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Article

The African Middle Stone Age  

Alexander F. Blackwood and Jayne Wilkins

The Middle Stone Age (MSA) is a period of African prehistory characterized by the production of flake-based assemblages, often with a focus on stone points and blades using prepared core reduction techniques. The MSA follows the Earlier Stone Age and precedes the Later Stone Age, although the boundaries between these periods are not as sharp as originally defined. The MSA is generally regarded as having started by at least three hundred thousand years ago (ka) and lasted until roughly forty to twenty thousand years ago. Identifying the chronological limits for the MSA is challenging because some aspects of MSA technology are found in assemblages outside this time range that also have Earlier or Later Stone Age-type tools. The earlier part of the MSA is associated with fossils belonging to the Homo sapiens clade (alternatively referred to as Homo heidelbergensis, Homo rhodesiensis, or archaic Homo sapiens). The later part of the MSA post 200 ka is associated with Homo sapiens. Determining the processes underlying the anatomical evolution of Homo sapiens during the MSA is a major aim of ongoing research, however fossil remains are rare. Across the African continent and through time, the MSA exhibits a high degree of variability in the types of stone tools that were manufactured and used. Archaeologists have used this variability to define several technocomplexes and industries within the MSA that include, but are not limited to, the “Aterian,” “Howiesons Poort,” “Still Bay,” and “Lupemban.” Variation in point styles, presumably hafted to wooden handles or in some cases projectiles, is considered a hallmark of the regional diversification that originates in the MSA. This variability, which is temporally and spatially restricted, differs in both degree and kind from the preceding Earlier Stone Age. The MSA is significant from an evolutionary perspective because, in addition to being associated with the anatomical origins of Homo sapiens, this period in time documents several significant changes in human behavior. Populations in the MSA practiced a foraging economy, were proficient hunters, and began efficiently and systematically utilizing aquatic resources such as shellfish and freshwater fish for the first time. Other significant changes include the elaboration of and increased reliance on symbolic resources and complex technologies. For example, the first known externally stored symbols in the form of crosshatched incised pigments date to ~100 ka. In contexts of similar age, shell beads for making jewelry have been recovered from Morocco and South Africa. The earliest evidence for complex projectiles dates to at least 74 ka. The meaning, utility, and persistence of symbols and complex technologies depend on social conventions and confer advantages in contexts that involve long-distance, complex social networks. While many of these earliest finds linked to behavioral modernity have so far been geographically restricted, the combined suite of genetic, fossil, and archaeological evidence may better support a polycentric African origin for Homo sapiens over the course of the MSA.

Article

Ancient Human DNA and African Population History  

Kendra A. Sirak, Elizabeth A. Sawchuk, and Mary E. Prendergast

Ancient DNA has emerged as a powerful tool for investigating the human past and reconstructing the movements, mixtures, and adaptations that have structured genetic variation throughout human history. While the study of genome-wide ancient human DNA was initially restricted to regions with temperate climates, methodological breakthroughs have now extended the reach of ancient DNA analysis to parts of the world with hot and humid climates that are less conducive to biomolecular preservation. This includes Africa, where people harbor more genetic diversity than can be found anywhere else on the planet, reflecting deep and complex population histories. Since the first ancient African genome was published in 2015, the number of individuals with genome-wide data has increased to nearly 200, with greater coverage of diverse geographical, temporal, and cultural contexts. Ancient DNA sequences have revealed genetic variation in ancient African foragers that no longer exists in unadmixed form; illuminated how local-, regional-, and continental-scale demographic processes associated with the spread of food production and new technologies changed genetic landscapes; and discerned notable variation in interactions among people with distinct genetic ancestries, cultural practices, and, likely, languages. Despite an increasing number of studies focused on African ancient DNA, multiple regions and time periods have yet to be explored. Research to date has primarily focused on the past several thousand years in eastern and southern Africa, setting up northern, western, and central Africa, as well as deeper time periods, as key areas for future investigation. As ancient DNA research becomes increasingly integrated with anthropology and archaeology, it is advantageous to understand the basic methodological and analytical techniques, the types of questions that can be investigated, and the ways in which the discipline may continue to grow and evolve. Critically, the growth and evolution of ancient DNA research must include attention to the ethics of this work, both in African contexts and globally. In particular, it is essential that research is conducted in a way that minimizes the potential of harm to both the living and the dead. Scientists conducting ancient DNA research in Africa especially must also contend with structural challenges, including a lack of ancient DNA facilities on the continent, the extensive fragmentation of African heritage (including ancient human remains) among curating institutions worldwide, and the complexities of identifying descendant groups and other stakeholders in the wake of colonial and postcolonial disruptions and displacements. Ancient DNA research projects should be designed in a way that contributes to capacity building and the reduction of inequities between the Global North and South to ensure that the research benefits the people and communities with connections to the ancient individuals studied. While ensuring that future studies are rooted in ethical and equitable practices will require considerable collective action, ancient DNA research has already become an integral part of our understanding of African population history and will continue to shape our understanding of the African past.

Article

Anthropological Approaches to South American Rock Art  

Marcela Sepúlveda, Leonardo Páez, María Pía Falchi, and Liz Gonzales

The study of rock art in South America has become a particularly relevant topic in the archaeology developed throughout the different countries within the continent. In this context, anthropology’s methodological and theoretical contribution has become particularly fruitful in specifying the meaning of rock art and involving the communities around the different sites for their interpretation and preservation. Thus, ethnography has become essential in various regions for this type of work, and even more so in territories harmed by the actions of major extractive companies, such as mining and oil drilling. Tourism also exerts growing pressure on the communities to manage rock art sites better. Finally, the theoretical contribution has become significant for the interactions between humans, human–environment, agency, embodiment, or ontological practices to broaden the spectrum of meaning, value, and the role of rock art in our continent.

Article

Approaching Identity in Southern Africa over the Last 5000 Years  

Tim Forssman

Southern Africa’s past five thousand years include significant shifts in the peopling of the subcontinent. Archaeological approaches tend to characterize this period following these changes. This includes the appearance of herding and food production on a landscape that only hosted hunting and gathering, the arrival of new and competing worldviews and settlements systems, the local development of complex and state-level society that involved multiple groups, the arrival and eventual colonization of the region by European settlers, and the segregation, imbrication, articulation, and creolization of various identities. As part of studying this phase, quite often it is viewed as a series of “wholes” that share space and time. These “wholes” are usually identity groups: foragers, herders, farmers, or colonists. While regularly kept separate, archaeological remains and historic records more often indicate inter-digiting and fluid social entities that interacted in complex ways. However, the past is frequently constructed around rigid concepts of people that usually reflect contemporary groups to some extent. Understanding past identities is historically contingent and rooted in contemporary approaches, methods, and frameworks. This is no different in the mid- to late Holocene in southern Africa, which also involves the construction of pasts and people associated with non-colonial communities. The role of identity in how the past is formed has played a significant role in building sequences, interpreting material culture, and assigning change to migrations and movements within the subcontinent. Archaeologists regularly grapple with issues involving identity that include the influence of colonial writings, the impact of social contacts, and the relationship between past and present people. Taxonomizing the archaeological past by following ethnic groups and subsistence practices has led to intense and frequent discussion and debate. The nature of identity, however, is hard to define and relinquish from the influence of Western ontologies of being and community. Archaeologists are therefore forced to orientate themselves betwixt and between the past and the present to more accurately reflect people.

Article

Archaeoinformatics  

Erich Fisher

Computational and digital technologies have fundamentally transformed archaeological practice. Archaeologists routinely use computers and the internet for digitally recording, archiving, displaying, and communicating archaeological knowledge and ideas. Many governmental and funding agencies even stipulate that primary data acquired through grant funding now must be made publicly accessible through digital data archives. Archaeoinformatics is the study of computational and digital technologies to analyze, archive, and disseminate archaeological records and the locations, contexts, and characteristics of the materials that embody those records. The strength of archaeoinformatics, though, is not in the ubiquitous use of computers or other digital technologies; it is the integrative framework that these technologies provide to create intrinsically interdisciplinary studies of complex archaeological problems. This integrative framework is sustained by adapting knowledge and methods from other disciplines. As a result, archaeoinformatics specialists are often skilled at traversing disciplinary boundaries, and archaeoinformatics, therefore, can be considered a unifying science that bridges disciplines via a digital platform allowing researchers to tackle complex research questions using multipronged research strategies.

Article

Archaeological Adhesives  

Geeske Langejans, Alessandro Aleo, Sebastian Fajardo, and Paul Kozowyk

An adhesive is any substance that bonds different materials together. This broad definition includes materials used in everything from hafted stone tools to monumental architecture. In addition, the combination of bonding, plasticity, and insolubility meant that some adhesives were exploited for waterproofing and sealing of materials, as self-adhering inlays and putties, and as paints, varnishes, and inks. Adhesives have a history of at least 200,000 years. Throughout (pre)history and around the world, people used materials, including bitumen/asphalt, carbohydrate polymers such as starches and gums, natural rubbers, mortars, proteins (from casein, soy, blood, and animal connective tissue), insect and plant resins, and tars made from various barks and woods. Adhesives thus are very diverse and have widely varying properties: they can be tacky, pliable, elastic, brittle, water-resistant, fluid, viscous, clear, dark, and much more. They are a plastic avant la lettre. These properties can and were tweaked by mixing ingredients or by further processing. In the study of archaeological adhesives, their characterization is essential and this is best done with chemical and spectroscopic methods. When larger coherent samples as opposed to single finds are analyzed, adhesive studies can provide data on past technologies, socioeconomic organizations, and environments and raw material availability. Through sourcing and mapping of ingredients and adhesive end products, travel and transfer of materials and knowledge can be illuminated. Additionally, experimental reproductions provide data on technological aspects that otherwise are lost in the archaeological record. An archaeology of adhesives can reveal the transport networks, subsistence, mobility strategies, division of labor, and technological know-how that held societies together.

Article

Archaeological Heritage Management in Tanzania  

Richard Bigambo

The idea that various forms of archaeological heritage are important is common among communities in different parts of the world. Similarly, the practices of looking after and ensuring the continued existence of such forms have a long history as well. This is evidenced by the fact that almost every community in the world has their own ways of looking after different aspects that are valued and recognized as archaeological heritage. Such ways usually involve administrative systems and regulations that control the process and guide practitioners that implement different activities related to the management process. Nonetheless, the early 19th century saw the beginning of efforts to standardize the Archaeological Heritage Management (AHM) practices in different parts of the world. This was done through the introduction of the management systems that formerly existed in Western countries to other parts of the world as an integral part of the colonial infrastructures. The result of this was the exportation of various management values and standards from Western countries to other parts. These newly introduced management systems have always been a source of conflict between the responsible authorities and the local community. Tanzania is among the countries of the world that are endowed with diverse forms of archaeological heritage. As in other former colonies, the current practices of AHM owe their origin to the colonial period and the succession of German and British imperial administrations. The extant system was introduced during the colonial period and has continued to operate, with some modifications introduced during the postcolonial period.

Article

Archaeologies of Gender and Childhood in South Asia  

Supriya Varma and Jaya Menon

While some studies have been undertaken on childhood in South Asia, there is no focused archaeological study on any aspect of gender in this region. Hence, information has been culled from work that only tangentially refers to aspects of gender. Within the constraints at hand, themes of gender and childhood in South Asia can be explored from studies on representation, production, toys, and skeletal remains. For instance, age, gender, masculinity, identity, and status have been deciphered through anthropomorphic representations. Similarly, can women’s work be discerned by looking at the locations of production, or the presence of children through toys? Skeletal data have pointed the way toward an understanding of matrilocality, migration, stress, and trauma that may have impacted women and children. In South Asian archaeology, there has been a focus on artifacts and their production and on classification and typology, often at times to the exclusion of the people who would have been associated with these objects. If people are at all considered, it is always with the assumption that men were the active agents in production, with women undertaking primarily domestic chores, like cooking. The bulk of craft production appears to have taken place in household contexts, where women and children, as also the aged, would equally have been active producers. There are tantalizing glimpses of what can be archaeologies of gender and childhood in South Asia, where certain social groups experienced more stress and trauma than other groups, pointing toward social stratification in the Indus period. Similarly, in the medieval period, differential representations can give hints for gender and status relations among communities. However, much more work focusing on these themes needs to be done in this region. To get more nuanced and deeper insights into gender and childhood, questions around these themes need to be formulated and integrated into archaeological projects.

Article

Archaeologies of the Recent and Contemporary Past in Africa  

Rachel King

Archaeologies of the recent and contemporary world represent a relatively young movement within Africa. Rather than being conceived as relative to a particular chronology, this movement is often characterized as concerned with investigating the practice of archaeology itself, especially its politics and its understanding of time. The small but growing body of literature in this subfield is reviewed both to highlight a moment of disciplinary innovation and to reflect on what modifications of methodology, ethics, and theory are necessary to adapt an intellectual movement developed in other parts of the world for the African continent. These include an emphasis on foregrounding African knowledge systems, especially diverse experiences of time and materiality; the potential for co-creation of data through relationships between these and Western ways of knowing; and mixed research methods. Themes such as time, materiality, and reflexivity are considered in contexts across the continent, as well as where archaeologies of the contemporary world overlap or exist in tension with related moves in cognate African Studies fields.

Article

Archaeologists and Community Collaboration  

Krysta Ryzewski

Collaborative archaeology is a practice of partnership, stewardship, and accountability involving professional archaeologists and community stakeholders who share interests in a project’s objectives and outcomes. Community stakeholders may include familial descendants, local residents, civic officials, nonprofit organizations, tribal representatives, government agencies, commercial developers, business owners, the media, students, professionals from other fields (e.g., historic preservationists, architects, environmental scientists), and any other individuals or groups who have a vested interest in the sites that archaeologists investigate and interpret. Collaborative partnerships between archaeologists and communities take many forms, from one-time consultations to long-term initiatives that involve stakeholders in all aspects of project design, data recovery, and outcomes. In the early 21st century, collaborative archaeology projects have become increasingly oriented toward political action, ethical practice, restorative justice, community welfare, and engaging social issues that extend beyond the traditional disciplinary scope of archaeology. The sheer variety of community-involved archaeology projects and their culturally specific variations across the world are impossible to convey in a single summary. Therefore, this discussion focuses on the politically engaged and action-oriented perspectives of community archaeology projects and their processes, drawing primarily from North American examples.

Article

The Archaeology and History of Human Diseases in the Zimbabwean Past  

Pauline Chiripanhura, Ancila Katsamudanga, and Justen Manasa

Throughout history, communicable diseases have impacted humanity. If present experiences are any indication, diseases must have had significant impact on transforming the economic and social organization of past communities. Some aspects of what is regarded as normal modern human behavior must have emanated from responses to diseases, especially epidemics and pandemics. Unfortunately, few studies have been conducted in this area of archaeological investigations to shed more light on the influence of these on past communities. This is more so in African countries such as Zimbabwe where the history of pandemics stretches only as far as the beginning of colonialism, less than 200 years ago. Although the earliest world epidemic was recorded during the 5th century, it was not until 1918 that Zimbabwe recorded the first incidence of a worldwide epidemic. There is little knowledge on how precolonial communities were affected by global pandemics such as Black Death, the bubonic plague, and similar occurrences. It has to be noted that global pandemics became more threatening as society made the shift to agrarian life around 10,000 years ago. This has led many scholars to regard the adoption of agriculture as the worst mistake in the history of the human race as they argue that the creation of more closely connected communities gave rise to infectious diseases and presented these diseases with the chance to grow into epidemics. Diseases such as influenza, smallpox, leprosy, malaria, and tuberculosis are among those that have thrived since this shift. With its long human history, Africa is well positioned to shed light on the occurrence of global pandemics as well as their distinct impact on communities living in diverse social, economic, and natural environments. As such, it is important to explore the study of diseases, especially epidemics and global pandemics, to augment the worldwide knowledge generated from other continents. This knowledge should also be juxtaposed with what is already known about changing social, economic, and political developments to see the potential impacts that these pandemics had on the human past. The history of migration should be viewed as a potential history of the spread of new diseases. For all the known pandemics, the South African coast has served as the major corridor of transmission of disease pandemics into Zimbabwe. However, archaeologically, it is known that migrations were mostly over land from the northern and eastern regions. It is interesting to delve into how the spread of diseases could have differed when the movements of people over land, rather than coastal ports, are the nodes. Since there are few documentary sources to help in the comprehension of past outbreaks in the precolonial period, archaeological evidence becomes key. Without doubt, human skeletons represent the most ubiquitous source of information on ancient diseases. Zimbabwe has remains that stretch from the Stone Age to historical times. Paleopathology is an underdeveloped discipline in southern Africa, but with increased awareness of the possibilities of the presence of various diseases in prehistory, it is expected to grow.

Article

Archaeology in Sudan: A Sudanese Perspective  

Ahmed Adam and Shadia Taha

Sudan is a vast country marked by heterogeneity, dissimilarities, and diversities in its climates, topography, natural features, cultures, and people. Sudan’s multiplicity of cultures and communities is steeped in history and heritage as remarkable as anywhere else in the ancient world and the rest of Africa. Despite this, Africa’s heritage has been overlooked for centuries as a result of prejudice and stereotyping. The 19th and 20th centuries were characterized by supposition and fixation on an external origin of African civilizations, a focus that was based on European ethnocentrism and a sense of racial superiority. In common with the rest of Africa, archaeology was founded during the colonial period and, to a large extent, remained unchanged, retaining past management and interpretative approaches and influencing current practices and planning policies. Sudan’s rich and outstanding heritage, the home of the first great civilizations in Sub-Saharan Africa, was frequently overlooked. When discussing the civilizations of the Nile Valley, many historians and archaeologists focus entirely on the role of Egypt. Ancient civilizations in Sudan were constantly interpreted as the work of colonizers and were believed to be less advanced than Egyptian civilizations. The building of the Aswan High Dam threatened the lives of Nubians and their heritage. It necessitated the forced displacement of Nubian and Bushareen nomadic tribes from their homelands and submerged considerable heritage. Nonetheless, this was the first time an organized survey was undertaken in Sudanese Nubia. The rescue campaign provided archaeological evidence and replaced ethnic prehistory with new theories. Archaeology in Sudan underwent a dreadful experience throughout the thirty years it was under the governance of the ousted dictatorial regime. The government in power in 1989–2019, an autocratic rule with a different political ideology, took control over Sudan’s heritage. Along with an oil boom, fast modernization, urbanization, and unrest in the country, all these factors had a tremendous impact on archaeology and heritage and on the operation of the National Corporation for Antiquities and Museums (NCAM). Moreover, the military forces, which used archaeological sites as military bases, took control over and demolished significant heritage and disconnected local communities from their heritage. From the 1980s, the number of native archaeologists and departments of archaeology increased. This period witnessed an expansion in research projects, themes, topics, periods, methods, and regions explored by Sudanese and foreign teams. There is a move away from focusing on single sites to understanding and exploring past environments and landscapes using new scientific methods of investigation. There are multiple challenges ahead, including climate change (flooding, destratification, shifting sands), globalization, mega-developments, lack of sufficient funding and resources, and, most recently, Covid-19. These are complex issues to deal with, especially for poor counties. Development and unrest in Sudan continue to force communities to move from their homelands and threaten the loss of traditional knowledge, diversity of culture, and connectedness with the land.

Article

The Archaeology of Feasts and Feasting in Africa  

Liza Gijanto

Considered within the broader corpus of studies of food and foodways, feasting in African archaeological contexts has not been reported to the same degree as in other world areas. The reasons for this could be a genuine lack of feasting practices in African contexts as well as the focus on feasts as empowering events in more hierarchical societies. Where feasting has been identified, it is done with the aid of documentary or oral sources. Most of these studies are focused on locations and time periods of interoceanic trade in west and east Africa. Feasting has been identified in these contexts by utilizing multiple lines of material evidence, including ceramics, fauna, and items such as pipes related to leisure activities that would be part of a large celebration. In some, evidence is limited to location and fauna.

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.

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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.