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Contract Archeology in South Africa  

Ndukuyakhe Ndlovu

The roots of contract archeology were laid even before the development of a legislative framework that prescribed the processes to be followed. Contract archeology was being seen by the museums and universities as the best avenue to the subsidizing of archeological research. The increased research funding of the 1960s and 1970s was on the decline in the 1980s. Universities, therefore, were at a disadvantage and needed to explore other avenues of funding. Legislative changes over the years, which made it mandatory for developers to fund impact assessments to mitigate potential damage of valuable heritage resources from their proposed activities, have led to a significant proliferation of private archeological companies. These have been established to provide developers with the expertise they need to satisfy these legal requirements. The approach used in South Africa is that the developer must pay to assess the nature of the likely impact of their proposed activity. Government entities are then tasked with the responsibility of reviewing studies undertaken by specialists subcontracted by developers. The subdiscipline of archeology has grown significantly in South Africa, specifically enabled by legislative changes over the years requiring that predevelopment assessments of heritage sites be undertaken prior to approvals being made. However, archeology has continued to be defined as racially unrepresentative of the South African demography. In addition, the management of heritage resources through the use of contract archeology has been characterized by a variety of administrative challenges.

Article

Nineteenth-Century Foreign Travelers to Central America  

Arturo Taracena Arriola

Foreign travelers, mainly from Europe and the United States, did not come to Central America until the founding of the Federal Republic of Central America in 1823 after independence from Spain. They had been previously unknown in the Central American isthmus despite the impression that Alexandre von Humboldt’s achievement made on Latin Americans at the beginning of the 19th century. From 1823 to 1870, the foreign travelers in three characteristic cycles: the first, from 1823 to 1838, during the federal administration, attracted consular agents, merchants, and foreign adventurers, especially former soldiers from the Napoleonic Wars; the second, from 1839 to 1850, brought publicists, canal and timber entrepreneurs, and promoters of diverse kinds of colonization; and the third, which ran from 1851 to 1870, saw the arrival of naturalists, archeologists, entrepreneurs, and diplomats. All of them contributed to the integration of the short-lived Federal Republic of Central America and the division into five nations into the world market and concert of western nations. In fact, the victory of the liberal reforms beginning in 1871 would mean a new cycle of travelers, not discussed here, characterized by the positivist goal of progress, secularity of the state, freedom of religion, the banner of Central American reunification, and the gamble on mono-exportation centered on coffee and banana cultivation.

Article

Palaeotsunamis  

James Goff

How big, how often, and where from? This is almost a mantra for researchers trying to understand tsunami hazard and risk. What we do know is that events such as the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami (2004 IOT) caught scientists by surprise, largely because there was no “research memory” of past events for that region, and as such, there was no hazard awareness, no planning, no risk assessment, and no disaster risk reduction. Forewarned is forearmed, but to be in that position, we have to be able to understand the evidence left behind by past events—palaeootsunamis—and to have at least some inkling of what generated them. While the 2004 IOT was a devastating wake-up call for science, we need to bear in mind that palaeotsunami research was still in its infancy at the time. What we now see is still a comparatively new discipline that is practiced worldwide, but as the “new kid on the block,” there are still many unknowns. What we do know is that in many cases, there is clear evidence of multiple palaeotsunamis generated by a variety of source mechanisms. There is a suite of proxy data—a toolbox, if you will—that can be used to identify a palaeotsunami deposit in the sedimentary record. Things are never quite as simple as they sound, though, and there are strong divisions within the research community as to whether one can really differentiate between a palaeotsunami and a palaeostorm deposit, and whether proxies as such are the way to go. As the discipline matures, though, many of these issues are being resolved, and indeed we have now arrived at a point where we have the potential to detect “invisible deposits” laid down by palaeotsunamis once they have run out of sediment to lay down as they move inland. As such, we are on the brink of being able to better understand the full extent of inundation by past events, a valuable tool in gauging the magnitude of palaeotsunamis. Palaeotsunami research is multidisciplinary, and as such, it is a melting pot of different scientific perspectives, which leads to rapid innovations. Basically, whatever is associated with modern events may be reflected in prehistory. Also, palaeotsunamis are often part of a landscape response pushed beyond an environmental threshold from which it will never fully recover, but that leaves indelible markers for us to read. In some cases, we do not even need to find a palaeotsunami deposit to know that one happened.

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

Igbo-Ukwu  

Raphael Chijioke Njoku

The focus of this discussion is on the lingering questions about the origin, character, importance, and dating of the Igbo-Ukwu findings; what they reveal about the Igbo past; and the interpretations scholars ascribe to them. Named after its location at an Igbo village in southeastern Nigeria, Igbo-Ukwu is an important archeological complex with intricately cast bronze sculptures, chieftaincy paraphernalia, glass pendants, and a wide range of other artifacts and objects that are distinctive in their styles, mysterious in their origins and usages, and revealing in their meanings. For the Igbo, whose early history has been the subject of conjecture, the materials unearthed at the ancient settlement are confirmation of the antiquity of an advanced civilization and its participation in regional and long-distance trade, including the medieval era trans-Saharan trade. The eminent historian Adiele Eberechukwu Afigbo has affirmed that the Igbo of today, like other indigenous peoples without a well-developed writing culture, are “anxious to discover their origin and reconstruct how they came to be who they are” to better understand “the reality of their group identity which they want to anchor into authenticated history.” The Igbo-Ukwu archeological discoveries dated to the 9th century ce raised high expectations in the frantic search for the rich but elusive Igbo historical heritage. Chinua Achebe expressed the imperative of unraveling Igbo precolonial history with an adage: “Until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.” The Igbo-Ukwu excavation did not provide conclusive answers to many of the riddles still confronting Igbo historians; it has, however, pointed to some hidden aspects of the African past. As details continue to emerge, some of the conclusions already made about the Igbo in particular and Africa in general will be subject to further revisions.

Article

Hunter-Gatherer Women  

Marlize Lombard and Katharine Kyriacou

“Hunter-gatherer” refers to the range of human subsistence patterns and socio-economies since the Late Pleistocene (after about 126,000 years ago), some of which are still practiced in rare pockets across the globe. Hunter-gatherer research is centered on ethnohistorical records of the lifeways, economies, and interpersonal relationships of groups who gather field and wild foods and hunt for meat. Information collected in this way is cautiously applied to the Stone Age and Paleolithic archaeological records to inform on or build hypotheses about past human behaviors. Late Pleistocene hunter-gatherers possessed the behavioral, technological, and cognitive wherewithal to populate the globe. Hunter-gatherer groups are often relatively egalitarian regarding power and gender relationships. But, as is the case for all mammals, only females bear offspring. This biological reality has socioeconomic and behavioral implications when it comes to food supply. Whereas humans share the principles of the mammalian reproductive process, only humans evolved to occupy a unique cogni-behavioral niche in which we are able to outsmart other animal competition in the quest for survival on any given landscape. Since early on in our history, women of our species gave birth to relatively large-brained offspring with considerable cognitive potential compared to that of other animals. Key to this development is the consumption of specific foods, which contain brain-selective nutrients such as omega-6 and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and trace elements including iron, iodine, copper, selenium, and zinc. Such nutrients are important for all peoples past and present. Ethnohistorical and nutritional evidence shows that edible plants and small animals, most often gathered by women, represent an abundant and accessible source of “brain foods.” This is in contrast to the “man the hunter” hypothesis where big-game hunting and meat-eating are seen as prime movers in the development of biological and behavioral traits that distinguish humans from other primates.

Article

Restitution and Archaeological Collections in Africa  

Didier Houénoudé, Monica Coralli, and Didier N'Dah

By outlining the features, we can affirm that the construction of identity in each country is generally based on—and accompanied by—the definition of what constitutes “heritage” in its territory. On the African continent, this process was not uniform at the time of the proclamation of independence, or at least it did not always follow the same dynamic. It is clear that the heritage issue is approached in different ways depending on the period. In fact, it has gone through several phases in which the emphasis is placed in turn on the magnificence of the power in place, the popular recognition of symbols that can testify to national unity. For the past two decades, the states, strengthened by their achievements since obtaining independence, and in parallel with the creation of new emblematic monuments, have adopted, with respect to their former colonizers, an obvious desire to recover looted property. These objects, taken out of the territory not only by the hands of the colonists but also by missionaries or art lovers in various circumstances, become political instruments capable of bringing public opinion together. Thus, the restitution of African heritage goods, exhibited in foreign museums, to their countries of origin, amounts to recovering—and (re)discovering in a concrete way—a part of community identity that was thought to be lost forever. This process, which, through the cultural component, is in fact redrawing the balance between the countries of the North and South. Benin is setting itself up as a model in the implementation of heritage strategies based on the return of goods and their conservation and valorization in situ. Other countries are following suit.

Article

Musical Bows in the Rock Art of Southern Africa  

Joshua Kumbani and Oliver Vogels

Rock art is ubiquitous in southern Africa. It can be assumed that playing musical bows was a similarly widespread cultural tradition in prehistoric southern Africa. But discerning musical performances from other uses of the bow in the rock art is not trivial. Qualified arguments for musical performances therefore rest on the ethnographic record. Depictions of musical bows have been identified only in two rock art collections from South Africa and Namibia. In South Africa musical bows are known from the Maloti Drakensberg mountains in the KwaZulu-Natal Province, and Maclear District in the Eastern Cape Province. In Namibia, the musical bows have been identified mainly in the mountainous massif called Dâureb (its local Damara name) or Brandberg (its foreign Afrikaans name) and the surrounding region in northwestern central Namibia. The occurrence of musical bows in the rock art sheds light on some of the musical instruments that were used in the past and their playing techniques. This is important in music archeological studies, which involve the analysis of music-related artifacts or sound-producing artifacts and their cultural background from the archeological record, or the investigation of the effects of sound in past societies. Rock art is an important source that can be used in music archeological studies. Ethnographic information also gives another depth in describing musical bows and allows one to differentiate contemporary music cultures from the past. There are some notable similarities and differences between the musical bows from South Africa and Namibia. These similarities and differences come in the form of the technical aspects of how sound is produced (organology) by the musical bows and playing techniques, exhibiting distinct music cultures. What stands out is that in most cases the string is turned away from the player, which is different when a bow is used for shooting, as well as the use of a tapping stick to play the bow. The musical bow depictions in Namibia do not have resonators, whereas most of those depicted in South Africa do. However, the musical bows in Namibia are braced or have a string that divides the bow string into two sections (tuning noose), whereas none have been recorded in South Africa.

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 Development of Archaeology in Africa  

Nonofho Mathibidi Ndobochani

Africa is the cradle of humankind, with the origin, evolution, and dispersal of hominids understood from this continent. It was not left out in the quest for knowledge on how human beings lived in the past, where they lived, what they used and ate, as well as changes that occurred through time. The development of archaeology in Africa, as elsewhere, had two aspects to it—the volume and inclination of work done as evidenced by extensive fieldwork and publications, and the change in approach that saw a shift toward philosophical and methodological concerns. Terminology broadened as there was a shift from merely establishing evidence of occupation and the presence of material culture, to studying the subtleties and processes underlying the material culture. The human mind is complex; it generated a dynamic material culture temporally and spatially, and notwithstanding the environmental impact on past cultures, humanity also colonized landscapes. Appreciation of an interchange between humanity and the environment became necessary to sync and contextualize the development of ideas, concepts, and worldviews, and whether they emerged from within societies or were externally influenced, they were shared across time and space—necessitating multidisciplinary approaches to studying the past. To an archaeological scholar in Africa, the problem is compounded. The study of the past has always been from an observer’s point of view, resulting in the call to “decolonize archaeology”—Africans were alienated in studying the past and the tendency was to have them not see this past as their heritage. Archaeology must be relevant to Africa’s issues of environmental management, food security, and socioeconomic challenges such as youth and women’s empowerment. What can the discipline offer? Is the archaeology of Africa accessible to its population, and do we see possibilities for an intergenerational beneficiation of Africa’s past? Most importantly, Africa still has a wealth of knowledge to offer in the study of the paleoenvironment, human evolution, food production and processing, historical ecology, multidisciplinary approaches, and computer technology. Their contribution to a better understanding of the rich, complex, and dynamic African past is of utmost importance.

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

Archaeology of Botswana  

Carla Klehm

The prehistory of Botswana concerns the sophisticated environmental knowledge, economic strategies, and social networks of the hunter-gatherer, pastoralists, and agropastoralist communities that have called Botswana home. Diverse subsistence strategies and societal structures ranging from heterarchical to hierarchical have coincided and responded flexibly to climate and environmental variables. Botswana has also played a central, but often overlooked, role in precolonial trade within the interior of Africa and across the Indian Ocean. Botswana contains well-preserved archaeological records for the Middle Stone Age, Late Stone Age, and Iron Age periods, including one of the highest concentrations of rock art in the world at Tsodilo Hills. The prehistory of Botswana extends over 100,000 years and includes successful, innovative, and adaptive occupations in a wide variety of environmental zones, from the Okavango Delta to the Kalahari sandveld, and better-watered hardveld areas in the east. Stone Age peoples adapted to both arid and wet lands, and the archaeological record includes early evidence for freshwater fish exploitation. Hunting with bone points dates to 35,000 years ago, with additional evidence for poisonous, reversible arrowheads between 21,000 and 30,000 years ago. Evidence for ritualized behavior through rock paintings, rock carvings, and the intentional destruction and abandonment of stone tools at Tsodilo Hills provides further insights to the social dimensions of early peoples. In the Iron Age, hunter-gatherer communities and agropastoralists participated in a regional and later protoglobal trade across the Indian Ocean for a thousand years before European involvement; as the regional economy intensified, large polities such as Bosutswe and even kingdoms such as the Butua state emerged, controlling access to resources such as game, ivory, salt, specularite, and gold. In the modern era, the historical archaeology of sites such as Old Palapye (Phalatswe) provide additional insight to historical documents that can contradict Eurocentric understandings of Botswana’s past.

Article

The Archaeology of Slavery in Atlantic West Africa, 1450–1900  

Sean H. Reid

Archaeological examination of the transatlantic slave trade in West Africa largely began with investigations of European trade posts and forts on the coast and on major West African rivers. The predominant focus of subsequent work has been on African states and societies affected by or involved in Atlantic commerce and the slave trade. Major themes of research include African–European interactions and trade, political and economic effects in African societies, and the integration and consumption of Atlantic goods in daily life. Work has also expanded geographically beyond West African towns and states into hinterland and frontier landscapes far from the coast. Archaeological investigations of Atlantic era slavery developed in dialogue with the archaeology of the African diaspora in the Americas, yet their foci and objectives have not always been completely aligned. Slavery is more of a central theme in African diaspora archaeology—being the primary formative historical force in the creation of the diaspora—than it is in West African archaeology, where it is more often examined as a major feature of social, political, and economic life with uneven regional and societal effects. Archaeologists are also involved in the study, interpretation, and politics of African diaspora heritage tourism. Emerging approaches to the archaeology of Atlantic era slavery in West Africa include maritime archaeology and the archaeology of the formerly enslaved that returned to West Africa.

Article

The Legal Frameworks of Protecting Archaeology in Africa  

Ancila Katsamudanga

Archaeological heritage is fragile and nonrenewable. In Africa, it is vulnerable to developmental projects in construction, mining, and agriculture as well as intentional and unintentional vandalism through everyday use and tourism. Looting, illegal trade of antiquities, and terrorism have also emerged as other significant threats to archaeological heritage in Africa. Looting and vandalism of sites and objects result from lax monitoring mechanisms and a general lack of awareness of archaeological matters among the public. Although most African countries have the legal protection of archaeological heritage, the effectiveness of these has been under question. African heritage legislations have been criticized for the lack of predevelopment assessments that would ensure the protection of recorded and unrecorded archaeological heritage. They have also been censured for protecting just the physical aspects of archaeological heritage, leaving out the intangible aspects that actually give the heritage value, especially among African communities. Another challenge was the exclusion of local communities and customary management systems in the protection of archaeological heritage. Provisions for counteracting looting and illegal trade in antiquities, coming especially from archaeological sites, were also considered weak and requiring improvements. The response to the debate on the effectiveness of the legal protection of heritage has been varied across the continent. Some African countries have responded by writing new laws, amending old ones, or providing other supporting legal provisions such as national cultural policies or regulations. Countries that have instituted new legal provisions include Namibia, Botswana, Kenya, Mali, Egypt, Mauritania, and the Republic of the Congo. Those who reworked their protective mechanisms have attempted to address many of the issues raised. Countries such as Namibia, Botswana, and Mali have included clearly defined provisions for predevelopment assessments. Others such as Liberia included archaeological heritage in their environmental protection laws. Although fewer countries have had legislation to protect intangible aspects, supporting legal provisions such as national cultural policies have helped in this regard. However, very little has been done on the inclusion of customary laws and systems of archaeological protection. Going forward, African nations have to quickly consider emerging issues such as digital manipulation, heritage-based product development, increased need for intervention conservation, and sustainable economic utilization of heritage for the development of individuals, communities, and nations. The legislative process in Africa has to be expedited to quickly and efficiently deal with these issues before they cause harm to the archaeological heritage.

Article

The Paracas Society of Prehispanic Peru  

Henry Tantaleán

Paracas society spread over a large geographical area on the southern Peruvian coast between 800 bce and 200 bce. Unlike an “archaeological culture” that has uniform economy, politics, and ideology and is integrated under a single political structure, the Paracas phenomenon was a series of communities adopting different forms of economic and political organizations that were, nevertheless, economically linked and sharing the same religious ideology. The social mechanisms by which all these communities and political entities were linked included exchange, ritual, and religion, which allowed them to share a series of artifacts, social practices, rituals, and religious iconography. In each of the valleys, every entities, or group of communities, had their own architectural and artisanal features and were economically and politically autonomous. The famous archaeological sites associated with Cerro Colorado on the Paracas peninsula seem to have been more than a central place for Paracas society, a social space of integration in which the worship of ancestors stood out as an ideological and religious sustenance that connected communities and elites from different areas of the southern coast of Peru.

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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Communities and Archaeology in Africa  

Thabo Manetsi

This article traces ongoing debates and discourse on the evolving and dynamic relation between communities and archaeology in Africa. As a departure point, the article traces the complex relationship between communities and archaeology from colonial times in Africa, and illustrates that the field of archaeology was instrumental in the making of history and heritage, enabling colonial laws and institutions that served the interests of the colonial powers. Furthermore, the imposition of the authoritarian nature of archaeology (exclusive expert-scientific field) and the state is accentuated through the glaring binary opposition of “White domination” and “Black subjugation,” as an integral part of the colonial project in Africa. The perpetuation of the legacy of outdated colonial and European heritage practices and laws are still common fixtures of the contemporary cultural landscape in postcolonial Africa. The popularity of the decolonization project in Africa has ushered in new dimensions to traditional archaeological practices such as “community archaeology” and “public archaeology,” which serve as progressive attempts to restore and increase public participation and access by ordinary members of society to archaeology and heritage management. Heritage futures illustrate ongoing configurations in heritage management, where “local community” claims, rights to access, and use of heritage are critical to environmental sustainability and the developmental agenda of most postcolonial African states. However, this is yet to be fully realized.

Article

Climate Change in Eastern Africa  

Rob Marchant

The climatology of East Africa results from the complex interaction between major global convergence zones with more localized regional feedbacks to the climate system; these in turn are moderated by a diverse land surface characterized by coastal to land transitions, high mountains, and large lakes. The main climatic character of East Africa, and how this varies across the region, takes the form of seasonal variations in rainfall that can fall as one, two, or three rainy seasons, the times and duration of which will be determined by the interplay between major convergence zones with more localized regional feedbacks. One of the key characteristics of East Africa are climatic variations with altitude as climates change along an altitudinal gradient that can extend from hot, dry, “tropical” conditions to cool, wet, temperate conditions and on the highest mountains “polar” climates with permanent ice caps. With this complex and variable climate landscape of the present, as scientists move through time to explore past climatic variability, it is apparent there have been a series of relatively rapid and high-magnitude environmental shifts throughout East Africa, particularly characterized by changing hydrological budgets. How climate change has impacted on ecosystems, and how those ecosystems have responded and interacted with human populations, can be unearthed by drawing on evidence from the sedimentary and archaeological record of the past six thousand years. As East African economies, and the livelihoods of millions of people in the region, have been clearly heavily affected by climate variability in the past, so it is expected that future climate variability will impact on ecosystem functioning and the preparedness of communities for future climate change.

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

Etruscans  

Nigel Spivey

Etruscans (Tyrsenoi, Tyrrheni, Etrusci) dominated much of Italy throughout most of the first millennium bce. Geographically, their presence can be traced from the Adriatic coast to Campania; their principal centres, however, were located in territory between Rome to the south and Florence to the north, on the western side of the Apennines. (The “Tyrrhenian Sea” usually refers to waters extending from Sicily up to the Gulf of La Spezia.) The Etruscans have a reputation for mystery generated to a large extent by the fact that their language was radically different from both Greek and Latin (see etruscan language). Substantial and consistent ancient written sources for Etruscan history have not survived; nonetheless, modern research has gone some way towards clarifying our vision of a society that, while heavily influenced by the Greeks, and eventually subsumed by the Romans, was politically and culturally autonomous.There were contradictory theories in antiquity about the ethnic origin of the Etruscans, with one Greek narrative (Hdt.