African Archaeological Review

, Volume 21, Issue 2, pp 59–88 | Cite as

Archaeology of Slavery in East Africa

  • Chapurukha M. Kusimba


African archaeology has primarily been concerned with precolonial Africa. Consequently, the archaeology of colonial and postcolonial Africa has been neglected, in spite of the fundamental importance of how Africa's relationships with Eurasia after 1488 shaped its history. Although the slave trade was an important aspect of post-sixteenth century experiences of Africans, current research methodologies make the archaeology of slavery in Africa nearly impossible because evidence of the slave trade or slavery--including slave quarters, cemeteries, holding areas, shackles, and dungeons--can be interpreted in various ways. In this article I argue that the archaeology of slavery and the slave trade in Africa is possible. Like history and economics, archaeology is well placed to investigate slavery in Africa as it already does effectively in the Americas. Using the study of defensive rock shelters in Southeast Kenya as an example, I propose that the systematic archaeology of slavery in Africa is not only possible, but also should break new grounds and develop an innovative methodology for studying slavery. L'archéologie africaine a été principalement concernée par l'Afrique précoloniale. Par conséquent, l'archéologie de l'Afrique coloniale et postcoloniale a été oubliée, malgré l'importance fondamentale de la façon dont les rapports de l'Afrique avec Eurasia après 1488 ont tracé son histoire. Bien que le commerce d'esclaves soit un aspect important des expériences africaines du post-seizième siècle, les méthodologies courantes de recherches rendent l'archéologie de l'esclavage en Afrique presque impossible car l'évidence du commerce ou de l'esclavage - comprenant les quarts, les cimetières, les camps, des cachots, et des donjons des esclaves - peut être interprété de diverses manières. Dans cet article, j'argue du fait que l'archéologie de l'esclavage et le commerce d'esclaves en Afrique est possible. Comme l'histoire et les sciences économiques, l'archéologie est bien placée pour effectuer l'étude de l'esclavage en Afrique comme elle l'est déjà efficacement en Amérique. En utilisant l'étude des abris rocheux défensifs au Kenya du sud-est comme exemple, je propose que la systématique de l'archéologie de l'esclavage en Afrique est non seulement possible, mais devrait également permettre de franchir de nouveaux pas et de développer une méthodologie innovatrice dans l'étude de l'esclavage.

slavery slave trade warfare precolonial Africa East Africa 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Chapurukha M. Kusimba
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyAfrican Archaeology and EthnologyChicago

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