Mohamed Sahnouni, Sileshi Semaw, and Michael Rogers
This article argues that the Acheulean is perhaps the longest lasting cultural–technological tradition in human history, dating from around 1.7 to 0.3 Mya and roughly corresponding to the time during which H. Erectus and H. Heidelbergensis lived in Africa. Unlike earlier Oldowan technology, Acheulean cores — handaxes, cleavers, and picks — were standardised, of predetermined shape and made on large cobbles and flakes. The extensive Acheulean archaeological record throughout Africa over 1.4 million years described is testimony to the success of this technology’s makers in different habitats, altitudes, and settings, but also to its apparent conservative cultural nature: a learned tradition passed on through thousands of generations of highly mobile hominin groups with small population sizes. Although there are differences between Early and Late Acheulean technology, the makers of these tools may have undergone more significant changes with respect to the use of other technologies, strategic land use, and social life.
David N. Edwards
Zooarchaeological comparisons of Roman and Islamic North Africa indicate changes in animal use largely resultant from shifting parameters of urban and economic expansion and development, presence and involvement of the military, cultural preferences, and restrictions in dietary resources. ‘Urbanized’ and ‘militarized’ zones, such as Carthage, and the Egyptian delta and eastern desert, typically display increases in pork consumption during Roman times; others areas, such as Morocco and inland Tunisia and Libya, regions arguably less affected by, or exposed to, Roman dietary and cultural customs or demands, maintain greater temporal consistency. Islamic patterns display regional diversity, with sheep/goat pastoralism predominating, integrated husbandry schemes and animal breed manipulation generally diminishing, and cultural taboos against pork consumption registering in many areas.
Africanist archaeometallurgists have conveniently divided Africa into two sub-regions when discussing the continent’s metallurgical history: north of the Sahara Desert, including the Mediterranean littoral, the Lower Nile Valley, and the Red Sea coast; and south of the Sahara (sub-Saharan Africa), including West, East, Central, and southern Africa. This division reflects the fact that the metallurgical history of the two sub-regions differs. This article begins with a theoretical review of the origins of metallurgy as a background on which the sub-Saharan case is anchored. Its main body is further split in two: the appearance of metallurgy in the region and its subsequent development. The discussion suggests that studying the origins of other technologies, such as basketry, textiles, and pottery may also help shed light on those of metallurgy itself.
Viktor Černý and Luísa Pereira
East African foragers were probably the first who colonized most of the world before the invention of agriculture—their first biologically successful migration out of Africa can be inferred from the mtDNA phylogeny and dated to ~ 65,000 years ago. They were also involved in other migrations within the African continent during Late Pleistocene, as shown from a high-resolution characterization of several other African mtDNA haplogroups. Contemporary African hunter-gatherers differ from their neighbours in many aspects. They all show signs of demographic contraction that might be due to interrupted gene flow among their sub-populations caused by recent establishments of sedentary farming communities. In fact, they are not independent and maintain both cultural exchanges and marital relationships with neighbouring farmers. However, in spite of recent admixtures, their gene pool still contains a high number of both maternal and paternal lineages that coalesce to the deepest clades of modern human phylogeny.
The Horn of Africa is one of the Africa’s most culturally varied regions and the world’s most physiographically diverse areas, possessing an extensive range of climates, topographies, vegetation, and soils, often found vertically stratified over short horizontal distances. In consequence of its diverse climate, physiography human landscapes and dynamic food-producing systems, the Horn has long been recognised as a major world centre of plant domesticates, possesses diversity in cattle and goat breeds, and provides some of the densest and most varied concentrations of ancient pastoral rock art in Africa. This article examines the middle to late Holocene transition and the first appearance of food production in the Horn; the archaeological evidence for domesticated animals and plants in the Horn; and frameworks for the origins of food production.
Ibrahima Thiaw and François Richard
Africa’s engagement with the post-AD 1500 Atlantic World has captivated archaeological attention over the past twenty years. Focusing on West Africa, this article gives a sense of the themes and questions that have driven archaeological work on Atlantic processes, reviews some of the trends and insights generated by this research, and explores future directions in this field. The discussion begins by situating historical archaeology in the historiography of the African Atlantic and then considering archaeological contributions to broader debates about the emergence, dynamics, impacts, and long-term consequences of the Atlantic economy on African societies. It then examines five domains of archaeological research on social transformations: political landscapes, cultural life between the coast and interior, urban dynamics, cultural economies, and technological change.
The origins of archaeology were in Europe, so that its development in the African continent was initially shaped by European perceptions, subsequently modified by American influences. Only during the last half century have indigenous Africans had a voice in the archaeologies of their own countries, which have nevertheless often retained approaches adopted from overseas. This article notes that much of African archaeology has been characterised by particularism; syntheses, especially at a continental level, have been relatively rare. Even studies dealing with large parts of the continent are not that common, although areas of lesser size have received more attention. Problems that plague much of African archaeological thought become particularly apparent. The Eurocentric nineteenth-century Three Age System and the associated concept of prehistory continue to characterise much analytical and interpretive writing. In spite of attempts to see the African past in different way, these outmoded ideas remain current in many places.
Pierre de Maret
This article examines the Bantu languages and their classification and provides archaeological background of the Bantu migration on Western and Central Africa and Great Lakes Africa. Encompassing a series of changes and movements that took place during several millennia over one of the largest continental masses on earth, the Bantu phenomenon cannot be accounted for by a single and simplistic paradigm. It is connected with complex population movements starting north of Central Africa and led to the progressive colonisation of a vast area further south. The discussion concludes that the Bantu phenomenon is best understood as a colonisation, migration, expansion, dispersal, or diffusion.
Amanda Esterhuysen and Paul J. Lane
This article focuses on efforts to promote formal teaching of archaeology, especially at primary and secondary levels. It stresses that an integrated strategy towards archaeology and education, that exploits different opportunities, develops resources and methods appropriate to different learning ages, constituencies and contexts, and which deploys the different elements so as to complement each other, is likely to be the most successful. The discussion on educational archaeology examines developments in South Africa. It suggests that archaeology departments and divisions at African universities need to include educational archaeologists on their staff so as to better link the two disciplines, provide a critical approach to the way in which archaeology is taught at university level, and determine how it is being implemented at school level.