Aspects of African Archaeology. Papers
from the 10th Congress of the PanAfrican Association for Prehistory
and Related Studies. Gilbert Pwiti and Robert Soper, eds. University
of Zimbabwe Publications, Harare [distributed by the African Books Collective
Ltd., Oxford UK]. 1996 857 pp. $75 paper (42.00 pounds sterling).©
A brief review cannot do justice to an 857-page
collection of ninety-eight separate papers presented at the Congress
of the PanAfrican Association for Prehistory and Related Studies, which
met in Harare, Zimbabwe in 1995. As the editors point out in their introductory
remarks, the meeting showed the Association's viability, after an interval
of sporadic and less efficiently reported meetings.
The Congress was notable for full participation
of scholars from post-apartheid South Africa and for a strong emphasis
on cultural resource management and historical archaeology linking Africa
with global history. Two types of papers predominate, each informative
and thought-provoking. Some fill in formerly empty temporal and geographical
spaces, often where archaeological research had previously been precluded
by war or lack of infrastructure. Others incorporate sophisticated analytical
and theoretical approaches into studies ranging from Homo erectus to
Iron Age symbolism.
Below I note the major thematic sections into which
papers are grouped, commenting on some pieces of admittedly idiosyncratic
selection, in no way reflecting on the quality of papers not specifically
four articles, ranging from theoretical models for hominid behavior
(Cachel and Harris, Stoppiello) to diagenetic and osteometric studies
of bone (Person et al, Santos).
Palaeoenvironmental Studies: five
pieces, reporting on regions and sites in Egypt (Moeyersons et al.),
Libya (Cremaschi and DiLernia), Zambia (Avery), and Zimbabwe (Haynes).
Hassan's discussion of "abrupt Holocene climatic events in Africa"
synthesizes paleoenvironmental data from several regions.
Early Stone Age:
seven articles. J. D. Clark, the doyen of African Stone Age studies,
discusses hominid decision-making and Acheulian variability. Rogers
and Kyara carry such ideas into two landscape-focused studies of lithic
utilization. ESA occurrences in Ethiopia (Beyene et al.), Zimbabwe (Klimowicz
and Haynes), Mozambique (Meneses), and Sterkfontein, South Africa (Kuman)
Middle Stone Age:
eight papers, including Deacon and Wurz on the Howieson's Poort industry
at Klasies River Main site, which shows blade-based tool production
at 70,000 years BP. Reports on Egypt (van Peer et al.), the Horn (Gresham
and Brandt), Congo (Lanfranchi), Tanzania (Willoughby), Zambia (Barham),
Zimbabwe (Larsson), and Namibia (Vogelsang) fill in knowledge of MSA
Late Stone Age: 14
articles, including provocative findings in the Acacus, Libya (DiLernia
and Cremaschi). Four papers are on Kenya and Tanzania; lithic analyses
by Barut and Odeny-Odul assess resource use patterns. The Pleistocene-Holocene
transition at Shum Laka, Cameroon is described in four papers by Belgian
researchers. Smith argues for pre-colonial ethnic differentiation of
herders and hunter-gatherers in the Cape region, while Sampson, Klatzow,
Opperman, and Mazel describe a complex mosaic of herding and foraging
peoples in other southern African areas.
Rock Art Studies:
three pieces, including a comparison of west Norwegian and southern
African art by Waldenhaug and new descriptions of art from Gabon (Oslisly)
and Angola (Gutierrez).
Early Food Production:
ten papers, including Amblard's critique of long-held views on Dar Tichit,
Neumann et al.'s report on botanical evidence from Burkina Faso and
northeast Nigeria. These and other papers hint that trajectories toward
food production in Africa may differ significantly from those documented
Early Iron Working Communities: five articles, on
the Mandara Mountains of Cameroon-Nigeria (MacEachern), the Interlacustrine
region (MacLean), Central African Republic (Yandia), and Upper Tana
River, Kenya (Kiriama et al.). Plug notes rare occurrence of chickens
in the southern African Early Iron Age which, like house rats, may have
entered via the Indian Ocean trade.
Late Iron-Working Communities:
six pieces, filling in knowledge of technology and exchange from Lake
Albert (Connah) to Pate (Wilson and Lali Omar) and Mozambique Islands
(Duarte and Meneses) to Botswana (Pearson). Garenne-Marot's analysis
of metallurgy in the "medieval" Senegal employs the notion
of technological style in a manner worthy of emulation.
Development of Complexity:
eight papers, ranging from Chad and Nigeria to Aksum to Ntusi, Uganda
to Zimbabwe. Notable are assertions by David that a high level of industrial
production of iron could exist without classes and political centralization
and by Herbert of the intimate link between technological practices
in African metallurgy and elite power.
Historical Archaeology: nine
articles, including several on trans-Saharan links (Insoll, Mayor),
on West African coastal trade with Europeans (deCorse, Kelly), the Swahili
coast (Kusimba), the Nyanga complex of Zimbabwe (Beach), and Boer South
Africa (von Vollenhoven). Several papers demonstrate the value of archaeology
for placing Africans within the web of historic world system interactions.
Schmidt asserts that understanding African "rhythmed time"
aids in reading cyclical patterns of cultural deposition at ritual centers.
Schoenbrun seeks to trace development of ideologies of social power
through linguistic analysis of key terms in Great Lakes Bantu languages.
seven pieces, including Lane's thoughtful analysis of applications and
limitations of ethnoarchaeology in Africa, and Robertshaw and Kamuhangire's
discussion of the intersection of traditional values, archaeological
conservation, and the workings of the state. Barndon and Ndoro deal
with symbolism in practical action, relative to iron and ceramic production
and use. Papers by Ryan et al., Brandt, and Saetersdal deal with specific
Cultural Resource Management:
twelve papers. In contrast to other volume sections, papers are with
one exception by residents of African nations, who daily face the challenges
of conserving sites and materials with few resources and often limited
legal mandates. Countries represented are Botswana (van Waarden), Kenya
(Kibunjia, Wandibba), Mozambique (Macamo), Nigeria (Folorunso, Agbaje-Williams),
South Africa (Deacon, Miller, van Schalkwyk), and Zimbabwe (Matenga,
Pwiti and Mvenge). Van Schalkwyk's discussion of CRM in the "new
South Africa" points to the difficult trade-offs in the highly
developed economy to which many other African nations aspire, ironically
noting "the past is not dead, we are still busy killing it."
McIntosh highlights the global crisis in plunder of sites for the art
trade, and reproduces the PanAfrican Association's resolution to press
for enforcement of international law pertaining to stolen antiquities.
Articles in Aspects of African Archaeology are generally
of high quality and well-referenced, reflecting sound editorial work
by session heads as well as the editors-in-chief. All involved are to
be congratulated on the swift appearance of the volume. A few minor
flaws may be noted: typos or grammatical problems mar some articles,
and the list of contributors is incomplete. It is, however, well worth
obtaining for an overview of Africanist archaeology today. It is useful
to archaeologists of any phase of the African archaeological record,
paleoanthropologists, and African historians, as well as those interested
in global issues in cultural resource management.
In sum, Aspects of African Archaeology testifies
to the current diversity and vigor of Africanist archaeology. Despite
under-funding and many tumultuous events, senior archaeologists have
carried on investigating the continent's human past, and younger scholars
have committed themselves to continuing this work, often with world-class
sophistication. That so much has been accomplished in the face of these
challenges bodes well for future archaeological research.
In closing, I relay the editors' note that, despite
the African venue, most Congress attendees were based overseas, reflecting
their easier access to travel funds. Contact with colleagues is a widely
recognized, acute need of Africa-based archaeologists and historians.
A concerted fundraising effort for a travel funds endowment should be
a top priority for Africanists living elsewhere.
Department of Anthropology
University of California at Santa Cruz