41-60 of 262 Results

Article

The Archaeology of Food Production in the West African Forest Zone  

Emuobosa Akpo Orijemie

Food production constitutes a way of life that involves the management of plant and animal resources and related products to ensure food security for the sustenance of a society. Primary data in support of this culture was drawn primarily from archaeobotanical (micro and macro) and linguistics data from the region. Food production began with the hunting of game and the gathering and management of diverse wild fruit trees and vegetables. The strategy adopted during the early period was, or was synonymous with, garden-based agroforestry. Garden-based agroforestry, a process that involves the management of wild fruit trees and vegetables as well animals, is a deliberate and conscious anthropogenic modification of the immediate environment of a people to achieve food security. This strategy was indigenous to the region, began before the practice of a cereal-based subsistence, and did not require environmental changes or forest crises to stimulate its existence. The diversity of the archaeological data and the regularity of occurrence indicate that the peoples experienced significant levels of food security in the past.

Article

The Archaeology of Gandhāra  

Luca Maria Olivieri

The cultural context in which the term “Gandhāra” is used initially refers to Vedic geography and then to the administrative limits of the homonymous Achaemenid satrapy. The most reliable information referring to the Middle Holocene period, in which the Gandhāran region must have met a climatically optimal phase during which domesticated rice was introduced to Kashmir and Swat through the trans-Himalayan corridors (early 2nd millennium bce or earlier). Toward the end of the 2nd millennium, northern Gandhāra features a rather coherent settlement phenomenon marked by large graveyards, mainly with inhumations, which were labeled by previous scholarship as the “Gandhāra Grave Culture” (1200–900 bce). In this phase among the major cultural markers, the introduction of iron technology is noteworthy. The historic phases in Gandhāra are marked by an initial urban phase in Gandhāra (500–150 bce), sometimes referred to as a “second urbanization,” on the evidence mainly from Peshawar, Charsadda I, Barikot, and Bhir Mound (Taxila I). Mature urban phases (150 bce–350 ce) are defined based on the restructuring of old cities, and new urban foundations during the phases of contact historically defined by the Indo-Greek and Śaka dynasties, followed by the Kushans (Peshawar, Charsadda II, Barikot, Sirkap, or Taxila III). The artistic phenomenon known as the Buddhist “art of Gandhāra” started toward the end of the 1st century bce and lasted until the 4th century ce. The beginning of this art is best attested in that period in Swat, where schist of exceptional quality is largely available. At the beginning of the 1st century ce, the iconic and figurative symbols of Indian Buddhism acquire a narrative form, which is the major feature of the Buddhist art of Gandhāra. The subsequent art and architecture of Buddhist Gandhāra feature large sanctuaries richly decorated, and monasteries, documented in several “provinces” of Gandhāra throughout the Kushan period, from the late 1st century ce to mid/end-3rd century ce. In this period Buddhist sanctuaries and urban centers developed together, as proved both in Peshawar valley, in Swat, and at Taxila. After the urban crisis (post-300 ce)—which went hand in hand with the crisis of the centralized Kushan rule—stratigraphic excavations have so far registered a significant thinning of the archaeological deposits, with a few exceptions. Besides coins deposited in coeval phases of Buddhist sanctuaries and literary and epigraphic sources, archaeological evidence for the so-called Hunnic or “Huna” phases (c. 5th–7th century ce) are very scarce. Around the mid-6th century, Buddhist monasteries entered a period of crisis, the effects of which were dramatically visible in the first half of the 7th century, especially in the northern regions of Gandhāra. It is after this phase (early 7th century) that literary sources and archaeology report the existence of several Brahmanical temples in and around Gandhāra. These temples were first supported by the Turki-Śāhi (whose capital was in Kabulistan; end-7th/early 8th century) and then by the Hindu-Śāhi (9th–10th century).

Article

The Archaeology of Hinduism  

Namita Sanjay Sugandhi

The term “Hindu” derives from Persian expressions coined in the 4th century bce to define the traditions found east of the Indus River. Thus, a common start to the archaeological examination of Hinduism are the prehistoric cults found in various regions of the Indian subcontinent. Some elements associated with traditions from the urban Indus civilization of the 3rd millennium bce have been connected to later Hindu iconography and ideals, but these links remain tenuous. By the mid-2nd millennium bce, the introduction of new Vedic ideologies, so called because the earliest references are found in the texts of the Vedas, ushered in significant transformations in ritual and spiritual life, but left little material trace. However, migrating groups associated with these traditions have been traced genetically and linguistically to the Western Steppes of Central Asia. Over the next two thousand years, Vedic traditions became more elaborate and heterogeneous, merging with popular customs, and generating heterodox schools of thought that challenged both the spiritual and social order of Brahmanical Hinduism, which also took form during this time. The early centuries of the Common Era were witness to additional transformations and adaptations, and it is after this period that various forms of temple architecture, sculpture, and the epigraphic record become a wider body of evidence for study in both South and Southeast Asia. During the 1st millennium ce, Hinduism took on more familiar contours, partly driven by the rise in extant religious, philosophical, and secular literature. Alongside this textual record, a wealth of architectural and art historical sources became available; studies of these sources increasingly look to continuities from earlier eras that are documented archaeologically. Nevertheless, much of this body of knowledge derives from institutional and elite contexts; household-level details remain slim and much contemporary interpretation of past daily worship continues to be inferred from the ethnographic record. During the modern period, Hinduism came to acquire its formal definition as a world religion, and with this came the attempt to delineate Hindu identity for first colonial, and then national ends, often in tandem with the Orientalist archaeologies of the early and mid-20th century. Though the definition of modern Hinduism may be more clearly circumscribed, it is certainly no less varied. Modernity continues to impact the understanding of Hinduism in many ways. Technologies such as DNA analysis have been applied to the study of early societies, with the goal of understanding ancient migrations and the composition of different regional populations. While our understanding of past human movement has increased considerably because of these studies, genetics do not serve as a proxy of culture. DNA evidence can provide some details about the movement and interaction of different populations in the past, but categories like race, language, and culture are as incommensurable as they are artificial, and they should be understood as such. Instead of a match for the textual or genetic record, the archaeology of Hinduism should be considered the material study of a broad amalgam of dynamic beliefs and practices that date back into the eras of earliest prehistory and continue to transform and evolve around the world.

Article

The Archaeology of Igboland, Southeastern Nigeria  

Chioma Vivian Ngonadi

The archaeological investigations in Igboland have been divided into two periods: the early and later scholarship period. In the early period of scholarship, archaeological investigation was focused on describing the early cultural history of the Igbo’s of southeastern Nigeria. Being very much influenced by the earlier reports, these investigations focused on the excavations of the earliest known sites in southeastern Nigeria. The main interest during this phase was to show a typological change of archaeological materials through time and to establish its chronology. The later scholarship period brought about systematic surveys and excavations and documented the existence of many sites, especially iron-smelting sites, and domestic/habitation and ancestral sites. Pottery typology, stratigraphy, and chronology were also the focus of the later scholarship phase. The archaeological investigations in the early and later period have provided tangible data that have helped in the reconstruction of the way of life of the Igbo of southeastern Nigeria from 2500 bp/500 bce–1500 bp/500 ce, a period characterized by hunting/gathering way of life, pottery making, early farming communities, iron smelting and smithing, bronze working, and trade. It is important to note that this article is not a comprehensive overview of the archaeology of Igboland, southeastern Nigeria. Some sites were not included because of insufficient data and the unavailability of published articles. Nevertheless, a concerted drive toward further archaeological research in southeastern Nigeria could provide a significant opportunity to explore a set of broader themes in the archaeology of Igboland, especially with the Middle Stone Age culture where neither research nor sites have been recorded. This is thus the first step in attempting to understand the wider economy of the region, which to date has produced enigmatic and divergent archaeological data.

Article

The Archaeology of Missionization in Colonial Senegambia  

Johanna A. Pacyga

The archaeology of missionization in colonial Senegambia is a nascent area of study within the broader historical archaeology of colonialism that explores the historical processes of evangelization and conversion as they were experienced by Senegambian converts. Senegambia was a prominent target of Catholic and Protestant missionaries throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. Archaeology is a uniquely situated discipline for expanding our understanding of missionization beyond the historical and anthropological perspectives because—through its focus on material remains—it uncovers the experience of proselytization and conversion from the ground up by illuminating the daily lives of mission residents who are often underrepresented in archival sources: African converts themselves, including women and children. The archaeology of missionization exposes lines of evidence that have left behind a robust footprint of religious and institutional architecture, landscape elements, and material culture accessible through archaeological survey and excavation. Furthermore, missionization was deeply rooted in the materiality of everyday life, so it is not simply because mission sites exist that they should be excavated, but because missionaries widely considered material practices to be integral to the broader conversion process. The archaeology of missionization interrogates the relationship between the theory and practice of evangelization during the period of colonization, and reveals the lived experience of religious conversion among Senegambian mission residents, both neophytes and those who did not embrace Christianity.

Article

The Archaeology of Missions in Southern Africa  

Natalie Swanepoel

The late 18th and early 19th centuries in Europe and the United States saw a wave of evangelical revivalism and hence the establishment of a large number of missionary societies who dispersed missionaries throughout the globe. Southern Africa was viewed as a potentially fruitful mission field and, as a result, a large number of mission stations were established in the region during the 19th century under the auspices of a wide array of missionary societies, although there are some examples of missionization prior to this. Missionary activity in southern Africa has long been the topic of academic investigation by historians and others but was only sporadically so by archaeologists until the second decade of the 21st century, when a critical mass of mission archaeology projects was ongoing to the extent that there was collaboration and discussion among the scholars concerned. As a result, in the early 21st century, it became an acknowledged focus of southern African historical archaeology. In their study of missions, missionaries, and missionization, archaeologists draw on a diverse toolkit of methodologies, including mapping, landscape survey, geophysical survey, excavation, artifact analysis, rock art analysis, museum collections analysis, and the comparative study of documents, pictorial records, and the archaeological record. Archaeologists have contributed by placing mission sites into their wider landscapes; exploring changing material practices in architecture, clothing, household goods, and burial practices; and studying missionary activity and mission sites in diachronic perspective.

Article

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

Elinaza Mjema

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

Article

The Archaeology of Northern Slavery and Freedom  

James Delle

The archaeology of northern slavery and freedom began with the excavations of Lucy Foster’s Garden in the 1940s. Following trends then current, in the 1970s, researchers began to consider evidence for the retention of African cultural traits in the archaeological record. Attention to the dynamics of northern slavery exploded following the excavation of the African Burial Ground site in New York during the early 1990s. As the paradigm on African American sites shifted following this project, archaeologists began to consider unsubstantiated assumptions on the nature and scope of slavery in the northern states. Multiple projects were conducted on sites best considered to be northern plantations, and although archaeological evidence for the condition of slavery is sometimes elusive, archaeologists have been able to locate and document northern plantations throughout the greater Northeast. Projects exploring the archaeology of freedom have considered sites associated with veterans of the American Revolution, who were emancipated following their service, as well as sites related to the clandestine and sometimes violent struggle against enslavement. Conditions for freed populations, both before and after the legal abolition of slavery, have also been explored archaeologically, from the gravesites of free communities to the archaeological signature of sanctuary settlements where people fleeing enslavement in the South were able to establish meaningful and free lives in both urban and rural contexts.

Article

Aterian  

Elena A.A. Garcea

The Aterian is a North African late Middle Stone Age techno-complex. It is spread from the Atlantic coast in Morocco to the Middle Nile Valley in Sudan and from the Mediterranean hinterland to the Southern Sahara. Chronologically, it covers the period between c. 145,000 years bp and 29,000 bp, spanning across discontinuous, alternating dry (end of MIS 6 and MIS 4) and humid (MIS 5 and MIS 3) climatic phases. Few, but significant human remains indicate that the makers of the Aterian complex belong to early Homo sapiens. Their osteological features show affinities with the early anatomically modern human record in the Levant (Skhul and Qafzeh), suggesting that Aterian groups may have taken part in the initial dispersals out of Africa by Homo sapiens. Toolkits consist of a variety of implements not only made of stone but also of bone (points, spatulas, knives, and retouchers). They include tools that were lacking in earlier or other North African contemporary contexts, namely bifacial foliates, blades, perforators, burins, endscrapers, and particularly tanged pieces. Overemphasis on tanged tools often obscured the complexity of the Aterian, which instead displays a wide range of cultural and behavioral innovations. New mobility patterns and intra-site organization, as well as early symbolism with the use of Nassariidae shells and ochre, corroborate early fully complex behavior by these populations. Given the broad geographic and chronological extension of the Aterian, differences are evident at both local and regional scales. They suggest the development of a flexible and variable techno-complex mirroring considerable adaptive cognitive and behavioral plasticity derived from nonlinear processes. Such diversified behavioral experiments result from multiple and noncumulative trajectories due to different internal and external stimuli but are still part of a single cultural entity.

Article

Battlefield and Conflict Archaeology  

Douglas D. Scott

Battlefield or conflict archaeology is a specialized field within archaeology that focuses on the study and archaeological investigation of conflict and conflict-related sites. It combines archaeological techniques with historical research to investigate and interpret the material remains of past conflicts. The aim is to gain a deeper understanding of the events, tactics, and human experiences associated with warfare and conflict throughout history. By studying conflict sites, archaeologists aim to gain a comprehensive understanding of the anthropology of warfare, including the social, cultural, and technological aspects of conflict. Their work contributes to our knowledge of military history, human experiences in times of conflict, and the preservation of related heritage sites.

Article

Beyond Formal-Informal Dichotomies  

Alan Smart and Martijn Koster

Debates on informality have been mainly structured along dichotomous formal-informal, regular-irregular, or legal-illegal lines, where government and the law equate to formality. Ethnographic studies, however, have often demonstrated that formality and informality coexist. An increasing number of scholars have emphasized that the formal and the informal are always and everywhere intertwined. Domains that seem very formal contain informal practices and vice versa. We critically discuss five prevalent binary approaches to formality-informality: economic-non-economic, legal-illegal, institutionalized-informal politics, temporal dichotomies, and the division between form and “formlessness.” Countering these approaches, we outline anthropological insights on how formal and informal are better seen not as a dualism (binaries) but as a duality (a spectrum) of modes of interaction and performance, where each is entangled with, and inseparable from, the other and invariably invokes the other mode when one is performed.

Article

Bioarchaeology in the Nile Valley  

Jenail H. Marshall and Michele Buzon

Bioarchaeology is the study of human remains within their archaeological and mortuary contexts. Bioarchaeologists use skeletal biology, mortuary practices, and the archaeological record to answer questions about past populations’ lives and lifestyles. The term Nile Valley defines a geographic region of Egypt and Nubia, the latter encompassing the region between the First Cataract at Aswan, Egypt, and the Sixth Cataract just north of Khartoum, Sudan. Spanning the Nile River area, it is sometimes referred to in its two parts, according to the river’s flow, from south to north, Lower Nubia in the north and Upper Nubia in the south. In Egypt, that is Upper Egypt in the south and Lower Egypt in the north. For over a century, the region has had many campaigns and salvage projects that have led to the excavation of thousands of skeletal remains from ancient Nile Valley sites. Analyses of these collections have provided important information about the people and their health, patterning disease and trauma, diet, and biological relationships. Early morphological research on the skeletal remains of the people who once lived in ancient Nubia was dominated by biased interpretations stemming from racist paradigms in the early 19th century that included racial typologies. Moving beyond these perspectives, contemporary research on the ancient Nile Valley has expanded methodological and theoretical advancements in bioarchaeology more broadly. The integration of bioarchaeology in the larger context of archaeological projects provides a wealth of information that includes but is not limited to health, disease, identity, nutrition, life experiences, and demographic patterns. Likewise, how archaeology is conducted in the region is shifting and highlights a move toward decolonial and ethical practices within the discipline, including involvement with the local communities.

Article

Bone Tool Technology in the Stone Age of Africa  

Justin Bradfield

Bone, like other organic materials, featured prominently in the technological repertoires of most historically documented hunter-gatherer communities practising a Stone Age economy. Unlike stone, however, bone does not survive as well archaeologically, resulting in less attention generally being paid to this aspect of material culture. Yet, despite their poorer preservation, bone tools are found in several hominin sites dating to the last two million years in South and East Africa, where two regionally distinct varieties of bone tool occur. Traceological analyses (which comprise use-wear, fracture, and residue analyses) have gone a long way in elucidating the functions of these tools and those from younger periods. Deliberately modified bone tools are found sporadically at archaeological sites dating throughout the last two million years, but never in large numbers. Bone tools offer us many insights into past cultures and now-vanished technologies. For example, insect extraction, musicality, basket weaving, and garden agriculture were all expressed through the medium of bone. These bone artefacts often constitute the sole evidence for such technologies and their associated behaviors. To this list might be added bow-and-arrow technology, although here there is plenty of confirmatory evidence from lithic and residue studies. Despite their ubiquitously fewer numbers, bone tools are no less important for understanding aspects of the past than their lithic counterparts and have been the focus of several anthropological debates. The degree of similarity in manufacturing techniques, finished product morphology, and decorative motifs have led some researchers to extrapolate similarities in overarching cultural traditions. But the same similarities are seen in other parts of the world. Even a recurrence of decorative motifs may mean different things to different people at different times. The presence of well-made bone tools in Iron Age sites continues to be seen as evidence for trade between hunter-gatherers and farmers. But without concrete evidence that the bone tools moved from one place to another, such facile interpretations only serve to underplay farmer agency. Apart from trying to work out function, bone tool studies globally are focused on identifying the specific animal species selected to make tools and what such selection strategies might reveal about the symbolic importance of animals in human societies.

Article

Business Anthropology  

Ann T. Jordan

Business anthropology is a fast-evolving field. Social sciences such as sociology, psychology, and anthropology each have a unique set of constructs and theories for studying human behavior and each brings special insights to understanding business. Anthropologists are skilled in observing and learning from the rich interaction of social beings in their environment. With methods based in techniques for first-hand observation and interviewing of participants, and with theoretical knowledge gleaned from studying human societies across the world, anthropologists are the social scientists uniquely situated by training to analyze the social milieu and group-patterned interaction in any human setting. Simply, business anthropology is the use of anthropological constructs, theory, and methods to study its three subfields: organizations, marketing and consumer behavior, and design. Organizational anthropology is the study of complex organizations from an anthropological perspective to solve organizational problems or better understand the nature and functioning of the organizational form within and across organizations. In marketing and consumer behavior anthropology’s methods allow one to get close to consumers and understand their needs, while anthropology’s theoretical perspectives allow one to understand how human consumption plays out on the world stage. In the design field anthropologists use their methods to observe and learn from the detailed interaction of social beings in the designed environments in which we all live. They use their theoretical perspectives to develop a holistic analysis of the rich data to develop new products and evaluate and improve existing ones whether they be refrigerators or office buildings. The field of business anthropology is difficult to define because the moniker “business anthropology” is a misnomer. This field, as most anthropologists practice it, is not limited to work in for-profit businesses. Business anthropologists work with for-profit organizations, but also non-profit ones, government organizations and with supranational regulatory bodies. In addition to working for a business, an organizational anthropologist might be working in a non-profit hospital to improve patient safety, a design anthropologist might be working for an NGO to develop a less fuel-intensive cooking system for refugee camps and an anthropologist in marketing might be working in a government agency to develop ways to advertise new vaccines.

Article

Care As Belonging, Difference, and Inequality  

Tatjana Thelen

The topic of care has inspired a vast and complex body of research covering a wide range of practices. As an open-ended process, it is generally directed at fulfilling recognized needs and involves at least one giving and one receiving side. Although care has mostly positive connotations in everyday usage, giving or receiving it can also be a negative experience or express domination. Care evolves through complex arrangements of different actors, institutions, and technical devices and at the same time transforms them. As human needs are not a given, the process of care involves negotiations about who deserves to receive it and on what grounds, as well as who should provide it. Because care is so deeply implicated in articulating and mediating different moralities, it becomes central to constructions and classifications of difference. In this way, care extends far beyond intimate relations and is engrained in processes that establish belonging as well as various forms of inequality. Researching care in intimate settings as well as in public sectors enables bridging various communities of care and grasping how the distribution of care not only mirrors inequalities but contributes to their (re)production or even intensification.

Article

Care Beyond Repair  

Heike Drotbohm

To care about and for others—that is other people, collectivities, plants, animals, or the climate—is a mundane and ubiquitous act. At some point in life, almost every human being needs to be cared for, encounters care, and eventually provides care. In anthropology, the critical notion of care provides an analytic tool for seriously considering life’s contingencies and for understanding the ways that people ascribe meaning to different kind of acts, attitudes, and values. This chapter argues that the concept’s normative dimension forms part of a cultural binarism that hierarchizes the world according to differently valued spheres of existence. Concentrating on this normativity as inherent to the notion, the chapter distinguishes three complementary empirical fields: care as (globalized) social reproduction, care as institutionalized asymmetry, and care beyond human exceptionalism. It becomes clear that care oscillates between two different perspectives, producing a particular tension. On the one hand, the care concept features a protective and conservative dimension that is congruent with the past. On the other hand, the concept incorporates a transformational dimension through its notions of development, progress, and improvement. To move beyond our own (potentially or inevitably) academic, Eurocentric, or human-centric understanding of the notion, this essay suggests moving “care beyond repair.” We can do so, first, by asking what role research plays in this differentiating ethics and, second, by identifying perspectives and positionalities that, at first glance, appear indistinct or inarticulate and hence do not confirm already-familiar categories of evaluation and distinction. Seen this way, care beyond repair draws attention to the making and unmaking of human existence.

Article

Central African Copper  

Nicolas Nikis

Copper, considered a “red gold,” had a major place in the political economy of Central Africa over the past two millennia. Copper was a rare resource. Its ore was only accessible in a few scattered locations in Central Africa, especially the Copperbelt in southeast Central Africa and the Niari basin in the south of Republic of Congo. Until the massive imports of European alloys beginning in the 16th century, only unalloyed and leaded copper objects were produced and used in Central Africa. The first instance of copper smelting in the region is dated around the 5th century ad, much later than for iron, and it has been mainly used over time as a means of exchange, for jewelry, and as material for artworks and decoration of objects. Different techniques have been used over time and space to produce the metal and manufacture the objects, some of them closely related to iron metallurgy. Smelting took place close to the deposits, and diverse processes relating to sociohistorical factors have been identified. Ingots, produced on the smelting sites, were one of the preferred forms for exchange, acquiring in some cases symbolic and/or monetary value. Manufacturing objects could take place far from the smelting place. Because copper and brass can easily be recycled, metal regularly changed shape to fit local needs and tastes. From the late 1st millennium ad, copper has been exchanged over increasingly long distances in regional networks and, eventually, traded to the Indian and Atlantic Ocean coasts. Rising polities, such as the Kongo Kingdom in the 15th century, would have benefited from access to this resource. More broadly, copper was regularly associated with the expression of power and wealth but was also accessible to a large number of people. In addition to the economic value of copper, metalworking and the figure of the smith were closely associated with power. Copper’s physical properties such as color and brightness were also important in its choice as a material for artworks as a way to support and enhance the role of the object.

Article

Ceramic Ethnoarchaeology in Africa: Status and Scope  

Per Ditlef Fredriksen

Studies of social practices that include the making and use of ceramics constitute a significant part of the subfield of ethnoarchaeology. Pottery is still the archaeological artifact par excellence in many parts of the world, not least in Africa. Because of its omnipresence, pottery not only persists as a convenient way of dating but is also a frequently used point of entry to meaning in the archaeological record. Ethnoarchaeology gained momentum in the 1960s to improve reasoning and inference, by conducting studies of 21st-century practices viewed as providing analogical insights of value for archaeology. Needless to say, this studying of Others in the 21st century to understand Others in the past is a source of severe critique. However, since the late 1990s ethnoarchaeology has transcended the handmaiden role. The debates are not only critical but also vibrant and forward-looking. Key issues relate to ethics, the use and continued development of postcolonial critique, the archaeology of technology, and new forms of interdisciplinarity in the wake of increasing amounts of data coming from laboratory disciplines. The latter issue compels the question what a “slow” science field like ethnoarchaeology can and should offer, not least since there is a clear tendency for modeling and syntheses of past societal change to be constantly “lagging behind.” Viewing research within the field in Africa so far in the early 21st century against a geographically wider and temporally deeper backdrop, comprising key developments in the research field globally since the 1960s: what are its main contributions and challenges? What is the status in the early 21st century, and what can and should the near future hold?

Article

Cereals, Rituals, and Social Structure  

Benoît Vermander

From the end of the Paleolithic Period onwards, cultivated cereals have interacted with ritual practices and social patterning through a variety of channels: the agrarian cycle provides a society with an array of stories and practices that are enshrined into its system of local knowledge; representations associated with grains develop into everyday practices; and cereal cultivation favorizes (or is triggered by) specific political forms, thus becoming embedded into the rituals through which political entities assert their legitimacy. Interactions between cereals, rituals, and social forms are informed by the characteristics proper to each staple cereal (maize, wheat, rice, sorghum, and millet, among others): the length of the maturation cycle, the degree of solidarity required from the rural community, the environmental requirements linked to its cultivation, its process of transformation into alcohol—all these factors inform the way a cereal inserts itself into a ritual and social complex. Starting with the changes in farming methods that coincided with the First Industrial Revolution, technological, social, and cultural transformations have been seemingly working toward the elimination or transmutation of cereal-based rituals. However, the timing, intensity, and effects of such transformations have differed widely from region to region. Besides, critical observation highlights the fact that these rituals are often hybridized, a phenomenon that repeatedly happened in history. Furthermore, current social processes affecting both producers and consumers may lead to a progressive ritualization of new beliefs and ways of proceeding.

Article

Chronology of the Hominin Sites of Southern Africa  

Andy I.R. Herries

The identification of the Taung Child Australopithecus africanus type specimen as an early human fossil (hominin) by Raymond Dart in 1924, followed by key discoveries at sites like Sterkfontein, Swartkrans, and Makapansgat in the 1930s and ’40s, was key to understanding that humans first arose in Africa, not Europe or Asia. Later discoveries in eastern Africa have shown that the earliest potential hominins (e.g., Orrorin tugenensis) date back to at least 6 million years ago. In contrast, the oldest fossils hominins in South Africa are those of Australopithecus from the sites of Taung and Makapansgat and are dated to between about 3.0 and about 2.6 million years ago (Ma); only one specimen, from Sterkfontein, potentially dates to earlier than this sometime between 3.7 and 2.2 Ma. However, the majority of early hominin fossils in southern Africa come from 2.8- to 1.8-million-year-old palaeocave remnants in the Malmani dolomite of the Gauteng province. These sites have a rich record of hominin species, including Australopithecus africanus, Australopithecus sediba, Paranthropus robustus, and Homo erectus. Most of these species, except for Homo erectus, are endemic to South Africa. However, the DNH 134 specimen from Drimolen Main Quarry does represents the oldest fossil of Homo erectus anywhere in the world. This specimen occurs at a time around 2 Ma when there is a turnover in hominin species with the extinction of Australopithecus and the first occurrence of Homo, Paranthropus, and an archaeological record of Oldowan and bone tools. Acheulian technology occurs from at least 1.4 Ma and is associated with specimens simply attributed to early Homo. The oldest hominin fossil outside the northern Malmani dolomite karst is dated to between 1.1 and 1.0 Ma, at Cornelia-Uitzoek in the Free State, and also represents the last specimen defined as early Homo. Paranthropus is also last seen around 1 million years ago, when the first specimen attributed to Homo rhodesiensis may also have occurred at Elandsfontein in the Western Cape. There is a dearth of hominin fossils from the terminal Early Pleistocene until the late Middle Pleistocene when a high diversity of hominin species occurs between about 340,000 and about 240,000 years ago (c. 340 and c. 240 ka). This includes a late occurring specimen of Homo rhodesiensis from Broken Hill in Zambia, Homo helmei or early modern humans from Florisbad, and Homo naledi from Rising Star. This is also a period (post 435 ka) containing both late occurring Acheulian and early Middle Stone Age (MSA) technology, but none of these fossils is directly associated with archaeology. Definitively early modern human fossils are not found until after 180 ka in direct association with MSA technology, and the majority, if not all, of the record occurs during the last 120 ka.