African Archaeological Review

, Volume 12, Issue 1, pp 105–131 | Cite as

Archaeological survey, ceramic analysis, and state formation in western Uganda

  • Peter Robertshaw


Early archaeological research on the Iron Age of Uganda focused upon earthworks, such as Bigo, with the purpose of validating historians’ interpretations of oral traditions. Recent research has continued the emphasis upon large sites but with archaeological interpretation given precedence over historical reconstructions. This paper discusses archaeological surveys undertaken in western Uganda in 1991 with the aim of examining Iron Age settlement patterns from a regional perspective, in which the large sites form only one element. Pottery analyses permit the establishment of a tentative chronology, which in combination with data on site sizes facilitates a new perspective on state formation in the region. The proposed model of the development of social complexity is compatible with revisionist interpretations of the historical evidence. Together, they suggest that the Nyoro state emerged after several centuries characterised by competing and often unstable small polities or chiefdoms.


State Formation Settlement Pattern Archaeological Research Oral Tradition Social Complexity 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Les premières études archéologiques sur l'Age de fer en Ouganda se sont concentrées sur les fortifications en terre, comme Bigo, l'objectif étant de valider les interprétations de traditions orales par les historiens. Les recherches récentes ont continué à mettre l'accent sur les sites les plus étendus, mais les interprétations archéologiques passent avant les reconstructions historiques. Cet article discute les études archéologiques entreprises en Ouganda occidental en 1991, l'objectif étant d'étudier les schémas de peuplement de l'Age de fer selon une perspective régionale, selon laquelle les sites étendus ne constituaient qu'un des éléments. L'analyse de la poterie permet d'établir une tentative de chronologie qui, avec les données sur les dimensions des sites, facilite l'élaboration d'une nouvelle perspective sur la formation de l'Etat dans cette région. Le modèle proposé de développement de la complexité sociale est compatible avec des interprétations révisionnistes des faits historiques. Ensemble, ils suggèrent que l'Etat de Nyoro est apparu au bout de plusieurs siècles, caractérisés par des petits régimes politiques ou chefferies, souvent instables et se faisant concurrence.


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© Cambridge University Press 1994

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  • Peter Robertshaw

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