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date: 23 January 2021

Abstract and Keywords

The histories of state formation in Africa emerge as ideal contexts in which to explore the dynamics of social complexity and political centralisation in a comparative perspective. This article outlines how archaeologists have and could examine the pre-colonial state in Africa. It begins by sketching colonial era discourse on the nature of state and civilisation in Africa, and then discusses how a comparative approach focusing on the nature of power has much to offer in understanding the political process in pre-colonial African contexts. It also examines major ‘hotbeds’ of state formation within three broadly defined sub-regions of the continent; northeast, southeast, central, and western Africa. The discussion highlights how indigenous political entrepreneurs articulated both local and exotic sources of power, a process that shaped political contours of early states in Africa.

Keywords: African archaeology, colonial myths, state formation, African civilisation, political centralisation, indigenous political entrepreneurs

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