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African Archaeological Review

, Volume 31, Issue 4, pp 705–724 | Cite as

Land and Sea Links: 1500 Years of Connectivity Between Southern Africa and the Indian Ocean Rim Regions, ad 700 to 1700

  • Shadreck Chirikure
Original Article

Abstract

From the mid-first millennium ad onwards, southern Africa gradually became enchained to the Indian Ocean rim region, initiating over 1500 years of commodities and values exchange, which linked and transformed not just coastal regions but also their conjoined hinterlands in contrasting ways. Southern Africa and the Indian Ocean worlds had varying resource gradients which naturally stimulated conditions for trade and exchange relationships. Because of its strategic position, coastal east Africa acted as a conduit which enjoyed benefits from outbound and inbound commercial traffic. Whilst a lot of emphasis was traditionally placed on understanding the effect of Indian Ocean connections on coastal communities on the one hand, and hinterland communities on the other, little empirical research has focused on the links between individual coastal regions and their hinterlands. The implicit archaeological undercurrent is that the hinterland was always on standby to accept whatever the coast bestowed upon it—making every item of exotic origin a status icon in the interior. The popularity of commodities such as glass beads, cowrie shells and copper alloy objects, whose colours were compatible with preexisting cultural logics, when compared with the lack of popularity of imported ceramics, exposes that hinterland communities exercised a great deal of agency when accepting or rejecting inbound values and objects. Such selection processes account for why imported ceramics were popular on the coast but failed to appeal to interior populations, where local pottery was deeply wrapped up in transformation, theology and gender relations. This paper explores the archaeology of these processes and their consequences, from ad 700 to ca. 1700. It shows that whilst imports were incorporated into the hinterland value system, a great deal of continuity and change in selectivity forced the Indian Ocean world to stick to local tastes.

Keywords

Southern Zambezia Prior logics Connectivity Interaction Technology and value transfer 

Résumé

À partir du milieu du premier millénaire après J.-C., l'Afrique australe est devenu progressivement enchaîné à la région de bord de l'océan Indien, le lancement plus de 1500 ans d'échange des produits de base et les valeurs, qui relie et transformé de façon contrastée, les régions côtières et pas seulement, mais aussi leurs arrière-pays. Afrique australe et la monde d'océan Indien avaient divers gradients de ressources qui a stimulé naturellement conditions pour les relations commerciales et d'échange. En raison de sa position stratégique, les côtes d'Afrique a agi comme un conduit qui a bénéficié des avantages du trafic commercial entrant et sortant. Alors que beaucoup d' accent a été traditionnellement mis sur la compréhension de l'effet des connexions de l'océan Indien sur les communautés côtières d'une côte et l'arrière-pays sur l'autre, pas beaucoup de recherches empiriques ont porté sur les liens entre les régions côtières et leurs arrière-pays. Le sous-jacent archéologie implicite est que l'arrière-pays était toujours en attente d'accepter quelle que soit la côte accordé sur elle - faire de chaque article d'origine exotique, une icône d'état à l'intérieur . La popularité des produits de base tels que des perles de verre, des cauris et des objets en alliage de cuivre dont les couleurs étaient compatibles avec les logiques culturelles pré- existant par rapport à l'absence de popularité de céramiques importées, expose cependant que les communautés de l'arrière-pays exerçaient une grande partie de l'agence lors de l'acceptation ou rejet des valeurs et des objets entrants. Cette sélection traite expliquer pourquoi céramiques importées étaient populaires sur la côte, mais n'a pas fait appel aux populations intérieures où la poterie locale a été profondément enveloppé dans la transformation, la théologie et les relations de genre. Ce document explore l'archéologie de ces processus et de leurs conséquences, de 700 à c.1700 J.-C. Il montre que tandis que les importations ont été incorporés dans le système de valeur de l'arrière-pays, beaucoup de continuité et de changement de la sélectivité a forcé le monde de l'océan Indien à coller aux goûts locaux.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.PERC, Research OfficeUniversity of Cape TownCape TownSouth Africa
  2. 2.Department of ArchaeologyUniversity of Cape TownCape TownSouth Africa

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