African Archaeological Review

, Volume 29, Issue 2–3, pp 95–108 | Cite as

African Archaeology, Multidisciplinary Reconstructions of Africa’s Recent Past, and Archaeology’s Role in Future Collaborative Research

  • Peter RobertshawEmail author
Disciplinary Overview

In this essay, I present some thoughts on the nature of African archaeology and its funding status, as a prelude to examining aspects of archaeology’s relationship with historical linguistics and genetics as they pertain to the business of reconstructing African history. In particular, I argue that our units of analysis tend to constrain our thinking, encouraging us to ignore or downplay data that cannot easily be fitted into categorical boxes. I suggest that we can move towards a new phase in interdisciplinary research into the African past by investigating how past societies and cultures were formed and transformed. One way archaeology’s role in this endeavor may be promoted is by encouraging a focus on the materialities of past cultural practices examined within broader social, economic, and ecological contexts. I illustrate my arguments with examples from East Africa, offering a tentative agenda for research on the Urewe tradition.

The African Archaeological Record in Space and Time


African Past Ethnographic Analogy Bantu Speaker Lake Victoria Region Archaeology Program 
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.



My thanks to Jeff Fleisher, Kate de Luna, and Susan McIntosh for their kind invitation to participate in the “Thinking Across the African Past” symposium at Rice University, to them and to Ann Stahl for comments on earlier drafts of this paper, and to Dave Killick, Peter Mitchell, and Sonja Magnavita for information and advice on funding sources for African archaeology. An earlier and rather different version of this paper was presented at the UK African Archaeology Research Day at Cambridge University, which I attended through the generosity of Rob Foley and the Leverhulme Centre for Human Evolutionary Studies at the University of Cambridge.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyCalifornia State UniversitySan BernardinoUSA

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