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African Archaeological Review

, Volume 29, Issue 2–3, pp 273–292 | Cite as

Two Vanished African Maritime Traditions and a Parallel from South America

  • Roger Blench
Original Article

Abstract

Maritime traditions that extend along coastlines are more vulnerable to disruption and disappearance than areal trading networks. The paper describes two cases from Africa, the likely early movement of Bantu speakers down the coast of West Africa and the Swahili trading diaspora that reached southern Mozambique by at least the seventh century. Both of these have disappeared from the ethnographic and historical record but can be recovered through archaeology and linguistics. A parallel is made with the trade route that linked the coastal region of Peru and Ecuador with Western Mexico and may have been active from as early as 4,000 bp until the Spanish conquest. The hypothesis is that areal networks, such as those in island Southeast Asia and the Pacific, which are driven by colonisation and bidirectional exchange, are more likely to persist because they are more resilient due to the number of broken ‘links’ they can withstand. Linear expansions may be driven by a quest for trade and resources but are usually not necessary to survival.

Keywords

Seafaring technology Africa Bantu South America Linguistics Linear networks 

Résumé

Les traditions maritimes qui s’allonge les littoraux sont plus vulnérables a être rompus que les réseaux aréales. La communication décrit deux cas de l’Afrique, le mouvement probable des locuteurs de langues Bantoues vers la sud, sur la cote Ouest de l’Afrique, et le diaspora Swahili qui s’atteigne le sud de Mozambique par le septième siècle. Tous les deux sont couramment disparus, mais leurs structures peuvent être récupéré à travers l’archéologie et la linguistique. Une comparaison est faite avec une réseau parallèle qui a lié la littoral de Pérou et Ecuador avec l’ouest de Mexique qui a peut-être commencé par 4,000 bp et qui a duré jusqu’a la conquête par les Espagnoles. La hypothèse est que les réseaux aréales peuvent survivre parce qu’ils ont plus de résilience a cause de la nombre de liens rompues ils peuvent supporter. Les expansions linéaires peuvent être stimulés par la quête pour la commerce et les ressources, mais en générale ils ne sont pas nécessaires pour survivance.

Notes

Acknowledgments

Thanks to Thilo Schadeberg, Koen Bostoen, the editors and three anonymous referees for helpful comments in improving the argument of the paper. Thanks to Marieke Martin and Dan Duke both for help with logistics and fieldwork and Robert Hedinger and Stephen Anderson for facilitating work in Cameroun. Fieldwork was conducted under the auspices of the MoU between Wycliffe International and the Ministère de la Recherche Scientifique et de l’Innovation (MINRESI) of the Government of Cameroun.

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Kay Williamson Educational FoundationCambridgeUK

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