up whole new ways of framing questions, often challenging what is “known,” and leading to new paths of knowledge creation that could lead to new academic disciplines or completely new approaches to practical issues/problems. Incremental research is critical to bring existing results to their most valuable ends. Transformative research has high impact in opening up new paths to important knowledge, but it poses daunting challenges in being unpredictable, long term, and high risk. Providing appropriate infrastructure is critical for all kinds of research (e.g., facilities, lab space, special equipment, staff support). To assure sustained access to these resources, effective planning is necessary, which poses a significant challenge given the long-term, high-risk, and unpredictable nature of transformative research. To address these planning challenges, it is necessary to explore ways of creating an environment and resources that make successful transformative research more likely to happen rather than planning for incremental research. Such strategies include supporting uniquely powerful facilities that fit with academic strengths (e.g., a strong research reactor, radio-astronomy facility). Another is to maintain a supportive environment for interdisciplinary research. Yet another strategy is to orient performance evaluation away from productivity, which is the enemy of long-term, risky, unpredictable research. And lastly, it is critical to have a positive mindset for challenges to existing knowledge.

Article

Theoretical Perspectives in Peruvian Archaeology  

Henry Tantaleán

This article explains the development of theoretical perspectives in Peruvian archaeology from the end of the 19th century to the first decades of the 21st century. These perspectives have been characterized by having been influenced, mainly from Western Europe and United States of America, in various ways due to the nature of the Peruvian archaeological remains and their sociopolitical context. Likewise, in Peru, there is an important diversity in the use of hegemonic archaeological theories and the particular use of theories by Peruvian and even foreign archaeologists. Therefore, in this entry, we will refer to the most relevant archaeological theoretical perspectives recognized in Peru and which are evolutionary, culture-historical, Marxist, processualist, and postprocessualist. However, no one archaeologist is a “pure example” of each theory. In fact, many archaeologists have used different theories in archaeological explanations. Because a significant number of archaeologists have focused on the study of the Andes, mainly from the pre-Hispanic era, in this article a series of significant periods and themes of Peruvian archeology have been selected in which a significant number of studies have been carried out. In this way, archaeological perspectives have developed in the concrete practice of such archaeologists. Thus, in this article, we will see how archaeological theoretical perspectives in Peruvian archaeology have been developed in relation to the following areas, social phenomena, and periods: the Norte Chico area and the Late Preceramic Period (3000–1800 bc), Chavín de Huántar and the Early Horizon (1000–200 bc), the North Coast and Moche Society (200–800 ad), Huari and the Andean Imperial Phenomenon (600–1000 ad), and Cusco and the Inca Empire (1300–1532 ad).

Article

The Origins of African Metallurgies  

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

The Swahili Civilization in Eastern Africa  

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

The Trade, Use, and Circulation of Elephant Ivory in Sub-Saharan Africa over the Longue Durée  

Paul J. Lane and Ashley N. Coutu

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

Tourism and Indigenous Peoples  

Michelle MacCarthy

Indigenous peoples worldwide are affected by, and engage with, tourism in a number of ways. On the one hand, tourism may be oriented to facilitate direct interactions between Indigenous peoples and foreign tourists, often referred to as cultural or even “primitivist” tourism. In such cases, Indigenous people may or may not have much agency in how that interaction transpires and how much profit they directly derive. In other cases, such as ecotourism, reserves or other protected areas may be made more or less inaccessible to Indigenous people who may have ancestral claims to it, with infrastructure built to facilitate tourists’ visits and restrict or prohibit Indigenous use. Tourism behaviors may be disrespectful, intentionally or not, of Indigenous sensibilities. Tourist visits may be embraced by Indigenous people as an opportunity for economic development and cultural expression or rejected as an invasion of privacy, denying people dignity and respect by being objects of the “tourist gaze.” Many scholars from anthropology, sociology, human geography, and other related disciplines have sought to address some of the issues and concerns regarding the relationship between tourism and Indigenous peoples, drawing on examples from around the globe in order to illustrate the multitude of ways in which this relationship operates. Ways that Indigenous peoples’ relationship to tourism may be explored include contexts such as tourism to visit ancient monuments and UNESCO-listed world heritage sites, tourism in search of cultural differences, cruise travel and luxury resorts, and ecotourism. A variety of implications and potential tensions that may arise through tourism involving Indigenous peoples are explored.

Article

Tribes  

Philip Carl Salzman

A tribe is a regional security organization. It ties together a number of local primary face-to-face groups. It is charged with control of territory, defense against outside intruders, and protection of humans, livestock, and productive resources, such as wells and cultivation. Whatever productive activity tribesmen are primarily engaged in, such as pastoralism or cultivation, each male, with the exception of holy men, serves also as a warrior. Tribes are usually defined by a symbolic idiom that asserts a primordial connection among tribesmen. Descent from a common ancestor is an idiom used to define many tribes. Tribal names are often those of the ancestor that all members share. Internal divisions may also be defined by ancestry; a descent idiom allows group divisions at every level of the genealogy. Tribal subgroups are also charged with security and are defined as having “collective responsibility”; that is, the moral norm is that each member is responsible for what other members do and, as a consequence, all members are seen by outsiders as equivalent. There is also a moral norm to aid fellow tribesmen, the obligation stronger for close kin, weaker for more distant kin. Internal tribal relations among subgroups are based on what anthropologists call “balanced opposition” or “complementary opposition.” Each tribal subgroup is “balanced” against other subgroups of the same genealogical order, which in principle, and often in practice, serves as a deterrent against hostile acts. Tribal leadership can take the form of primus inter pares. However, in tribes in contact with states, more formal leadership roles, with at least the trappings of authority and power, can develop. Whatever the role of the tribal leader, he depends upon consent of the tribesmen. In tribal subgroups, political process tends to be highly democratic, and leaders are those who can elicit agreement among the members and then carry out the will of the community. Tribes are social organizations that are not static and do not always maintain form. They respond to environmental opportunities and constraints. If a state nearby is in trouble, with failing leadership and an unruly population, a tribe may mount a campaign to invade and conquer the state, setting itself up as a ruling dynasty. In these cases, tribes lose their tribal characteristics and become a ruling elite. However, if a nearby state gains strength and expands its territorial control, it may overrun and defeat the tribe, encapsulating it, incorporating it, and even assimilating it.

Article

Unemployment and Work Subjectivities in Argentina  

Mariano D. Perelman

Whether one is employed or unemployed depends on both a series of sociopolitical processes and individual career paths. Work subjectivities—both as a way of thinking about access to resources and as the pursuit of a life with dignity—allows understanding how people give meaning to the tasks they perform in order to earn a living. In Argentina, since the 1970s, full-time employment and access to salaried work, as well as social benefits through employment, have been central components of the work subjectivities of thousands of people. Salaried work and benefits continue to be the way one accesses a dignified life, even as the labor force deteriorates. At the same time, there are thousands of people who have never earned a living through employment or a “job” and who embody different work subjectivities. The work subjectivities of people who are not “formal” employees allow us to reconstruct the lines between employment and unemployment, between work and nonwork, and between lives controlled by salaried work and those that are not.

Article

Urbanism in Mesoamerica  

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

Urbanization in the Middle Niger of Mali  

Roderick McIntosh

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

Value and Values in Global Sport  

Susan Brownell and Niko Besnier

Since Antiquity, sporting bodies and performances have been assigned an economic value, and sporting events, particularly those with large audiences, have been organized with a view to their capacity to generate wealth and reinforce social hierarchies. At the same time, athletes have long embodied moral and ethical values such as virtue, beauty, purity, and sacrifice. Sport is thus a prime context in which a society negotiates the relationship between the material, in the form of value, and the symbolic or ideational, in the form of values. Sport and the sporting body can be commodified when they are assigned a value calculated in terms of a standardized currency and traded in a market. However, even in capitalist societies, sport often retains features that are shaped not by the market economy but the gift economy—in which exchange is governed by values such as honor, trust, and prestige. Sport offers a wealth of examples in which value and values come into conflict, exposing the fact that they are not incommensurable, but rather economic value is simply one kind of culturally constructed value among many. Victors in the ancient Greek Olympic Games received only awards made from plants, including a crown of olive branches, but returned home to be bestowed with material riches. An elite Roman man produced gladiator games as a “gift” to his supporters, but in deciding whether to allow a defeated fighter to live, he had to weigh the cost of losing a gladiator (who was a valuable piece of property) against displeasing his supporters. The association that runs Japanese sumo is not a modern legal corporation; rather, its members are retired wrestlers who have bought the wrestling name of an elder that has been passed along for as long as 250 years—and the name cannot be bought with a bank loan. In the name of amateurism, 19th-century Victorians banned professionals from taking part in Olympic sports amidst the massive commodification of leisure and popular culture that accompanied the rise of the modern industrial economy. Much of the Cold War was fought using athletes as proxies for the socialist and capitalist economic systems, as socialist nations denounced the exclusive gender and class values of “bourgeois” sports and sought to create an alternative model. After the end of the Cold War, the influx of capital into sports finally led to the death of the amateur ideal, quickly followed by the emergence of the migrant professional athlete. At the start of the 21st century, the massive revenues in college sport challenged the American notion of the unpaid student-athlete, while the global trade in athletes sucked ever greater numbers of athletes from the Global South into the professional sports of the wealthy Western countries as well as, increasingly, East Asian and Middle Eastern countries. Sport is a fascinating realm for examining conflicts between value and values, and how they are shaped by the global economy in the 21st century, taking on new forms that echo the past while moving into uncharted territory.

Article

Water and Materiality  

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

Water and Religion  

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

Water Infrastructures  

E. Christian Wells, Mathews J. Wakhungu, and W. Alex Webb

Water infrastructures have been central to anthropological theory and practice for many decades. Early research tended to focus on infrastructures related to agriculture, such as irrigation systems, and often emphasized their consequences for social and political organization. While these and other studies (e.g., on hydroelectric dams) continue, work since the early 2000s considers household and community plumbing networks for both potable water and wastewater (sanitation). These studies conceive of water infrastructures broadly—as social and technical assemblages of materials and matter as well as people and their behaviors—and examine them from sociotechnical, technopolitical, and phenomenological perspectives. Sociotechnical approaches emphasize the ways in which water infrastructures mediate the relationships between people and social institutions, and between people and the biophysical environment more generally. Technopolitical perspectives often focus on the bureaucratic and governance implications of water infrastructures, especially how states strategically deploy or withhold certain infrastructures to craft citizenship, for instance. Phenomenological approaches are widely varied, but tend to give the most agency, and sometimes animacy, to water infrastructures, and to consider the sensorial and emotional implications of human-nonhuman interactions. Future research will be facilitated by decolonizing studies of water infrastructure, incorporating other disciplinary approaches and perspectives such as engineering, and better articulating the policy implications of research findings.

Article

Water Ownership and Governance  

Sally Babidge

Water governance refers to the material and regulatory control of water and waters. It involves questions such as who makes decisions about water and how; at what scale such decisions are made in relation to different waters; and who and which water or ecosystem benefits. Classical work in anthropology considered how irrigation practices may have given rise to the development of state forms, and in response to early-21st-century privatization regimes, anthropologists have considered how different groups have challenged the apparent global dominance of commodity values and water as property. Infrastructures for water distribution in urban areas (such as systems of canals, pipes, and faucets), and considerations of the sociocultural effects of hydrological unit delineation and definition (e.g., groundwater or river “basins”) have become key sites for the ethnographic investigation of water governance, emerging forms of personhood, and societal inequalities. The diversity in anthropologies of water unsettles generalized models in global regimes of water governance. The anthropology of water governance and ownership considers the context and contingencies of water and power. It reveals the global dominance of markets, rights, and technical approaches to water management, such as the case of “private water” in Chile, in which water markets have failed to provide equity and environmental health, but also how certain groups avoided complete privatization of water under this extreme example. Ethnographic studies of the cultural organization of resource scarcity over topographically complex and remote terrain, such as that of irrigators in the Andean cordillera, express the diversity of human innovation at the intersection of politics and ecology. In arid South Eastern Australia, basin plans that treat water as a unit of calculation and economic trade place social and ecological relations in peril. Infrastructures of development provide a narrative of unsettled state and development ideologies, and the problem of groundwater management reveals governance challenges in the face of unstable, unknown, and invisible material. Anthropological studies of water contribute to knowledge of earth’s diverse humanity, knowledge practices, and ecologies. Researchers propose that water governance might engage with human differences articulated at multiple scales, as well as in understanding water’s material agency and waters as dynamic, especially in an ever-changing climate.

Article

Water Security and Scarcity  

Amber Wutich, Melissa Beresford, Teresa Montoya, Lucero Radonic, and Cassandra Workman

Anthropological thinking on water security and scarcity can be traced through four scholarly approaches: political ecology of water scarcity, water insecurity, water economics, and human-water relationality. Political ecologists argue that water scarcity a sociopolitical process and not necessarily related to physical water availability. The political ecological approach is concerned with power, global-local dynamics, and how water scarcity is unevenly distributed within and across communities. Water insecurity research is concerned with how injustice and inequity shape household and individual variability in water insecurity. Inspired by biocultural research, water insecurity scholars have used systematic methods to advance theories of how water insecurity impacts mental health, food insecurity, dehydration, and other human biological outcomes. Economic anthropologists explore how economic dynamics—including formal and capitalist economies, noncapitalist and hybridized economies, reciprocity, social reproduction, and theft—shape water scarcity and insecurity. Research priorities in economic anthropology include water valuation, meanings of water, and water as an economic good. Building from Indigenous scholars’ insights, relational approaches argue that humans have reciprocal obligations to respect and care for water as a living being. Water justice, these scholars argue, requires restoring human-water relations and upholding Indigenous sovereignty and self-determination. All four of these research areas—scarcity, insecurity, economics, and relationality—are producing cutting-edge research, with significant implications for research agendas in the anthropology of water security and scarcity.

Article

West African Acheulean  

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

West African Iron Production in Its Sub-Saharan Context  

Philip L. de Barros

The study of ironworking in West Africa encompasses a fascinating set of research topics which inevitably draw upon theories, methods, and issues from the African continent as a whole. An underlying perspective is the notion that African iron production can best be understood within its various cultural contexts, rather than from strictly Western technological perspectives, theoretical models, and universalist generalizations that have often separated science from anthropology, and which often do not work well, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. Among the many topics of interest, the most intellectually useful and rewarding for their insights include those that: (a) involve debates that have been of importance in the literature on African ironworking, such as the extent to which ironworking led to serious deforestation; (b) investigate important methodological, typological, theoretical, and ontological issues, such as understanding the role of ritual and ideology within ironworking processes; (c) involve important substantive issues, such as the rise and utility of archaeometallurgy in the study of ironworking; (d) are historically important in our changing concepts of sub-Saharan Africa, African peoples, and African societies, such as African invention and innovation within ironworking technology in the historical and racial context of the African’s supposed lack of technological inventiveness; and (e) taken together, and individually, emphasize a holistic approach to the field of African ironworking, especially the interrelationships between the technical and the social, such as the development of distinct technological styles and understanding the significant variability in African furnace designs and ironworking technologies. Indeed, the rise of ironworking in Africa had major effects upon the technical, social, cultural, political, symbolic, and ideological aspects of African societies over time. This is especially true for West Africa which became the center of several major iron-producing regions.