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date: 22 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This article explores some examples of the archaeology of broadly ‘kin-based’ societies and the potential that such archaeology holds for understanding human action through time. It emphasises some of the ways in which the African archaeological record has been neglected. Complexity in terms of specialisation and stratification among African clan- and lineage-based societies seems to have operated at the level of the ethnic group. Within such communities, overt personal accumulation and the attempt to wield overt personal authority were checked by decentralising tendencies, such that at the community level the society might be thought of as relatively egalitarian and governed by a variety of horizontally arranged social institutions. However, when viewed at the level of interacting communities and kin groups, social distinction of a sort may be seen in competition between groups, the interconnected specialisation of societies, and the relative ideologies and values attached to them.

Keywords: African archaeology, kin-based societies, social organisation, African clan

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