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date: 20 August 2017

Primary Historical Sources in Archaeology: Methods

Abstract and Keywords

While there are a handful of defined methods for working with primary historical sources in archaeology, few archaeologists take these as their main points of departure or rely upon them too rigidly. This is to do both with the highly variable nature of the historical and archaeological material available for certain African contexts, and also with how archaeologists conceive of the relationship between these two bodies of evidence: as antagonistic, supplementary, entangled and subjective, mutually creative, and so on. Some methodologies focus on the potentials for consonance and dissonance between written and material sources. Others utilize oral traditions to provide insights into chronology, memory, historical and political dynamics, and the material aspects of these. Still other approaches focus on how historical and archaeological sources offer complementary perspectives on the local and the global, events and processes, and other shifts in scale. While these methods are diverse and contingent, they are united insofar as archaeologists take their cues from objects and from preoccupations with time and space. Archaeologists see their work concerning primary historical sources not as filling in gaps in written records but as addressing the partialities of the records themselves by engaging with an array of complex questions about meaning, authority, and materiality

Keywords: archaeology, primary historical sources, methodology, Africa, colonialism, historical archaeology, material culture, slavery, landscape

Sources and Perspectives in the Archaeology of African History: An Orientation

Archaeologists who work with primary historical sources in Africa do not necessarily consider themselves to be historical archaeologists. This is a good place to begin a discussion about the methods that archaeologists apply to primary sources. Africanist archaeologists may work with historical sources not simply or not only because they have questions about the historical past, but because historical sources constitute one of several broad bodies of evidence offering insight into pasts of varying depth, breadth, and texture. So, rather than begin by listing the historical materials that archaeologists use (this follows shortly), it is perhaps more useful to open with the observation that archaeologists’ relationships with this wide array of sources are variegated and complicated, and always question where archaeologists position themselves relative to different temporalities—the temporalities of historical, material, environmental, and sometimes contemporary ethnographic bodies of evidence.

Debates surrounding the label of “historical archaeology” itself illustrate this preoccupation with time, perspective, and sources. “Historical archaeology” is a designation that has been frequently revisited and revised over the past nearly four decades, with critiques centered on the questions of “when does history start?,” “whose history are we discussing?,” and “how do we read the alignments and mis-alignments between archaeological and historical records?”1

Early investigations of Africa’s recent past were largely monumental in focus: studies of castles and forts such as Elmina Castle in Ghana, Fort Jesus in Kenya, and Kilwa in Tanzania complemented documentary sources produced by Europeans.2 This was “text-aided” archaeology, and its answer to the questions just listed was that historical archaeology was co-eval with the documentary record.3

In step with global turns in archaeological thought, from the 1980s the focus shifted toward recovering subaltern pasts and identities that were marginalized or silenced in the sorts of documents that “text-aided” archaeology privileged. Africanist archaeologists had been engaging with oral histories and oral traditions since the 1970s, and these sorts of “un-official” sources (including personal archives and materiel not produced through colonial agents) came very much to the fore as a means of voicing African pasts that had long been silenced.4 Historical archaeology could thus provide more “democratic” perspectives on colonialism, capitalism, state power, and other phenomena that characterized the last 500 years of global history.5

Following from these shifts, the conversation has continued to turn toward the archaeology of the modern world. Here, “the modern world” is a way of exploring how the global and the local were created in tandem with each other: how localities were shaped as unique places within global systems tied together through capitalism, colonialism, and so on.6 This framework encourages exploring how the modern world was produced through the intersections of material culture and other sources (including oral and written sources), and using these materials to critically interrogate how global “-isms” manifest themselves alongside more local dynamics of political power and identification, gender and sexuality, inequality, and landscape use. The Historical Archaeology Research Group at the University of Cape Town was particularly significant in facilitating this turn in the late 1980s and 1990s. Their work addressed the intersections of abundant 18th- and 19th-century letters, government documents, city plans, and probate records with vernacular architecture and archaeological deposits in both Cape Town and its hinterland to illustrate how particularities of life in the Cape emerged amid expanding Dutch and British colonialism.7

This historiographic sketch is drawn in very broad strokes to try and illustrate how archaeologists—especially those who consider themselves “historical archaeologists”—have generally positioned themselves relative to historical sources, and the sorts of perspectives that they have used historical sources to retrieve. Within these and other orientations, archaeologists engage with a broad range of source materials along with an overarching focus on the material world. Trading manifests permit insight into the nature of imports and exports from mercantile centers. Ethnographic sources (which can serve as historical sources in African contexts with long traditions of ethnological research) inform on material culture that may not persist in the archaeological record. Historical maps and travelers’ accounts disclose information about how place names, environment, landscape, and perceptions thereof may have changed over time. Archaeologists often “ground-truth” information collated from historical sources, conducting surveys and excavations that will produce material in the places where documents suggest they will, or where material on the ground disagrees with documentary descriptions. Archaeologists may also take a more combative or contradictory approach to documentary sources, probing where material and oral sources contradict these, as we shall see.

However, archaeologists also contend with places where primary historical sources are scanty, absent, or deeply flawed. As Cameron Monroe and Akinwumi Ogundiran observe, historical source material covers Africa unevenly across space and time, resulting in areas that “stand out historically in high relief”—as, borrowing Marshall Sahlins’s phrase, islands of history amid a sea of documentary silence.8 In these situations, government documents and travelers’ accounts may direct attention to where these gaps lie, and epistolary sources may illustrate how such unknown places were figured in colonial imagination.

Archaeologists also may draw on primary historical sources to illuminate aspects of the past that are more distant than the sources themselves. Oral histories and traditions may offer insight into precolonial political traditions and population movements, as well as what may be forgotten or excluded from contemporary discussions of heritage. Some archaeologists use ethnographic sources to create analogies that aid in discussing the significance of certain forms of material culture such as rock art and settlement patterns that were produced over a millennium ago.

Within these few examples, it becomes clearer why historical archaeology and working with historical sources are not one and the same undertaking. It also becomes clear that the methods that archaeologists employ when using these sources vary depending on the nature of the sources available, the depth and breadth of time scales under consideration, and—perhaps more than anything else—the questions being asked of the material record.

While there are a handful of defined methods for working with primary sources, few archaeologists take these as their main point of departure for their research or rely upon them too rigidly. Historians in particular should consider the sprawling array of archaeological work using primary historical sources as united by one overarching principle: archaeologists take their cues from the material world. Of course, materials (whether artifacts or environmental traces) are not separate from humans or human agency; that is what makes them such powerful sources of information. The point is that while some of this corpus may seem more historical or anthropological than archaeological, and while there is tremendous diversity in methodologies concerning primary historical sources, an archaeological approach emphasizes the material world and perspectives on people, space, and time that it offers.

It bears noting that there are many significant debates and concerns surrounding the use of Arabic sources that are not summarized here, as these fall outside of my purview. Readers with a special interest in this subject matter should consult, among other related works, research by Tim Insoll.9

Seeing (Primary Historical Sources) Like an Archaeologist

To be able to read, understand, and interpret the scholarly literature on archaeological uses of primary historical sources, it is useful to orient historians with respect to archaeological thought—or, put differently, to outline some ways of seeing like an archaeologist, and describe some intellectual habits that influence how archaeologists use primary historical materials.

The first and perhaps most obvious thing to point out is that historians and archaeologists work at different temporal and spatial scales. David Schoenbrun has noted that producing what he calls “heterotemporal histories”—narratives about the past drawing on different sorts of primary data—have “strange textures and contents because of the different scales at which environmental, archaeological, anthropological, linguistic, and historical evidences operate.”10 Schoenbrun refers partly to the difficulties inherent in getting moments in the historical past to match up with moments in the archaeological past. Historical sources often deal in dated episodes bounded in terms of days and years; archaeological sources deal in less fine-grained slices of time, with periods in the past bounded by decades or centuries rather than single years or dates. Archaeology thus often deals in processes rather than events, and in the visibility of polities rather than individuals.11

A related issue is how archaeologists periodize time. In some cases, such as West Africa and the Swahili Coast, it is possible to divide time based on the rule of leaders or lineages, and thus nuance blocks of time (over a millennium in some places) for which there may be corresponding historical sources. In other cases—particularly in socially, politically, and economically marginal areas—this is not so clear-cut. Southern Africa provides a particularly difficult example. There, the convention is to divide archaeological time into several ages—modeled on the British “age/stage” system—according to the presence of broadly different subsistence economies.12 The Later Stone Age (LSA) describes the period when hunter-gatherer lifeways existed, from roughly 20,000 years ago until the late 2nd millennium ce, the Iron Age (IA) began when Bantu-speaking farmers migrated to the subcontinent around 2,000 years ago and tapers off in the late 18th/early 19th centuries, and the historical period (associated with the archaeology of mostly white or urban spaces) pertains to the time post-1652 when Europeans arrived. The problem with this scheme is obvious: hunter-gatherers, farmers, and Europeans may have lived and interacted in the same place and time (e.g., a mission station), but the first did so within the LSA, the second within the IA, and the third within the historical period. The consequences of this framework are not as visible in the interpretations that archaeologists develop as in the sources with which they engage: archaeologists of the LSA may rely more heavily upon material culture than on archives,13 whereas archaeologists of the IA and historical period may engage more intensively with oral histories, documents, and genealogies.14

It is also worth considering how archaeologists see their units of analysis or, put differently, what they take as their entry points into the study of history. Archaeologists follow material cues; do they follow these with an eye toward discerning past practices, economies, linguistic groups, landscapes, or other conceptual categories? Historians and archaeologists alike have written against archaeologists’ reliance upon categories like “Bantu-speaker” or “tribe” to organize our thoughts about the past, and these cautions are worth heeding.15 However, to craft narratives spanning long periods of time, archaeology builds upon other archaeology, meaning that archaeologists will look to what other settlements, economies, linguistic groups, or places are doing at a given time to explain and contextualize new finds. Archaeologists still keep a critical eye on how such categories influence the ways in which they build their models of the past or organize their thoughts—they do not lose sight of the fact that these categories are just that, organizing principles that can be altered. For a historian working with an archaeological discussion that draws on historical sources, it is important to ask what the archaeological study takes as its unit of analysis, how this unit was derived or constructed, and how the archaeologist links the dirt and archival records.

Finally, and given the rise in collaborative efforts between archaeologists and historians, it is important to inquire as to the division of intellectual labor in these projects,16 to ask of a collaborative study who took on the task of addressing primary historical materials. In some cases, there is a bright line between historians’ remit and archaeologists’: written and oral traditions are primarily or solely the province of historians, and the material record of archaeologists. In others, the division of labor is not so stark: archaeologists will take on historical materials themselves and ask their own research questions of this material. This may seem an obvious distinction to make, but as such collaborative studies are becoming increasingly common, it is worth pausing when one encounters them to inquire how knowledge is being produced in each situation.


This section describes methods that have achieved a consensus and—to highlight some of the methodological uncertainties involved—outline some questions that archaeologists ask of primary sources. Each section follows roughly the following format: a theoretical background and explanation for a methodology, one or two case studies illustrating how it is used, and a list of further readings in archaeology and history using or revising the methodology.

Along and Against the Grain: Some Broad Arguments and Starting Points

Early archaeological explorations of African history did not challenge or critique historical interpretations, but rather sought to identify places and architecture described in (mostly colonial) literature.17 These works are characterized by an almost unquestioning acceptance of the accuracy and validity of Anglophone, Lusophone, Francophone, and Arabic historical sources.

Archaeological methods for working with historical sources have become substantially more critical and complex since these early studies. Some have suggested that archaeological treatments of historical sources can be divided into two basic approaches: additive and disjunctive.18 Additive methods entail “expanding upon historical sources” by using them to guide archaeological research; disjunctive methods emphasize seeking where archaeology breaks with or contradicts the historical record. This differentiation can be compared with reading archives along versus against the grain:19 in these cases, it is archaeology that is being “read” along or against documents.

Discussions of additive versus disjunctive methods have taken the position that the two are largely mutually exclusive, and that the latter is more “correct” if one accepts that archaeology should concern itself with recovering voices silenced or misrepresented in the historical record. The argument is that historical sources offer narratives that archaeology must correct or dispute, either by revealing other primary sources that are more “authentic” or democratic (oral traditions, for instance) or by offering material evidence that conditions in the past were different from how they are portrayed in documents.20 Archaeologists who subscribe to this dichotomy almost universally place themselves in the “disjunctive” camp.

By contrast, other archaeological work takes a dissonant approach to historical sources rather than a disjunctive one—this is not splitting hairs, but distinguishing between archaeologists who take a combative stance toward historical materials and those who see dissonances between the archaeological and historical records as illuminating rather than invalidating.

Direct Historical Approach

Engagements with historical sources have undergone many transformations over the past few decades, but perhaps the most appropriate place to start is with how constructing ethnographic analogies—a feature of archaeological thought in the 1980s and early 1990s—led archaeologists to work with historical sources. Ethnographic analogy is discussed in another article in this series; here it is worth noting how it compelled archaeologists who may not have considered themselves historical archaeologists to grapple with primary historical materials.

The development of anthropology within and about Africa has resulted in a wealth of detailed ethnographic material pertaining to certain contexts. The question of whether or how to use these sources has preoccupied archaeologists for the last several decades, in terms of both their methodologies and their ethics:21 if an archaeologist uses ethnographic sources to reconstruct past lifeways, how do they decide which ethnographies are the most appropriate for that archaeological context?22

The direct historical approach was one way forward—key texts include writing by Robert Ascher, Ann Brower Stahl, and Alison Wylie.23 The premise of this methodology was that establishing a historical connection between ethnographic sources and archaeological contexts validated the use of that ethnography to interpret the archaeology. With this connection established, contemporary and recent material culture provided a reference point that could be used to identify the same or related cultures in the past.24

The direct historical approach, then, entails two major methodological demands: establishing a historical connection or “fit” between an ethnographic source and a subject of inquiry into the past (whether recent or deep),25 and then observing which evidence is not explained or captured by this “fit.” It is worth noting that the aim is not to find an all-encompassing ethnographic model, but to see where the material record may push against or fail to conform to our expectations. The direct historical approach can therefore involve rigorous investigations of how a body of ethnographic data was compiled—including the biases, uncertainties, and peculiarities of its historical production.

This sort of engagement with primary sources appears in, for instance, David Lewis-Williams’s work on southern African rock art. In the early 1980s, Lewis-Williams proposed the “shamanistic” or “trance hypothesis” to explain the social context of rock art production and consumption by hunter-gathers within the LSA.26 His hypothesis rested on what has been described as an ethnographic tripod:27 the nearly 14,000-page collection of verbatim testimonies collected by the linguist Wilhelm Bleek and Lucy Lloyd in the 1870s from San (Bushman) informants in English and their native |Xam, a short but dense article written by the Cape officer Joseph Millerd Orpen in 1874 and relating the testimony given by a San man called Qing made while viewing rock art in the highlands of the Maloti-Drakensberg Mountains,28 and modern ethnographic work among Kalahari San carried out by, among others, the Marshall family (particularly Lorna Marshall) and the Harvard Kalahari Research Group (particularly Megan Biesele and Richard Katz). Lewis-Williams found detailed points of correspondence between specific rock art images and a suite of beliefs and stories that were present through each source in his ethnographic tripod: descriptions of spiritual leaders (“shamans”) harnessing animals’ innate potency to induce trance states in order to drive out sickness, a process that entailed transformations into part-animal beings (therianthropes) and behaviors meant to “tame” animals that were both supernatural and real. Lewis-Williams articulated a historical materialist theory of rock art’s social content, in which “art was part of a symbolic and ideological practice which dealt with the reproduction of world order and the social processes of production.”29

Critics have argued that Lewis-Williams’s model takes for granted the historical connections between the 19th-century Bleek-Lloyd informants and 20th-century Kalahari San, and that the model is ahistorical.30 Lewis-Williams and others responded in several general moves: offering more detailed historical analysis of the relevant ethnographic source materials,31 refining the shamanstic model to account for considerations of changing gender roles and spirituality,32 and offering temporally bounded and thus historically situated interpretations of art where possible, something that recent breakthroughs in radiometric dating of rock art pigments has greatly assisted.33 Perhaps the most important methodological point is that the strength of Lewis-Williams’s interpretive framework derives from the art itself: the imagery offers rich and detailed comparison with the cosmological, ontological, and sociopolitical contexts that have been fleshed out from these sources over decades of careful historical ethnographic research.

Other archaeologists have attempted to apply the direct historical approach to link San and southern Bantu-speaker ethnography to the archaeology of the LSA and the IA, respectively. Lyn Wadley used descriptions of delayed-reciprocity gift exchanges among Kalahari San to interpret certain LSA sites as displaying patterns of aggregation and dispersal related to these exchanges.34 Tom Huffman used historical and recent Southern Bantu–speaker ethnographies to posit symbolic explanations for images like birds and crocodiles at Great Zimbabwe.35 These approaches did not have the same consonances between the archaeological record and primary historical sources as Lewis-Williams’s, both because the archaeological records were less detailed, and because the historical materials simply did not provide enough detail to work with, at least without more critical engagement.36 It must be said that Wadley and Huffman were not concerned primarily with the historicity of the anthropological source material upon which they drew;37 the comparison between their work and Lewis-Williams’s is relevant to underscore the variety of forms that the direct historical approach can take.

A consistent critique of the direct historical method is that it is prejudiced toward detecting continuity between past and present rather than change: archaeologists can become fixated on points of correspondence between historical sources and subjects in the past, rather than paying attention to where these diverge or where sources failed to capture the nuances of events and people in the past. Ann Brower Stahl’s concern with how archaeologists, anthropologists, and historians have modeled “culture contact” led her to produce one of the most comprehensive evaluations of the direct historical approach.38 Stahl’s later work on “cabling and tacking” expanded upon her discussion of direct historical methods, clarifying that a unidirectional “upstreaming” from modern ethnographic analogy into the past produces overly simplistic narratives. Thus, while Stahl’s work is no longer closely aligned with the direct historical approach, her early treatments of the methodology are relevant here.

Stahl argues that primary historical and ethnographic sources have too often been used to produce a vision of the archaeological, precolonial past that serves as a baseline against which to evaluate change wrought by colonization and expanding global trade. One of her overriding concerns is with how categories and juxtapositions like “traditional/modern” and “pre-contact/post-contact” has conditioned or constrained our assumptions about what the precolonial may have looked like. At the heart of Stahl’s use of the direct historical approach are two conceits: (1) that historical and ethnographic sources can reveal relationships between ideas and objects in peoples’ past lives but that these relationships are “unevenly glimpsed through different sources,”39 and (2) that rather than paying attention to where archaeological observations match up with historical sources, archaeologists should focus on the contradictions or silences between the two. Practically, this means that archaeologists must examine the epistemic foundations and political, economic, and social contexts in which historical sources were produced. Stahl’s work thus draws on Michel-Rolph Trouillot’s scholarship and resonates with Ann Laura Stoler’s later discussions of “epistemic objects.”40

Writing of the last 700 years in Ghana’s Banda region, the relevant primary historical sources betrayed concerns with European mercantilism and Asante expansionist politics, and treated Banda as a hinterland or frontier society. Early observations sketched normative “facts” for Europeans making forays inland from coastal settlements and dealing with Asante chiefs. Historical descriptions of Banda’s material culture and inhabitants were in keeping with this reconnaissance perspective: comments on supposedly standardized village layouts, craft production, agriculture and economy, and so on. For Stahl, these reports are biased but not useless.

It is useful to emphasize one aspect of Stahl’s direct historical approach. This approach entails relating archaeological evidence to observations in historical and ethnographic sources, the idea being that the stronger, more numerous, and more detailed the points of correspondence between archaeological subject and historical source, the stronger the logical case will be for using the latter to explain the former. Stahl demonstrates that this method could and should account for how these historical sources were produced—with all their biases and omissions—and how these generated assumptions, “facts,” or narratives about the past.

Cabling and Tacking

Theoretical successors to the direct historical approach further interrogated the relationships between historical source and archaeological subject: producing archaeological interpretations was just as subjective and political as producing historical narratives, and these moments of knowledge production—it was argued—should be investigated alongside each other.41 These theoretical shifts included a focus on multi-vocality in the past:42 archaeologists could recover not just one narrative of past culture, but multiple voices describing identities and experiences rooted in, for instance, race and gender.

A suite of approaches to primary sources emerged that asked questions such as: Can archaeologists approach finding “meaning” in texts the same as “meaning” in objects? When comparing multiple kinds of historical source material with archaeological material, how do archaeologists address the differences in scale and detail available for each kind of material? What are archaeologists’ obligations when using primary historical sources—should they have exhaustive knowledge of archives and the languages in which documents are written? Archaeologists employing the direct historical approach had asked these questions, but there the locus of knowledge production was in the “fit” between source and subject, rather than in the processes whereby source and subject were created in the first place. Additionally, archaeologists’ moves to draw on a wider body of non-archaeological materials (oral histories, archives, maps, photographs, etc.) provoked concerns to understand how each of these diverse bodies of evidence were produced;43 the direct historical approach is not as well suited to these multisource engagements.

Cabling and tacking is a broad methodology that addresses these issues; the keystone texts for this are by Alison Wylie.44 Cabling and tacking takes many forms depending on the archaeologist and the nature of the archaeological and historical material, but its basic principles can be illustrated allegorically. Imagine that within a field of investigation (the Bight of Bénin in 1780, a Zanzibari plantation in 1881, etc.), each body of evidence represents a different narrative, or strand. Each strand has its own subjectivities and partialities related to how it was assembled—whether colonial archives, oral traditions, or excavation data. Some strands are thinner or thicker than others (there may be more extensive documentation on an area than there is archaeological material) and may represent different scales of analysis, but no strand is necessarily foundational. Assembling these strands into an interdisciplinary narrative involves threading the strands together to create a dense, interlinked cable. Strands may match at given points or not: alignments and misalignments are both useful. Archaeologists then “tack” back and forth between the strands to reconstruct views of the past.

Cabling and tacking has several advantages.45 First, it acknowledges the subjectivities inherent in how each strand of the cable was created. Wylie’s original formulation of this methodology was derived from critical theory and philosophies of science, and as such encouraged researchers to reflect seriously upon how their disciplinary and cultural habits may influence how they questioned each strand. Second, on their own, documents, oral histories, and material culture may not be able to provide a sufficiently comprehensive view of a historical period. Cabling and tacking offers a way to achieve a more detailed, textured perspective than one single body of evidence may provide. Third, moving between these bodies of evidence keeps archaeologists alert to the differences in spatial and temporal scale, and also in resolution, that each body of evidence can provide.

Stahl’s Making History in Banda has become a classic example of cabling and tacking. In this and related work, she describes the last 700 years of history in Banda through a combination of archival and archaeological materials, and historical and modern ethnographies. The relevant historical sources (maps, ethnological observations in letters and reports) disclose an interest in Banda related to the expansion of European mercantilism, at least in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Stahl interrogates how these maps, letters, and reports created “facts” about chiefdoms, village life, economies, and agriculture that became embedded in European descriptions of West African “others,” especially as colonial officials edited archives to retain only “relevant” portions of these cultural fact-finding (or fact-making) missions. Oral histories and historical ethnographies are similarly patchy but span nearly 100 years of collection, and disclose preoccupations with asserting autochthony and political authority as much as with narrating experiences of material culture and “lived pasts.”46 Stahl cables these bodies of evidence together along with archaeological data to reveal, among other themes: how Banda’s “Golden Ages” (c. 1300–1700) were experienced and are narrated in the present; changes in taste—material preferences that are informed by and inform supply, demand, and historical situation—over the longue durée;47 and continuities and changes in aspects of village life like food production after colonial interventions encouraged village planning.48

Cabling and tacking does not encourage using bits of archaeological data to fill in missing information in the archival record. Instead, it entails paying attention to where silences and contradictions exist between bodies of evidence and interrogate why that might be. Consequently, and as with the direct historical approach, researchers using cabling and tacking as a methodology should be wary of concluding that strands of evidence fit or do not fit without thoroughly considering the subjectivities (excavation strategies, historical biases, etc.) that went into shaping each strand.

Archaeologists of African history may not always declare that they are employing cabling and tacking as a methodology, but the attention to dissonance among multiple sources described above features in work that is at least methodologically comparable. For example, Adria LaViolette has suggested that disagreement among foundational medieval and historical texts pertaining to the Swahili Coast (especially The Periplus of the Erythrean Sea) are a useful way to write more nuanced stories of Indian Ocean trade.49 Tim Insoll has noted that archaeologists and historians working in the Western Sahel and Sudan should assess more critically historical sources by Arab merchants and geographers, along with revisiting archaeological tendencies to overemphasize urban centers.50 As a corollary of cabling-and-tacking approaches, archaeologists often engage with modern or descendant communities, and so these methods often involve or intersect with community or participatory archaeology and discussions of heritage and ethics.51

Perspectival Shifts

Historical sources can sometimes orient archaeologists to particular scales of time and space, helping to place people and things in different historical contexts and thus change archaeological perspective. Archaeology operates at the scale of patterns, processes, and polities, but archaeologists often use historical sources to test, dispute, provide texture for, or explore these scales in greater detail.

In his work at Kilwa on the Swahili Coast, Jeffrey Fleisher gives a particularly good description of this: “Since the strength of archaeological materials and oral histories lies in their long-term patterned perspective, they are not event specific. In this way, the historical archaeologist uses this range of sources as a photographer manipulates the depth of field, without determined background or foreground, bringing various aspects of the photograph into focus to create an image.”52

Here, he is discussing his use of the Kilwa Chronicles, three versions of a king list that describe the dynasties and internal workings of Kilwa for the period including the 14th to 15th centuries ce, and the arrival of the Portuguese there in 1500. Fleisher contextualizes what Portuguese saw as the Sultan of Kilwa’s “rebellious” noncompliance with Portuguese commercial efforts by developing localized, introverted politico-economic scenes at Kilwa and comparing these with trade-oriented extroverted ones. Fleisher’s use of the Kilwa Chronicles offers insight into how the sultanate and its control over forms of trade (especially the gold trade) changed between the 13th and 16th centuries as dynasties fought for control of Kilwa and its hinterland. These struggles involved phases of building expansion, which Fleisher interprets as sultans’ attempting to present Kilwa as a model Islamic city. At the same time, excavations of smaller settlements at the coast and in the interior hinterland show changes in ceramic styles and concentrations of materials used to manufacture trade goods (e.g., spindle whorls). These suggest that contemporary with accounts of power struggles and the courting of international attention described in the Kilwa Chronicles, the sultanate was struggling to keep control of trade good production and (possibly through a new ceramic style) remind the hinterland of the sultanate’s presence. Fleisher’s work illustrates the utility of asking questions about spatial scales (e.g., urban/rural, international/local) and social contexts of consumption and production (e.g., introverted/extroverted) from historical and archaeological materials.53 Multi-scalar examinations of Swahili Coast trade feature in work by Adria LaViolette, Stephanie Wynne-Jones, Bertram Mapunda, and others. These works draw on an array of sources from broad range of linguistic backgrounds, with Arabic sources—especially accounts by traders—featuring prominently in accounts of how trade goods and slaves were transported along the Kenyan and Tanzanian coasts and across the Indian Ocean between the 10th and 14th centuries ce.54

Shifting perspectives on commercial cores and their hinterlands have similarly been a focus of archaeologists working on mercantile expansion and the transatlantic slave trade.55 For archaeologists interested in how global mercantilism between the 17th and 19th centuries changed social and political life within West Africa, historiographic tendencies to focus on large-scale commerce makes it difficult to tie historical literature to questions about local experiences. Where primary historical sources are not available for certain places, one approach has been to draw on historical sources to describe the social world and commercial ebbs and flows of major trade centers like Elmina and forts along the Bénin coast,56 and relate these to archaeological finds from the interior that illustrate how the reverberations of that trade manifested. West Africa has been a vibrant theatre for these sorts of conversations,57 and work in East Africa is currently addressing similar themes.58

Akinwumi Ogundiran’s research is an excellent example of how primary historical sources derived from trade epicenters can be brought into dialogue with hinterland histories of material culture. As mentioned above, transatlantic trade between the 17th and 19th centuries generated much primary historical material documenting the movement of trade goods: merchandise lists, ships’ logs, letters and diaries by traders, and so on. Using these sources as indices of changing preferences for commodity imports (i.e., not taking the numbers quoted as “true” but as suggestions of relative abundance), Ogundiran looks inland to ask what these commodities did when they arrived in Yorubaland: how they were incorporated in domestic economies, how people spoke of and saw them relative to familiar material culture, and how these sorts of commodities and the trade networks they entailed related to the emergence of complex states like the Oyo Empire.

In a study focusing on cowries and beads (made of bone, shell, metal, and glass), Ogundiran uses the above-mentioned historical sources, oral traditions (including mythology and performative genres), and archaeological material to describe how commodities figured in perceptions of social and economic change.59 While glass beads (originally derived from trans-Saharan trade) played an almost millennium-long, archaeologically attested role as both medium of exchange and symbol of wealth, within later phases of the transatlantic trade new quantities and types of beads came to embody authority, as oral traditions disclose. Cowries—introduced via the transatlantic trade in the 16th century—were quickly monetized and became the most pervasive type of commodity. Further, they were implicated in Yoruba ocean deities becoming imbued with attributes like fertility, prosperity, and wealth.

Excavations at Ede-Ile, a township that formed a gateway between coastal trade and the Oyo Empire, elaborated upon these observations on a micro-historical scale. Imported goods like textiles, tobacco, and cowries did not dominate Ede-Ile’s material culture, but stimulated more specialized production of local goods like metalwork, smoking pipes, and indigo textiles, which made the Oyo Empire competitive in both Atlantic and interior markets.60 In these and other publications, Ogundiran writes a long-term history of Yorubaland that acknowledges the role of transatlantic trade while foregrounding distinctly local trajectories of cultural creativity and political complexity.

Within southern Africa, shifting perspectives between cores and hinterlands offer an opportunity to highlight the use of Arabic historical sources. Large, statelike societies such as Mapungubwe in the 13th century and, in the 14th century, Great Zimbabwe were situated within vast trading networks that encompassed the margins of the Kalahari and the Indian Ocean coast via trading ports such as Kilwa. The prevalence of commodities such as glass beads likely produced in south or southeast Asia attest to these connections. Beads from earlier sites (c. 8th century ce) in the region further demonstrate Indian Ocean connections to the Middle East.61 Observations by Arab traders such as al-Mas’udi in circa 915 ce elaborate upon these networks, describing the movements of ivory across southern Africa, from the Kenyan and Tanzanian coast to the Limpopo Valley.62 Looking closely at what trade goods did once they arrived in the Shashe-Limpopo area, excavations of major centers like Mapungubwe, as well as smaller “hinterland” sites, demonstrates that the circulation of trade goods through these locales was not a straightforward function of elites controlling the distribution of goods to more peripheral settlements. For instance, an assemblage of 348 glass beads of trans–Indian Ocean origin at the hinterland site of Mutamba illustrates that, while small, non-elite sites may not boast the same array of exotic goods as Mapungubwe, they were not without their own connections to trading networks.63 Distinguishing between elites and non-elites, then, is not a simple matter of following trade routes from historical sources, but tracing what happens to commodities in particular local and regional contexts.64

Many of the perspectival shifts discussed or referenced here fall under the methodological heading of cabling and tacking. They are placed in a separate section to underscore that they are characterized by archaeologists paying special attention to the different scales of analysis offered by historical sources and archaeological material. These studies show how, in instances where directly relevant historical sources are lacking, it is nevertheless possible to draw on certain historical materials to write archaeological narratives.

Subaltern Shifts and Indigenous Perspectives

Since its arrival on the continent—especially in southern Africa—historical archaeology has emphasized recovering subaltern and Indigenous perspectives.65 In these studies, archaeologists look to primary historical sources to identify communities of Indigenous Africans and categories of people labeled as “savage” or “uncivilized,” and then focus their archaeological efforts on recovering perspectives of these peoples who were marginalized in archives.66

For instance, Carmel Schrire’s work at the Dutch garrison and refreshment station of Oudepost I focused on the impact of the colonial frontier on Khoe-San hunter-pastoralists at the Cape during the station’s occupation between 1669 and 1732.67 Historical sources such as letters between officials at the garrison and the Cape, and reports from the Dutch East India Company (VOC), described soldiers raising crops and stock and interacting minimally with Khoe-San; this was in keeping with contemporary VOC interdicts against trade with Africans. However, Schrire’s excavations revealed artifacts that she attributed to Indigenous hunter-pastoralists (e.g., worked stone and bone, pottery, and ostrich eggshell beads), and remains of wild and domesticate animals in quantities that may indicate extensive intrusion of soldiers into Khoe-San hunting and herding grounds. While Schrire’s descriptions of Dutch soldiers are more detailed than those of Africans, her use of historical sources to direct archaeological investigation toward marginalized peoples resonates with the aims of disjunctive or dissonant approaches outlined above.

Other examples of archaeological searches for people in the margins of historical documents include Martin Hall’s exploration of urban underclasses and subalterns in Cape Town between the 17th and early 19th centuries,68 and research by rock art scholars like Geoff Blundell, Sam Challis, and Lara Mallen on painted imagery associated with “Bushman” raiders in the 19th-century Maloti-Drakensberg Mountains.69

In these approaches, it is important to note that the studies just described do not lose sight of how the identities described in historical sources (“Bushmen,” “Bastaards,” etc.) are in themselves historical constructions, shaped through the perceptions and prejudices of literate observers as well as through the agency of the people whom they describe.70 The point is that in these studies archaeologists pay particular attention to people who appear as marginal or disenfranchised in historical sources, and direct their attention to addressing how these subalterns were miscast or overlooked through archaeological investigations.


The last ten years have seen an efflorescence of archaeological research into slavery—and, by extension, warfare and raiding—in Africa. This research, as Sarah Croucher described (echoing Joseph Miller), does not abstract slavery into an “institution” of controlling humans as property but pays attention to how slavery existed in historically particular ways.71 As such, this literature treats the appearance of the global slave trade not as a purely capitalist phenomenon, although it was undoubtedly a defining feature of global history. Instead, slavery is taken as part of a long-term history of practices involving capturing and transforming people into particular kinds of Other that occupied a range of social roles denoted by forced labor. Thus, methodologies associated with slavery in Africa address two broad concerns: how to describe slaves and slavery in the longue durée, and how the transatlantic and trans–Indian Ocean slave trades interacted with these histories.

Questions about how to discern slavery and slaves in the longue durée raise further methodological questions about the African past that can be grouped into three broad themes: labor systems, violence and warfare, and where—physically and geographically—slaves can be seen in the archaeological record.72

Questions about how forced labor functioned in the past have led archaeologists to investigate “vocabularies of status” accessible through oral histories and travelers’ accounts alongside archaeological material.73 For instance, Kevin MacDonald and Seydou Camara argue that histories of the Bamana state of Segou (c. 1700–1861) have overemphasized griotic accounts and thus produce overly heroized narratives that necessarily obscure narratives of slavery. Against these sources, they set sociolinguistic insights derived from modern oral histories and 19th-century travelers’ accounts, specifically where vocabularies disclose shades of meaning distinguishing among captives, purchased slaves, and slaves derived from within Bamana society.74 Further, by mapping a series of wall lines and settlements associated with phases of the Segou state—including a Sinfiso possibly reserved for members of a slave class—MacDonald and Camara note how “horizons of settlement and abandonment” may have related to acquiring slaves.75 Discussions of slavery in African labor regimes are also found in work by Cameron Monroe and Neil Norman.76

Achieving perspectives on slave raiding and warfare in Africa’s precolonial past is challenging for historians and archaeologists alike, both because of the potential for misconstrual in historical sources and because of the lack of uniform responses to violent conflict that are also visible archaeologically.77 Archaeologists may use oral traditions describing “refuge sites” to get a sense of what a slave-raiding landscape looked like (e.g., composed of defensive locations).78 For example, Natalie Swanepoel uses cabling and tacking among historical, archaeological, and oral historical sources to explore a “conflict landscape” that emerged in the 1860s in northern Ghana.79 Dispatches and “route books” produced by colonial officers describe skirmishes between African polities, and oral traditions elaborate upon experiences of conflict including siege and raiding missions. Swanepoel’s attention to how sites of conflict became shrines shows that an archaeological focus on place can highlight how historical meanings of warfare accrue and change over time.

This sort of approach is part of a larger, landscape-oriented move within archaeologies of African slavery. Discerning slavery and slaves in the archaeological record—especially within daily life rather than violent episodes—is challenging because material traces of slaves are often only defined in contrast to the people and classes that dominated a particular cultural and historical context.80 Further, slaves’ identities could change throughout their lifetimes since most slave-owning societies entailed different ways of being a slave, meaning that there is no one kind or suite of material culture that can be used to signal their presence.81 Interdisciplinary landscape-focused work of the sort described above is positioned to address some of these issues, and it features in work by authors included in Lane and MacDonald’s edited volume on slavery such as Anne Haour, Alfredo González-Ruibal, Niall Finneran, and Chapurukha Kusimba.82

This brings us to how the global slave trade interacted with these earlier histories of slavery. Sarah Croucher’s work particularly foregrounds how archaeological conversations about slavery and capitalism became intertwined.83 Focusing on 19th-century Omani-owned Zanzibari clove plantations, Croucher draws attention to how themes such as freedom and abolitionism, labor and output, and gender and autonomy are visible in archaeological, historical, and oral historical materials. As plantation owners left few documents and slaves left virtually none, Croucher draws on letters, diaries, and reports of British travelers and administrators. Although many of these documents derive from the late 19th century amid British pressure for the abolition of slavery in Zanzibar, in both private correspondence and public pamphlets British visitors to the plantations remarked upon what they perceived as slaves’ high quality of life and potential value within the plantation system.

Croucher uses these historical sources in several ways. Taking them in the broader contexts of abolitionist writing and British commercial interest in Zanzibari exports, she highlights the tensions and incongruities between late 19th-century ideas about freedom and desires to control labor so as to ensure crop output. Using these documents, Croucher outlines the “unrealized and improbable plans” for modifying plantation layouts so as to best oversee and regulate enslaved communities.84 In reality, the plantation’s spatial layout was not neatly segregated into enslaved and free, as Croucher’s excavations and surveys revealed: plantations included places where women of different social ranks interacted during domestic work,85 where provision yards and personal gardens offered slaves autonomy from their overseers, and where combinations of homogeneous, locally produced ceramics and exotic imports implied goods-exchange networks within the plantation that may have been part of slaves creating new identities.86 Croucher shows how these plantations occupied a unique sort of colonial space: while still being fraught with violence, they were places where slaves could be recognized as “subjects who had rights, and to whom plantation owners owed obligations,” particularly when slaves could “demonstrate their participation in Islamic coastal culture.”87

Transformations in slave and Swahili identities within coastal capitalist systems are a theme of work by, among others, Mark Horton, Chap Kusimba, Lydia Wilson Marshall, and Stephanie Wynne-Jones.88 Readers will also find that these studies resonate with historical work by, for instance, Jonathon Glassman, Justin Willis, James Giblin, and Frederick Cooper.89 In West Africa, mutli-disciplinary work charting the diasporic impact of the transatlantic slave trade includes research by Toyin Falola and members of the EUROTAST Project.90

Object Biographies

One of the most classic examples of how archaeologists take their cues from objects can be found in methodologies described as object micro-histories: utilizing attributes such as maker’s marks or other distinctive features that offer insight into how objects were produced, circulated, and used, and how they relate to other objects within the same genre or class of material. The Historical Archaeology Research Group at the University of Cape Town (which has included Antonia Malan, Martin Hall, Yvonne Brink, and Carmel Schrire) has produced an impressive body of scholarship exploring objects in this way, focusing on the period from the late 17th to early 19th centuries at the Cape. Not only do these sorts of micro-histories permit insight into the routes traversed and networks referenced by an ever-proliferating array of imported material culture, but where maker’s marks permit archaeologists to infer a date of production this helps to provide valuable chronological frameworks for excavated material.91

Object biography approaches to primary historical sources take these sorts of micro-historical investigations further. Foundational theoretical and methodological texts describing this approach include Nick Thomas’s Entangled Objects, Chris Gosden and Yvonne Marshall’s “The Cultural Biography of Objects,” and Igor Kopytoff’s “The Cultural Biography of Things.”92 Object biographies proceed from the premise that objects have life histories—including creation, use, circulation, and destruction—which develop alongside and amid human histories. Tracing the life histories of objects, then, provides insight not only into the contexts through which those objects move, but also into how objects themselves impact those contexts. Practically, reconstructing object biographies involves working with primary sources that include museum records and correspondence between collectors and curators. It also involves a significant amount of detective work following objects through catalogues, photographs, illustrations, and administrative documents between colony and metropole.

Chris Wingfield’s study of the collecting practices of the London Missionary Society (LMS) Museum is a good example of this methodology.93 The LMS Museum consisted of objects donated for display by missionaries from their travels abroad, and consequently it became a site in which missionary activities such as philanthropy, conversion, education, and suppression of the slave trade were memorialized and celebrated.94 It was also a space where broad swathes of the 19th-century British public encountered other cultures for the first time. Working from surviving catalogues, illustrations of the museum’s displays between 1843 and 1859, and the objects themselves, Wingfield explores how practices of collecting, arranging, and narrating the materials in the museum offer insight into how the LMS and its missionaries saw their labors.

For instance, Wingfield traces a stuffed giraffe procured by John Campbell during his stay at the Tswana town of Lattakoo (Dithakong) in 1813 to its display at the LMS Museum and its movement through the museum in subsequent years.95 Wingfield consulted Campbell’s diary, correspondence, and published account of his journeys to ask why Campbell may have wanted to keep the giraffe: as a hunting trophy (which he did not kill) and as emblematic of his African voyages. LMS Museum catalogues documented how the museum accessioned the giraffe in 1815, and illustrations from contemporary news sources showed the giraffe prominently displayed. From these same sources, Wingfield describes how the giraffe’s early display was part of the museum’s initial interest in natural history curiosities, which were strongly associated with Africa: in 1826, the museum had more objects from Africa than anywhere else, and the bulk of these were flora and fauna.

Over time, Wingfield argues, the museum’s emphasis on natural history was overtaken by an interest in objects associated with religious practice and superstition, including a focus on “idols” that overwhelmingly came from Asia and the Pacific. Museum catalogues, accounts from contemporary news sources, and illustrations of the museum’s changing layout show that the giraffe remained central to the museum’s display until at least 1859, but was eclipsed by an increasing number of “idols” and references to objects as “relics” of the LMS’s history. From 1859 until the museum’s closure and the dispersal of its objects in 1910, the giraffe disappeared from all historical materials except for a fleeting mention in a catalogue, and its fate remains unknown. Wingfield’s discussion of Campbell’s giraffe offers an understanding of how the LMS wanted to present its endeavors to the wider world—from precocious exploration to missionary heroism in eradicating “heathen” superstition.

Object biographical approaches characterize the work of, among others, Ashley Coutu, Sarah Longair, Catherine Elliott Weinberg, and Johanna Zetterstrom-Sharp.96 Some of these scholars may not consider themselves to be foremost archaeologists, but their focus on material culture encourages their inclusion in this category.

Some work falling in the category of museum studies chimes with the rise in historical scholarship on heritage studies.97 This perspective considers museums, public culture, and heritage discourse as institutions advancing forms of knowledge about or belonging in Africa. Here, it is important to distinguish this from object-based approaches that emphasize the centrality and agency of objects themselves as much as the people behind the objects.

Oral Histories

Archaeologists have approached oral historical sources in a few different ways, and a discussion of these must emphasize two major points: (1) these methods are distinct from ethnographic analogy and ethnoarchaeology,98 and (2) archaeologists’ methods with respect to oral historical sources differ markedly between oral histories collected in the past and those collected in the present. It is also worth drawing attention to Jan Vansina’s now-famous distinction between oral traditions and oral histories, which described how the former may constitute sources for history (although not immediately concerned with the past) while the latter represent narratives specifically about past events.99 Archaeologists have engaged with both of these kinds of sources—and with Vansina’s distinction between them—in different ways, and with different material foci. Vansina’s suggestion that archaeologists are constrained by the “muteness” of artifacts and a lack of contemporary testimony to facilitate their interpretation has been rebuffed over the past few decades, largely by archaeology’s turn toward the “multivocal” use of sources and considerations of the agency inherent in both humans and nonhumans.100 Similarly, archaeologists have rejected approaches to oral traditions that seek to recover the precolonial by stripping away “modernity” from oral sources to get at a “traditional” pre-contact past, especially as these often render material culture as simply signposts to social progression.101

Merrick Posnansky’s study of state formation in Uganda was foundational to developing methodologies combining archaeology and oral traditions.102 Posnansky queried how oral traditions could provide insight into Ankole royal settlement and state formation, combined with archaeological excavations at royal capitals such as Bweyorere. His study has been criticized for using archaeology to verify oral histories and overlooking how these histories were advancing political aims in the present. His work remains significant, however, for both its methodological contribution and its efforts to engage Vansina’s contemporary research in archaeological investigations.

Building on Posnansky’s methodology, Peter Schmidt combined extensive oral tradition collection (including oral histories), archaeological survey, and excavation in Tanzania to describe a long-term history of settlement and political complexity.103 Schmidt scrutinized oral sources to discern, among other themes, structural differences and narrative contradictions between genealogies of Kiziba and Kyamutwara kingdoms, how dynasties were sanctioned or opposed by spirit mediums, and the role of myth in these traditions. In so doing, Schmidt developed what he characterizes as historiographies of these ancestral kingdoms and of their modern descendant Bahaya polity. His excavation and survey related places, material culture, and exploitative technologies like iron working and agriculture to these historiographies. Schmidt did not simply seek to affirm his historiographies or fill in the gaps in his longer-term narrative of settlement and statecraft: he treated sites and shrines associated with certain past leaders as “mnemonic devices,” working to understand the interrelationships among shrine, historic memory, oral tradition, and archaeological practice. Schmidt accords archaeology an affective and narrative place in this sort of historical re-creation, a feature that persists through his subsequent work.104

Modern collections of oral traditions also feature prominently in research into the recent past by Wazi Apoh, Matt Davies, Caleb Folorunso, Kodzo Gavua, Alfredo González-Ruibal, Scott MacEachern, Akinwumi Ogundiran, Innocent Pikirayi, Natalie Swanepoel, Ann Stahl, and Jonathan Walz, among others.105 These approaches resonate with work by historians such as David Schoenbrun and Kathryn de Luna.106

Turning to methodologies associated with oral traditions collected in the past, it is worth drawing attention to one particular ethnographic corpus because of its remarkable size and detail, and also because of the scholarship it has generated. The Bleek-Lloyd Archive consists of over 14,000 pages of verbatim testimony from six |Xam Bushmen (five men and one woman), transcribed in English and |Xam by Wilhelm Bleek and Lucy Lloyd in the 1870s. Conversations among Bleek, Lloyd, and their informants covered topics such as kinship, hunting and resource procurement, folklore and mythology, commentary on redrawings of rock art and on floral and faunal specimens at the South African Museum, and so on. The full archive is available.

Recent studies have taken a historical ethnographic approach to the Bleek-Lloyd material, and relate insights regarding |Xam ontologies to archaeological and rock art studies. Mark McGranaghan’s work with the Bleek-Lloyd corpus has asked how |Xam regarded personhood and the suite of associations that personhood entails: views of difference and belonging,107 unruly versus “nice” or tame behavior in people and animals,108 and kinship discernible in naming practices.109 Methodologically, McGranaghan explores these themes through a fully searchable transcript of the Bleek-Lloyd Archive that he produced, and in which he can identify words and ideas in both English and |Xam.110 It thus becomes possible to explore how these words and ideas were contextualized within |Xam narratives, folklore, and responses to questions from Bleek and Lloyd. There is thus an element of sociolinguistics to this approach.111

Relating these ethnographic interventions to archaeology, McGranaghan surveyed the |Xam homeland in South Africa’s arid Karoo (the Strandberg hills) for engraved rock-art sites.112 The aim was not to find rock art made by |Xam Bushmen: rather, it was to investigate the art alongside |Xam informants’ testimonies to gain a more detailed understanding of the sociocultural and economic landscape that constituted informants’ erstwhile home. Engraved art from the Strandberg (often seen as graffiti) depicting ostriches and ostrich feathers, horses and mounted human figures pursuing ostriches, colonial material culture such as wagons and guns, and satirical imagery describe a landscape of layered cultural interactions amid expanding global markets, changing subsistence patterns, and pervasive violence. A growing global market for ostrich feathers heralded changes to land and labor regimes in the Karoo, with the result that many Bushmen (among other socially marginal communities) attempted to participate in these potentially lucrative networks. The Bleek-Lloyd informants’ testimonies describe the changes that these regimes wrought on their relationships to ostrich hunting and herd management. McGranaghan brings these experiences in dialogue with rock-art imagery that couples ostriches and horses to describe how hunter-pastoralists in the ostrich-feather trade navigated power relations on ostrich farms while earning a livelihood. By charting the increasing entanglement (by choice and by force) of hunter-pastoralists into the Karoo’s changing economic landscape, McGranaghan queries assumptions that Bushmen were annihilated or (broadly) acculturated. He suggests instead that rock art and ethnohistorical testimonies describe a situation in which new identities were articulated as the socioeconomic situation of the Karoo changed regional demography and produced new communities of farm laborers, all of which entailed cultural change visible in rock art.

The Bleek-Lloyd Archive is perhaps the largest and most detailed of an array of 19th- and early 20th-century ethnographic and ethnohistorical projects in southern Africa; as described above, archaeologists have long been preoccupied with whether and how best to treat these sources. Examples of different approaches can also be found in the work of Simon Hall (developing oral geographies of 18th- and 19th-century Tswana townscapes) and Gavin Whitelaw (relating pollution concepts to Iron Age settlement construction).113 Writing together in a recent paper, Whitelaw and Hall describe layered landscapes and shifting frontiers of the southern African interior through oral histories collected by ethnographers like James Stuart.114 This interrogation of ethnohistorical sources alongside the archaeological record forms part of a larger southern African multi-disciplinary movement to critically investigate how ethnohistorical archives gained their authority, and how these archives relate to archaeological and museum materiel; the relevant volume is Carolyn Hamilton and Nessa Leibhammer’s Tribing and Untribing the Archive.115

Landscape Histories

Within archaeological research, “landscape” is a term that has many connotations: from biological and climatological features like vegetation and soil erosion, to economic aspects like arable units of land, to cultural features like spiritual or cosmological associations with the environment. As such, archaeological approaches to landscape chime with geographers and social theorists interested in how people conceive of and use spaces and places—relevant theoretical literature includes writing by Henri Lefebvre, Tim Ingold, and Barbara Bender.116

One landscape approach that makes particular use of historical sources is landscape historical ecology, which addresses the historical trajectories of a landscape from cultural and ecological perspectives that foreground the social context of human–environment interactions. The focus falls on articulating human agency: environments present a limited range of economic opportunities, and people interact with and shape these environments based on an array of needs and desires, which means that landscape will always have a sociocultural and political frame.117

In East Africa, the Historical Ecologies of East African Landscapes (HEEAL) Project and its successor Resilience in East African Landscapes (REAL) Project have utilized a landscape historical-ecology approach to understanding ecological, social, and economic change over the past circa 1,500 years. Expanding 18th- and 19th-century European commercial interests in the East African interior resulted in increased demands for African commodities, which in turn impacted local ecologies, human and animal population health, and African and European perceptions of landscape and environment.118 Paul Lane and his students have embarked on an array of projects designed to investigate how people and their environments related to changing political, economic, and climatic factors, and one major strand of inquiry has included comparing European ideas about African land management with on-the-ground realities.

For instance, Lane examines how, beginning in the 19th century but extending until the early 2000s, “crisis” narratives of land degradation in Tanzania’s Kondoa district laid responsibility for soil degradation on cattle accumulation, overgrazing, and over-exploitation of forest resources by Tanzanians.119 These narratives are visible in reports within both Tanzanian and Kenyan governments and parastatal bodies, and also by international aid organizations, with the result that these conclusions about African land management (or lack thereof) became accepted wisdom. Lane and colleagues then conducted geoarchaeological research to reconstruct a history of soil erosion within Kondoa district, including obtaining radiometric dates on bodies of deposited sediments and ascertaining the geological processes behind how these sediments were moved. This research identified two main phases of soil erosion dating to between 14,500–11,400 years ago and 900–400 years ago, respectively—well before 19th- and 20th-century conventions held that African mismanagement initiated widespread erosion. In this and subsequent work, Lane and colleagues have juxtaposed historical narratives of landscape use with archaeological tools for understanding ecological processes. They offered useful correctives to these environmental narratives and retrieved information that aids in formulating strategies for sustainable landscape use in the present.

Archaeological approaches to landscape in the recent past in Africa are increasingly engaging with ideas about landscape and space as social and cosmological phenomena, and therefore as accessible through historical ethnographic enquiry. Examples of this include work by Ceri Ashley, Paul Lane, and this author.120

Discussion of the Literature

This essay is concerned with outlining the different ways in which archaeologists engage with primary historical sources and with highlighting some trends in archaeological thought. Within changing foci on the modern world, colonialism, and deeper pasts, archaeologists working in Africa have been spurred to critical engagements with primary sources—their subjectivities and relationships to the archaeological record. Archaeologists have been working with historical materials since the 1970s, and over the past few decades these engagements have increasingly emphasized questions of spatial and temporal scale, how or whether to discern agency in objects, and the visibility/invisibility of past peoples.

There are only a handful of widely agreed-upon methodologies for archaeological approaches to primary historical sources, but archaeologists are often led to such sources by taking their cues from objects, and from an interest in how time and space were experienced in the past. To that end, archaeologists are especially aware of and perhaps even anxious about alignments or (more often) misalignments of scale between historical sources and archaeological ones. Historical sources can deal in terms of dates, events, and persons, and archaeological sources in terms of processes, patterns, and polities. A substantial body of archaeological theory and method has been devoted to exploring ways of navigating these scalar discrepancies and creating dialogue between sources while probing for silences, mentions, and disjunctures. In these methodologies, knowledge production resides both in the creation of narratives about the past and in the interrogation of how the source materials themselves were produced.

Considering the diverse methods that archaeologists employ when working with historical sources highlights how objects can be taken as bodies of evidence on the one hand, and as active, social, subjective things on the other, and how this relates to historical materials and historical scholarship broadly. Objects disclose features that can be described as data in its most Latinate sense: maker’s marks referring to dates and places of production, composition at both a macro (e.g., clay, wood, stone) and micro (e.g., isotopic) levels, and so on. At the same time, objects cannot always be taken for granted; objects took different trajectories, forms, compositions, and significances, and offer different insights into peoples’ lives at different points in the past.

Primary historical sources can provide details about these transformations (how objects were collected and moved through archives and museums), and the social, personal, or political contexts of which objects were a part. Objects can also exert an influence on how primary historical sources were formed. Ann Laura Stoler has written extensively about how colonizers developed categories and ways of thinking about colonial subjects that were based on their observations and affective experiences; Carolyn Hamilton has also demonstrated that there were limits to what colonizers could imagine and that those limits were set in part by what experiences, rumors, and media were available to them. Objects were part of the “stuff” of which these imaginations were crafted, and this is referenced in some primary historical sources, for instance when a colonial agent crafts “facts” about how certain “tribes” dress or construct their dwellings. Archaeological approaches to historical sources pay attention to these contingent lives of objects, and as such often treat both texts and objects as subjective entities.

In terms of producing new insights relating historical, archaeological, and anthropological materials, landscape-based approaches are emerging as promising avenues for future research. A focus on landscape history accords well with archaeological scales of data. Landscapes also offer a means of tying together disparate bodies of evidence that speak to a common place or region, if not to a common time or polity; this is particularly the case with networks like the East African caravan trade. Finally, landscapes are inherently multifaceted things (social, political, climatological, physical, economic), and thus permit archaeologists to ask questions about environment and history while retaining human agency and imaginations as overarching frameworks. This has led to some exciting developments in historical ecology and also in more ethnographic views of landscape as rooted in particular cosmologies.

In closing, it is perhaps useful to think of archaeological approaches to historical sources not as adhering to prescriptive methodologies but as rooted in a set of intellectual habits and journeys. Archaeologists see their work concerning primary historical sources not as filling in gaps in written records but as addressing the partialities of the records themselves, by engaging with an array of complex questions about meaning, authority, and materiality.

Primary Historical Sources

Some primary historical sources that archaeologists draw upon often include early ethnographies such as Wilhelm Bleek and Lucy Lloyd’s Specimens of Bushman Folkore121 and ethnological studies such as Joseph Millerd Orpen’s article relating “Bushman” interpretations of rock art.122 Accounts of early travelers and missionaries are useful for a range of geographic, environmental, and observational information.123 Accounts of traders—particularly in the political economic mosaics of the West and East African coasts—are useful for understanding both the nature of commodity and knowledge flows, and also for gaining a sense of how trading networks expanded throughout the continent or along its edges.124 Compilations of Arabic sources—especially for West African and Sahelian history—are a vital resource for people working in those areas and interested in the Arabic world in Africa.125 Lists of kings or royal genealogies provide both chronological information and insight into regional political dynamics, especially in West and East Africa.126

Further Reading

Blundell, Geoffrey, Christopher Chippindale, and Benjamin Smith, eds. Seeing and Knowing: Understanding Rock Art with and without Ethnography. Johannesburg: Wits University Press, 2010.Find this resource:

Funari, Pedro Paulo, Martin Hall, and Siân Jones, eds. Historical Archaeology: Back from the Edge. Abingdon, U.K.: Routledge, 1999.Find this resource:

Hall, Martin. Archaeology and the Modern World: Colonial Transcripts in South Africa and the Chesapeake. New York: Routledge, 2000.Find this resource:

Haour, Anne. Outsiders and Strangers: An Archaeology of Liminality in West Africa. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.Find this resource:

Insoll, Timothy. The Archaeology of Islam in Sub-Saharan Africa. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2003.Find this resource:

Lane, Paul, and Kevin MacDonald, eds. Slavery in Africa: Archaeology and Memory. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.Find this resource:

Monroe, J. Cameron, and Akinwumi Ogundiran, eds. Power and Landscape in Atlantic West Africa: Archaeological Perspectives. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2012.Find this resource:

Ogundiran, Akinwumi. “Of Small Things Remembered: Beads, Cowries, and Cultural Translations of the Atlantic Experience in Yorubaland.” International Journal of African Historical Studies 35 (2002): 427–457.Find this resource:

Reid, Andrew, and Paul Lane, eds. African Historical Archaeologies. New York: Kluwer, 2004.Find this resource:

Richard, François, ed. Materializing Colonial Encounters: Archaeologies of African Experience. New York: Springer, 2015.Find this resource:

Schmidt, Peter. Historical Archaeology in Africa: Representation, Social Memory, and Oral Traditions. Lanham, MD: AltaMira Press, 2006.Find this resource:

Schrire, Carmel, ed. Historical Archaeology at the Cape: The Material Culture of the Dutch East India Company (VOC). Cape Town: UCT Press, 2014.Find this resource:

Stahl, Ann Brower. Making History in Banda: Anthropological Visions of Africa’s Past. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2001.Find this resource:

Swanepoel, Natalie, Amanda Esterhuysen, and Philip Bonner, eds. Five Hundred Years Rediscovered: Southern African Precedents and Prospects: 500 Year Initiative 2007 Conference Proceedings. Johannesburg: Wits University Press, 2008.Find this resource:


(1.) Mary C. Beaudry, Documentary Archaeology in the New World (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1988); Mark Leone, “The Georgian Order as the Order of Merchant Capitalism in Annapolis, Maryland,” in The Recovery of Meaning: Historical Archaeology in the Eastern United States, eds. Mark Leone and Parker Potter (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1988), 235–261; and Kent Lightfoot, “Culture Contact Studies: Redefining the Relationship between Prehistoric and Historical Archaeology,” American Antiquity 60 (1995): 199–217.

(2.) H. Neville Chittick, Kilwa, An Islamic Trading City on the East African Coast (Nairobi: British Institute in Eastern Africa, 1974); James Kirkman, Fort Jesus: A Portuguese Fortress on the East African Coast (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1974); and Arnold Lawrence, Trade Castles and Forts of West Africa (London: Jonathon Cape, 1963).

(3.) Andrew Reid and Paul Lane, “African Historical Archaeologies: An Introductory Consideration of Scope and Potential,” in African Historical Archaeologies, eds. Andrew Reid and Paul Lane (New York: Kluwer, 2004), 1–32; and Merrick Posnansky and Christopher DeCorse, “Historical Archaeology in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Review,” Historical Archaeology 20 (1986): 1–14.

(4.) Peter Schmidt and Thomas Patterson, “Introduction: From Constructing to Making Alternative Histories,” in Making Alternative Histories: The Practice of Archaeology and History in Non-Western Settings, eds. Peter Schmidt and Thomas Patterson (Santa Fe, NM: School for Advanced Research, 1995), 1–24. This thematic shift is particularly visible in debates over the “sibling rivalry” of history and archaeology: Jan Vansina, “Historians, Are Archaeologists Your Siblings?,” History in Africa 22 (1995): 369–408; Peter Robertshaw, “Sibling Rivalry? The Intersection of Archaeology and History,” History in Africa 27 (2000): 261–286; and “African Historical Archaeology(ies): Past, Present, and a Possible Future,” in African Historical Archaeologies, eds. Andrew Reid and Paul Lane (New York: Kluwer, 2004), 383.

(5.) For a riposte to this idea about archaeological perspectives as inherently democratic, see Martin Hall, Archaeology and the Modern World: Colonial Transcripts in South Africa and the Chesapeake (New York: Routledge, 2000), 19.

(6.) Dan Hicks and Mary Beaudry, “Introduction: The Place of Historical Archaeology,” in The Cambridge Companion to Historical Archaeology, eds. D. Hicks and M. Beaudry (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2006).

(7.) Martin Hall, “The Archaeology of Colonial Settlement in Southern Africa,” Annual Review of Anthropology 22 (1993): 177–200. See also papers in South African Archaeological Society Goodwin Series 7 (1993) special edition on “Historical Archaeology in the Western Cape.”

(8.) J. Cameron Monroe and Akinwumi Ogundiran, “Power and Landscape in Atlantic West Africa,” in Power and Landscape in Atlantic West Africa: Archaeological Perspectives, eds. J. Cameron Monroe and Akinwumi Ogundiran (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2012), 12.

(9.) Timothy Insoll, The Archaeology of Islam in Sub-Saharan Africa (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2003).

(10.) David Schoenbrun, “Conjuring the Modern in Africa: Durability and Rupture in Histories of Public Healing between the Great Lakes of East Africa,” American Historical Review 111 (2006): 1411.

(11.) There is a movement afoot in archaeology to challenge this: Douglas J. Bolender, ed., Eventful Archaeologies: New Approaches to Social Transformation in the Archaeological Record (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2010).

(12.) Amanda Esterhuysen et al., “Introduction,” in Five Hundred Years Rediscovered: Southern African Precedents and Prospects: 500 Year Initiative 2007 Conference Proceedings, eds. Natalie Swanepoel et al. (Johannesburg: Wits University Press, 2008), 1–19; and Ann Brower Stahl, “Introduction: Changing Perspectives on Africa’s Pasts,” in African Archaeology, ed. Ann Brower Stahl (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2005), 1–23.

(13.) Rock-art studies are a notable exception to this trend.

(14.) E.g., Natalie Swanepoel et al., eds., Five Hundred Years Rediscovered: Southern African Precedents and Prospects: 500 Year Initiative 2007 Conference Proceedings (Johannesburg: Wits University Press, 2008).

(15.) Carolyn Hamilton and Nessa Leibhammer, eds., Tribing and Untribing the Archive: Critical Enquiry into the Traces of the Thukela-Mzimvubu Region from the Early Iron Age until c. 1910 (Pietermaritzburg: University of KwaZulu-Natal Press, 2016); and Ann Brower Stahl, “‘Route Work’ through Alternative Archives: Reflections on Cross-Disciplinary Practice,” South African Historical Journal 62 (2010): 252–267.

(16.) E.g., Kathryn de Luna, Jeffrey Fleisher, and Susan Keech McIntosh, “Thinking across the African Past: Interdisciplinarity and Early History,” African Archaeological Review 29 (2012): 75–94; Peter Delius, Tim Maggs, and Alex Schoeman, Forgotten Worlds: The Stone-Walled Settlements of the Mpumalanga Escarpment (Johannesburg: Wits University Press, 2014); Swanepoel et al., Five Hundred; and John Wright et al., eds., On the Trail of Qing and Orpen (Johannesburg: Standard Bank, 2016).

(17.) H. Neville Chittick, Kilwa, An Islamic Trading City on the East African Coast (Nairobi: British Institute in Eastern Africa, 1974); James Kirkman, Fort Jesus: A Portuguese Fortress on the East African Coast (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1974); and Arnold Lawrence, Trade Castles and Forts of West Africa (London: Jonathon Cape, 1963).

(18.) Peter Schmidt, Historical Archaeology in Africa: Representation, Social Memory, and Oral Traditions (Lanham, MD: AltaMira Press, 2006); and Peter Schmidt and Jonathan Walz, “Re-representing African Pasts through Historical Archaeology,” American Antiquity 72 (2007): 53–70.

(19.) Ann Laura Stoler, “Colonial Archives and the Arts of Governance,” Archival Science 2 (2002): 87–109.

(20.) Schmidt, Historical Archaeology in Africa; Schmidt and Walz, “Re-representing”; “Silences and Mentions in History Making,” Historical Archaeology 41 (2007): 129–146.

(21.) E.g., Martin Hall, “‘Hidden History’: Iron Age Archaeology in Southern Africa,” in A History of African Archaeology, ed. Peter Robertshaw (Oxford: James Currey, 1990), 59–77; Thomas Huffman, “Archaeology and Ethnohistory of the Iron Age,” Annual Review of Anthropology 11 (1982): 133–150; “Cognitive Studies of the Iron Age in Southern Africa,” World Archaeology 18 (1986): 84–95. Cf. Ian Hodder, “The Interpretation of Documents and Material Culture,” in SAGE Biographical Research, vol. 1, ed. John Goodwin (London: SAGE, 2012), 171–188.

(22.) Ian Hodder, Symbols in Action: Ethnoarchaeological Studies of Material Culture (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1982); Peter Schmidt, “Oral Traditions, Archaeology, and History: A Short Reflective History,” in A History of African Archaeology, ed. Peter Robertshaw (Oxford: James Currey, 1990), 252–270; and Alison Wylie, “The Reaction against Analogy,” Advances in Archaeological Method and Theory 8 (1985): 63–111.

(23.) Robert Ascher, “Analogy in Archaeological Interpretation,” Southwestern Journal of Anthropology 17 (1961): 317–325; Ann Brower Stahl, “Change and Continuity in the Banda Area, Ghana: The Direct Historical Approach,” Journal of Field Archaeology 21 (1994): 181; and Wylie, “Reaction.”

(24.) Stahl, “Change and Continuity,” 181.

(25.) Ann Brower Stahl, “Concepts of Time and Approaches to Analogical Reasoning in Historical Perspective,” American Antiquity 58 (1993): 235–260.

(26.) J. David Lewis-Williams, Believing and Seeing: Symbolic Meanings in Southern San Rock Paintings (London: Academic Press, 1981).

(27.) J. David Lewis-Williams, A Cosmos in Stone: Interpreting Religion and Society through Rock Art (Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press, 2002); J. David Lewis-Williams and Sam Challis, Deciphering Ancient Minds: The Mystery of San Bushman Rock Art (London: Thames and Hudson, 2011); and J. David Lewis-Williams and Thomas Dowson, Images of Power: Understanding Bushman Rock Art (Johannesburg: Southern Book Publishers, 1989).

(28.) Rachel King, “‘A Loyal Liking for Fair Play’: Joseph Millerd Orpen and Knowledge Production in the Cape Colony,” South African Historical Journal 67 (2015): 410–432.

(29.) J. David Lewis-Williams, “The Economic and Social Context of Southern San Rock Art,” Current Anthropology 23 (1982): 438.

(30.) E.g., Andrew Bank, “Evolution and Racial Theory: The Hidden Side of Wilhelm Bleek,” South African Historical Journal 43 (2000): 163–178; John Parkington, “Interpreting Paintings without a Commentary: Meaning and Motive, Content and Composition in the Rock Art of the Western Cape, South Africa,” Antiquity 63 (1989): 13–26; Anne Solomon, “Gender, Representation, and Power in San Ethnography and Rock Art,” Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 11 (1992): 291–329; “‘Mythic Women’: A Study in Variability in San Rock Art and Narrative,” in Contested Images: Diversity in Southern African Rock Art Research, eds. Thomas Dowson and J. David Lewis-Williams (Johannesburg: University of the Witwatersrand Press, 1994), 331–372; “The Myth of Ritual Origins? Ethnography, Mythology and Interpretation of San Rock Art,” South African Archaeological Bulletin 52 (1997): 3–13; and Wright et al., Qing and Orpen.

(31.) E.g., Sam Challis, Jeremy Hollmann, and Mark McGranaghan, “‘Rain Snakes’ from the Senqu River: New Light on Qing’s Commentary on San Rock Art from Sehonghong, Lesotho,” Azania: Archaeological Research in Africa 48 (2013): 331–354; and J. David Lewis-Williams, Images of Mystery: Rock Art of the Drakensberg (Cape Town: Double Storey, 2003).

(32.) E.g., J. David Lewis-Williams, “Modelling the Production and Consumption of Rock Art,” South African Archaeological Bulletin 50 (1995): 143–154; and J. David Lewis-Williams and David Pearce, San Spirituality: Roots, Expressions and Social Consequences (Cape Town: Double Storey, 2004).

(33.) William R. Challis, “The Impact of the Horse on the AmaTola ‘Bushmen’: New Identity in the Maloti-Drakensberg Mountains of Southern Africa” (PhD diss., University of Oxford, 2008).

(34.) Lyn Wadley, “Legacies from the Later Stone Age,” South African Archaeological Society Goodwin Series 6 (1989): 42–53; “Reply to Barham: Aggregation and Dispersal Phase Sites in the Later Stone Age,” South African Archaeological Bulletin 47 (1992): 52–55.

(35.) Thomas Huffman, Snakes and Crocodiles: Power and Symbolism in Ancient Zimbabwe (Johannesburg: Witwatersrand University Press, 1996).

(36.) For criticism see, e.g., Lawrence Barham, “Let’s Walk before We Run: An Appraisal of Historical Materialist Approaches to the Later Stone Age,” South African Archaeological Bulletin 47 (1992): 44–51; and David Beach et al., “Review: Snakes and Crocodiles: Power and Symbolism in Ancient Zimabwe by Thomas N. Huffman,” South African Archaeological Bulletin 52 (1997): 125–143.

(37.) This criticism became grist for the mill that produced literature in the Kalahari debate over describing hunter-gatherer identity in southern Africa’s longue durée: Peter Mitchell, The Archaeology of Southern Africa (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 223–336.

(38.) Stahl, “Change and continuity”; Making History in Banda: Anthropological Visions of Africa’s Past (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2001), ch. 2.

(39.) Stahl, Making, 35.

(40.) Ann Laura Stoler, Along the Archival Grain: Epistemic Anxieties and Colonial Common Sense (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2009); and Michel-Rolph Trouillot, Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (Boston: Beacon Press, 1995).

(41.) Ian Hodder and Scott Hutson, Reading the Past: Current Approaches to Interpretation in Archaeology, 3d ed. (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2003); and Michael Shanks and Christopher Tilley, Re-constructing Archaeology: Theory and Practice, 2d ed. (London: Routledge, 1992).

(42.) Ian Hodder, “Interpretive Archaeology and Its Role,” American Antiquity 56 (1991): 7–18; “Multivocality and Social Archaeology,” in Evaluating Multiple Narratives: Beyond Nationalist, Colonialist, Imperialist Archaeologies, eds. Junko Habu, Clare Fawcett, and John Matsunaga (New York: Springer, 2008), 196–200.

(43.) Paul Lane, “New Directions for Historical Ecology in Eastern Africa?,” Journal of African History 57 (2016): 173–181.

(44.) Alison Wylie, “Archaeological Cables and Tacking: The Implications of Practice for Bernstein’s ‘Options beyond Objectivism and Relativism,’” Philosophy of the Social Sciences 19 (1989): 1–18; Thinking from Things: Essays in the Philosophy of Archaeology (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002).

(45.) See also Laurie Wilkie, “Documentary Archaeology,” in The Cambridge Companion to Historical Archaeology, eds. Dan Hicks and Mary Beaudry (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 25.

(46.) Ann Brower Stahl, “Ethnic Style and Ethnic Boundaries: A Diachronic Case Study from West-Central Ghana,” Ethnohistory 38 (1991): 250–275.

(47.) Ann Brower Stahl, “Colonial Entanglements and the Practices of Taste: An Alternative to Logocentric Approaches,” American Anthropologist 104 (2002): 827–845.

(48.) Ann Brower Stahl, “The Archaeology of Global Encounters Viewed from Banda, Ghana,” African Archaeological Review 16 (1999): 5–81.

(49.) Adria LaViolette, “Swahili Archaeology and History of Pemba, Tanzania: A Critique and Case Study of the Use of Written and Oral Sources in Archaeology,” in African Historical Archaeologies, eds. Andrew Reid and Paul Lane (New York: Kluwer, 2004), 125–162.

(50.) Tim Insoll, “A True Picture?: Colonial and Other Historical Archaeologies,” in African Historical Archaeologies, eds. Andrew Reid and Paul Lane (New York: Kluwer, 2004), 163–188.

(51.) See papers in Peter Schmidt, ed., Postcolonial Archaeologies in Africa (Santa Fe, NM: School for Advanced Research, 2009).

(52.) Jeffrey Fleisher, “Behind the Sultan of Kilwa’s ‘Rebellious Conduct’: Local Perspectives on an International East African Town,” in African Historical Archaeologies, eds. Andrew Reid and Paul Lane (New York: Kluwer, 2004), 94–95.

(53.) Jeffrey Fleisher, “Rituals of Consumption and the Politics of Feasting on the Eastern African Coast, AD 700–1500,” Journal of World Prehistory 23 (2010): 195–217; “Performance, Monumentality, and the “Built Exterior” on the Eastern African Swahili Coast,” Azania: Archaeological Research in Africa 48 (2013): 263–281; “The Complexity of Public Space at the Swahili Town of Songo Mnara, Tanzania,” Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 35 (2014): 1–22; and Jeffrey Fleisher and Stephanie Wynne-Jones, “Finding Meaning in Ancient Swahili Spatial Practices,” African Archaeological Review 29 (2012): 171–207.

(54.) Peter Mitchell, African Connections: Archaeological Perspectives on Africa and the Wider World (Lanham, MD: AltaMira Press, 2005); and Ann Brower Stahl, “Political Economic Mosaics: Archaeology of the Last Two Millennia in Tropical Sub-Saharan Africa,” Annual Review of Anthropology 33 (2004): 111.

(55.) Peter Mitchell, African Connections: Archaeological Perspectives on Africa and the Wider World (Lanham, MD: AltaMira Press, 2005); and Ann Brower Stahl, “Political Economic Mosaics: Archaeology of the Last Two Millennia in Tropical Sub-Saharan Africa,” Annual Review of Anthropology 33 (2004): 145–172.

(56.) Christopher DeCorse, An Archaeology of Elmina: Africans and Europeans on the Gold Coast, 1400–1900 (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Inst. Press, 2001); and Kenneth Kelly, “The Archaeology of African-European Interaction: Investigating the Social Roles of Trade, Traders, and the Use of Space in the Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century Hueda Kingdom, Republic of Bénin,” World Archaeology 28 (1997): 351–369.

(57.) Gérard Chouin and Christopher DeCorse, “Prelude to the Atlantic Trade: New Perspectives on Southern Ghana’s Pre-Atlantic History (800–1500),” Journal of African History 51 (2010): 123–145; Christopher DeCorse, “Culture Contact, Continuity, and Change on the Gold Coast, AD 1400–1900,” African Archaeological Review 10 (1992): 163–196; “The Danes on the Gold Coast: Culture Change and the European Presence,” African Archaeological Review 11 (1993): 149–173; “Documents, Oral Histories, and the Material Record: Historical Archaeology in West Africa,” World Archaeological Bulletin 7 (1996): 40–50; Kenneth Kelly, “The African Diaspora Starts Here: Historical Archaeology of Coastal West Africa,” in African Historical Archaeologies, eds. Andrew Reid and Paul Lane (New York: Kluwer, 2004), 219–242; Kenneth Kelly and Neil Norman, “Historical Archaeologies of Landscape in Atlantic Africa,” in Envisioning Landscape: Situations and Standpoints in Archaeology and Heritage, eds. Dan Hicks and Laura McAtackney (Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press, 2007), 172–193; J. Cameron Monroe, “Continuity, Revolution or Evolution on the Slave Coast of West Africa? Royal Architecture and Political Order in Precolonial Dahomey,” Journal of African History 48 (2007): 349–373; “In the Belly of Dan: Space, History, and Power in Precolonial Dahomey,” Current Anthropology 52 (2011): 769–798; J. Cameron Monroe and Akinwumi Ogundiran, eds., Power and Landscape in Atlantic West Africa: Archaeological Perspectives (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2012); Neil Norman, “Hueda (Whydah) Country and Town: Archaeological Perspectives on the Rise and Collapse of an African Atlantic Kingdom,” International Journal of African Historical Studies 42 (2009): 387–410; “From the Shadow of an Atlantic Citadel: An Archaeology of the Huedan Countryside,” in Power and Landscape in Atlantic West Africa: Archaeological Perspectives, eds. J. Cameron Monroe and Akinwumi Ogundiran (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2012), 142–166; Richard, “Recharting”; “Political Transformations and Cultural Landscapes in Senegambia during the Atlantic Era: An Alternative View from the Siin (Senegal)?,” in Power and Landscape in Atlantic West Africa: Archaeological Perspectives, eds. J. Cameron Monroe and Akinwumi Ogundiran (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2012), 78–114; Natalie Swanepoel, “View from the Village: Changing Settlement Patterns in Sisaland, Northern Ghana,” International Journal of African Historical Studies 41 (2008): 1–27; “Every Periphery Is Its Own Centre: Sociopolitical and Economic Interactions in Nineteenth-Century Northwestern Ghana,” International Journal of African Historical Studies 42 (2009): 411–432; “Small Change: Cowries, Coins, and the Currency Transition in the Northern Territories of Colonial Ghana,” in Materializing Colonial Encounters: Archaeologies of African Experience, ed. François Richard (New York: Springer, 2015), 41–69; Ibrahima Thiaw, “Atlantic Impacts on Inland Senegambia: French Penetration and African Initiatives in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Gajaaga and Bundu (Upper Senegal River),” in Power and Landscape in Atlantic West Africa: Archaeological Perspectives, eds. J. Cameron Monroe and Akinwumi Ogundiran (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2012), 49–77.

(58.) Thomas Biginagwa, “Excavation of 19th-Century Caravan Trade Halts in North-Eastern Tanzania: A Preliminary Report,” Nyame Akuma 72 (2009): 50–60; Ashley Coutu, “Tracing the Links Between Elephants, Humans, and Landscapes during the Nineteenth-Century East African Ivory Trade: A Bioarchaeological Study” (PhD diss., University of York, 2012); Jonathan Walz, “Route to a Regional Past: An Archaeology of the Lower Pangani (Ruvu) Basin, Tanzania, 500–1900 CE” (PhD diss., University of Florida, 2010); cf. Paul Lane, “Maritime and Shipwreck Archaeology in the Western Indian Ocean and Southern Red Sea: An Overview of Past and Current Research,” Journal of Maritime Archaeology 7 (2012): 9–41; “New Directions”; Peter Schmidt, “Historical Archaeology in East Africa: Past Practice and Future Directions,” Journal of African History 57 (2016): 183–194.

(59.) Akinwumi Ogundiran, “Of Small Things Remembered: Beads, Cowries, and Cultural Translations of the Atlantic Experience in Yorubaland,” International Journal of African Historical Studies 35 (2002): 427–457.

(60.) Akinwumi Ogundiran, “Material Life and Domestic Economy in a Frontier of the Oyo Empire during the Mid-Atlantic Age,” International Journal of African Historical Studies 42 (2009): 351–385; “The Formation of the Oyo Imperial Colony during the Atlantic Age,” in Power and Landscape in Atlantic West Africa: Archaeological Perspectives, eds. J. Cameron Monroe and Akinwumi Ogundiran (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2012), 222–252.

(61.) Peter Robertshaw, Marilee Wood, Erik Melchiorre, Rachel Popelka-Filcoff, and Michael Glascock, “South African Glass Beads: Chemistry, Glass Sources, and Patterns of Trade,” Journal of Archaeological Science 37 (2010).

(62.) Munyaradzi Manyanga and George Pangeti, “Precolonial Hunting in Southern Africa: A Changing Paradigm,” in Archives, Objects, Places, and Landscapes: Multidisciplinary Approaches to Decolonised Zimbabwean Pasts, eds. Munyaradzi Manyanga and Shadreck Chirikure (Bamenda, Cameroon: Langaa, 2017), 281–282.

(63.) Alexander Antonites, “Glass Beads from Mutamba: Patterns of Consumption in Thirteenth-Century Southern Africa,” Azania: Archaeological Research in Africa 49 (2014): 411–428.

(64.) Shadreck Chirikure, Munyaradzi Manyanga, Innocent Pikirayi, and Mark Pollard, “New Pathways of Sociopolitical Complexity in Southern Africa,” African Archaeological Review 30 (2013): 339–366.

(65.) E.g. Nick Shepherd, “The Politics of Archaeology in Africa,” Annual Review of Anthropology 31 (2002): 189–209.

(66.) Martin Hall, “The Archaeology of Colonial Settlement in Southern Africa,” Annual Review of Anthropology 22 (1993): 177–200.

(67.) Carmel Schrire, “The Historical Archaeology of the Impact of Colonialism in 17th-Century South Africa,” Antiquity 62 (1988): 214–225; “Excavating Archives at Oudepost I, Cape,” Social Dynamics 16 (1990): 11–21; and Carmel Schrire and Janette Deacon, “The Indigenous Artefacts from Oudepost I, A Colonial Outpost of the VOC at Saldanha Bay, Cape,” South African Archaeological Bulletin 44 (1989): 105–113.

(68.) Hall, Archaeology.

(69.) Geoffrey Blundell, Nqabayo’s Nomansland: San Rock Art and the Somatic Past (Uppsala: Uppsala University, 2004); Sam Challis, “Creolisation on the Nineteenth-Century Frontiers of Southern Africa: A Case Study of the AmaTola ‘Bushmen’ in the Maloti-Drakensberg,” Journal of Southern African Studies 38 (2012): 265–280; “Binding Beliefs: The Creolisation Process in a “Bushman” Raider Group in Nineteenth-Century Southern Africa,” in The Courage of ||kabbo: Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the Publication of Specimens of Bushman Folklore, eds. Janette Deacon and Pippa Skotnes (Cape Town: UCT Press, 2014), 247–265; “Re-tribe and Resist: The Ethnogenesis of a Creolised Raiding Band in Response to Colonisation,” in Tribing and Untribing the Archive: Critical Enquiry into the Traces of the Thukela-Mzimvubu Region from the Early Iron Age until c. 1910, eds. Carolyn Hamilton and Nessa Leibhammer (Pietermaritzburg: University of KwaZulu Natal Press, 2016), 282–299; and Lara Mallen, “Rock Art and Identity in the North Eastern Cape Province” (MA diss., University of the Witwatersrand, 2008).

(70.) Cf. Paul Landau, Popular Politics in the History of South Africa, 1400–1948 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010); and Shula Marks, “Khoisan Resistance to the Dutch in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries,” Journal of African History 13 (1972): 55–80.

(71.) Sarah Croucher, Capitalism and Cloves: An Archaeology of Plantation Life on Nineteenth-Century Zanzibar (New York: Springer, 2015), 89; and Joseph Miller, The Problem of Slavery as History: A Global Approach (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2012), 18.

(72.) Paul Lane and Kevin MacDonald, “Introduction: Slavery, Social Revolutions and Enduring Memories,” in Slavery in Africa: Archaeology and Memory, ed. Paul Lane and Kevin MacDonald (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 1–21; Lydia Wilson Marshall, “Introduction: The Comparative Archaeology of Slavery,” in The Archaeology of Slavery: A Comparative Approach to Captivity and Coercion, ed. Lydia Wilson Marshall (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2014), 1–23.

(73.) MacDonald and Camara, “Segou,” 27.

(74.) See also Moussa Sow, “The Daily Life of Slaves in the Last Years of the Bamana States of Kaarta and Segou,” in Slavery in Africa: Archaeology and Memory, eds. Paul Lane and Kevin MacDonald (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 47–60.

(75.) Kevin MacDonald and Seydou Camara, “Segou, Slavery, and Sinfiso,” in Power and Landscape in Atlantic West Africa: Archaeological Perspectives, eds. J. Cameron Monroe and Akinwumi Ogundiran (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2012), 169–190.

(76.) J. Cameron Monroe, “Cities, Slavery, and Rural Ambivalence in Precolonial Dahomey,” in The Archaeology of Slavery: A Comparative Approach to Captivity and Coercion, ed. Lydia Wilson Marshall (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2014), 192–214; and Neil Norman, “Slavery Matters and Materiality: Atlantic Items, Political Processes, and the Collapse of the Hueda Kingdom, Benin, West Africa,” in The Archaeology of Slavery: A Comparative Approach to Captivity and Coercion, ed. Lydia Wilson Marshall (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2014), 215–229.

(77.) Paul Lane, “Slavery and Slave Trading in Eastern Africa: Exploring the Intersections of Historical Sources and Archaeological Evidence,” in Slavery in Africa: Archaeology and Memory, eds. Paul Lane and Kevin MacDonald (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 282; Richard Reid, Warfare in African History (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2012). This point is particularly resonant with multi-disciplinary discussions of southern Africa’s so-called mfecane and lifaqane periods: see Carolyn Hamilton, ed., The Mfecane Aftermath: Reconstructive Debates in South African History (Johannesburg: Witwatersrand University Press, 1995) and Rachel King, “Cattle, Raiding, and Disorder in Southern African History,” in Africa (in press).

(78.) Caleb Folorunso, “The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and Local Traditions of Slavery in the West African Hinterlands: The Tivland Example,” in African Re-Genesis: Confronting Social Issues in the Diaspora, eds. Jay Haviser and Kevin MacDonald (Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press, 2006), 237–245; Chapurukha Kusimba, “Archaeology of Slavery in East Africa,” African Archaeological Review 21 (2004): 59–88; Scott MacEachern, “Enslavement and Everyday Life: Living with Slave Raiding in the North-Eastern Mandara Mountains of Cameroon,” in Slavery in Africa: Archaeology and Memory, eds. Paul Lane and Kevin MacDonald (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 109–124; “Rethinking the Mandara Political Landscape: Cultural Developments, Climate, and an Entry into History in the Second Millennium AD,” in Power and Landscape in Atlantic West Africa: Archaeological Perspectives, eds. J. Cameron Monroe and Akinwumi Ogundiran (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2012), 309–336.

(79.) Natalie Swanepoel, “Different Conversations about the Same Thing? Source Materials in the Recreation of a Nineteenth-Century Slave-Raiding Landscape, Northern Ghana,” in Slavery in Africa: Archaeology and Memory, eds. Paul Lane and Kevin MacDonald (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 167–197.

(80.) Lane, “Slavery,” 283; Peter Robertshaw and William Duncan, “African Slavery: Archaeology and Decentralized Societies,” in Invisible Citizens: Captives and Their Consequences, ed. Catherine Cameron (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2008), 57–79.

(81.) Lane, “Slavery,” 284.

(82.) Anne Haour, Outsiders and Strangers: An Archaeology of Liminality in West Africa (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013); Chapurukha Kusimba, “Practicing Postcolonial Archaeology in Eastern Africa from the United States,” in Postcolonial Archaeologies in Africa, ed. Peter Schmidt (Santa Fe, NM: School for Advanced Research, 2009), 57–76; and Paul Lane and Kevin MacDonald, eds., Slavery in Africa: Archaeology and Memory (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011).

(83.) Sarah Croucher, “Visible People, Invisible Slavery: Plantation Archaeology in East Africa,” in The Archaeology of Slavery: A Comparative Approach to Captivity and Coercion, ed. Lydia Wilson Marshall (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2014), 347–390; Capitalism.

(84.) Croucher, Capitalism, 15.

(85.) Sarah Croucher, “Clove Plantations on Nineteenth-Century Zanzibar: Possibilities for Gender Archaeology in Africa,” Journal of Social Archaeology 7 (2007): 302–324.

(86.) Sarah Croucher, “Exchange Values: Commodities, Colonialism, and Identity on Nineteenth Century Zanzibar,” in The Archaeology of Capitalism in Colonial Contexts: Postcolonial Historical Archaeologies, eds. Sarah Croucher and Lindsay Weiss (New York: Springer, 2011), 165–192.

(87.) Croucher, Capitalism, 245.

(88.) E.g., Mark Horton and John Middleton, The Swahili: The Social Landscape of a Mercantile Society (Oxford: Blackwell, 2009); Stephanie Wynne-Jones and Martin Walsh, “Heritage, Tourism, and Slavery at Shimoni: Narrative and Metanarrative on the East African Coast,” History in Africa 39 (2010): 247–273; “Biographies of Practice and the Negotiation of Swahili at Nineteenth-Century Vumba,” in Materializing Colonial Encounters: Archaeologies of African Experience, ed. François Richard (New York: Springer, 2015), 155–175.

(89.) Frederick Cooper, From Slaves to Squatters: Plantation Labour and Agriculture in Zanzibar and Coastal Kenya 1890–1925 (London: Yale University Press, 1980); James Giblin, The Politics of Environmental Control in Northeastern Tanzania, 1840–1940 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1992); and Jonathon Glassman, “The Bondman’s New Clothes: The Contradictory Consciousness of Slave Resistance on the Swahili Coast,” Journal of African History 32: 277–312.

(90.) E.g., Akinwumi Ogundiran and Toyin Falola, eds., Archaeology of Atlantic Africa and the African Diaspora (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2007).

(91.) E.g., papers in Martin Hall and Ann Markell, eds., “Historical Archaeology in the Western Cape,” South African Archaeological Society Goodwin Series 7 (1993); and Carmel Schrire, ed., Historical Archaeology at the Cape: The Material Culture of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) (Cape Town: UCT Press, 2014). This latter volume helpfully comes with a CD-ROM of excavation data, images, and metadata connected to the excavations discussed in the text.

(92.) Chris Gosden and Yvonne Marshall, “The Cultural Biography of Objects,” World Archaeology 31 (1999): 169–178; Igor Kopytoff, “The Cultural Biography of Things: Commoditization as Process,” in The Social Life of Things, ed. Arjun Appadurai (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1986), 64–91; and Nicholas Thomas, Entangled Objects: Exchange, Material Culture, and Colonialism in the Pacific (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1991).

(94.) Annie Coombes, Reinventing Africa: Museums, Material Culture and Popular Imagination in Late Victorian and Edwardian England (London: Yale University Press, 1994), 161.

(95.) Chris Wingfield, “Giraffe, South Africa,” in Trophies, Relics and Curios?: Missionary Heritage from Africa and the Pacific, eds. Karen Jacobs, Chantal Knowles, and Chris Wingfield (Leiden, The Netherlands: Sidestone Press, 2014), 25–28.

(96.) Ashley Coutu, “The Elephant in the Room: Mapping the Footsteps of Historic Elephants with Big Game Hunting Collections,” World Archaeology 47 (2015): 486–503; Catherine Elliott Weinberg, “‘The Name of Zulu Is Now Given’: Provenancing Objects from Colonial Natal in the British Museum’s Christy Collection,” in Tribing and Untribing the Archive: Critical Enquiry into the Traces of the Thukela-Mzimvubu Region from the Early Iron Age until c. 1910, eds. Carolyn Hamilton and Nessa Leibhammer (Pietermaritzburg: University of KwaZulu Natal Press, 2016), 477–501; Sarah Longair, “Recovering and Reframing the Regalia of the Mwinyi Mkuu in British Colonial Zanzibar,” Museum History Journal 3 (2013): 149–170; and Johanna Zetterstrom-Sharp, “Parade Knife, Democratic Republic of Congo,” in Trophies, Relics and Curios?: Missionary Heritage from Africa and the Pacific, eds. Karen Jacobs, Chantal Knowles, and Chris Wingfield (Leiden, The Netherlands: Sidestone Press, 2014), 187–190.

(97.) E.g., Derek Peterson, Kodzo Gavua, and Ciraj Rassool, eds., The Politics of Heritage in Africa: Economies, Histories, and Infrastructures (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015).

(98.) For commentary with respect to ethnoarchaeology see Scott MacEachern, “Foreign Countries: The Development of Ethnoarchaeology in Sub-Saharan Africa,” Journal of World Prehistory 10 (1996): 243–304.

(99.) Jan Vansina, Oral Tradition as History (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1985), 27–28.

(100.) E.g. Vansina, “Historians”; Robertshaw, “Sibling Rivalry?”

(101.) This was a criticism that Ann Stahl leveraged at Vansina’s Paths in the Rainforest: see Stahl, Making, especially ch. 2.

(102.) Merrick Posnansky, “The Excavation of an Ankole Capital Site at Bweyorere,” Uganda Journal 32 (1968): 165–182.

(103.) Peter Schmidt, Historical Archaeology: A Structural Approach in an African Culture (London: Greenwood Press, 1978).

(104.) E.g., Peter Schmidt, “An Alternative to a Strictly Materialist Perspective: A Review of Historical Archaeology, Ethnoarchaeology, and Symbolic Approaches in African Archaeology,” American Antiquity 48 (1983): 62–79; Historical Archaeology in Africa; cf. “Social Memory and Trauma in Northwestern Tanzania,” Journal of Social Archaeology 10 (2010): 255–279.

(105.) Wazi Apoh and Kodzo Gavua, “Material Culture and Indigenous Spiritism: The Katamansu Archaeological ‘Otutu’ (Shrine),” African Archaeological Review 27 (2010): 211–235; Matthew Davies, “Wittfogel’s Dilemma: Heterarchy and Ethnographic Approaches to Irrigation Management in Eastern Africa and Mesopotamia,” World Archaeology 41 (2009): 16–35; “A View from the East: An Interdisciplinary ‘Historical Ecology’ Approach to a Contemporary Agricultural Landscape in Northwest Kenya,” African Studies 69 (2010): 279–297; Matthew Davies, Timothy Kipeku Kipruto, and Henrietta Moore, “Revisiting the Irrigated Agricultural Landscape of the Marakwet, Kenya: Tracing Local Technology and Knowledge over the Recent Past,” Azania: Archaeological Research in Africa 49 (2014): 486–523; Matthew Davies and Henrietta Moore, “Landscape, Time, and Cultural Resilience: A Brief History of Agriculture in Pokot and Marakwet, Kenya,” Journal of Eastern African Studies 10 (2016): 67–87; Folorunso, “Trans-Atlantic”; González-Ruibal, Resistance; Scott MacEachern, “Enslavement and Everyday Life: Living with Slave Raiding in the North-Eastern Mandara Mountains of Cameroon,” in Slavery in Africa: Archaeology and Memory, ed. Paul Lane and Kevin MacDonald (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 109–124; Innocent Pikirayi, “Less Implicit Historical Archaeologies: Oral Traditions and Later Karanga Settlements in South-Central Zimbabwe,” in African Historical Archaeologies, eds. Andrew Reid and Paul Lane (New York: Kluwer, 2004), 243–268; Jonathan Walz, “Archaeologies of Disenchantment,” in Postcolonial Archaeologies in Africa, ed. Peter Schmidt (Santa Fe: School for Advanced Research, 2009), 21–38; “Regional Past.”

(106.) Kathryn de Luna, Collecting Food, Cultivating People: Subsistence and Society in Central Africa (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2016); David Schoenbrun, “A Past Whose Time Has Come: Historical Context and History in Eastern Africa’s Great Lakes,” History and Theory 32 (1993): 32–56; A Green Place, A Good Place: Agrarian Change, Gender, and Social Identity in the Great Lakes Region to the 15th Century (Oxford: James Currey, 1998); “Conjuring.”

(107.) Mark McGranaghan, “‘Different People’ Coming Together: Representations of Alterity in |Xam Bushman (San) Narrative,” Critical Arts 28 (2014): 670–688.

(108.) Mark McGranaghan, “‘He Who Is a Devourer of Things’: Monstrosity and the Construction of Difference in |Xam Bushman Oral Literature,” Folklore 125 (2014): 1–21; “‘Hunters-with-Sheep’: The |Xam Bushmen of South Africa between Pastoralism and Foraging,” Africa 85 (2015): 521–545; Mark McGranaghan and Sam Challis, “Reconfiguring Hunting Magic: Southern Bushman (San) Perspectives on Taming and Their Implications for Understanding Rock Art,” Cambridge Archaeological Journal 26 (2016): 579–599.

(109.) Mark McGranaghan, “‘My Name Did Float along the Road’: Naming Practices and |Xam Bushman Identities in the 19th-Century Karoo (South Africa),” African Studies 74 (2015): 270–289.

(110.) Mark McGranaghan, “Foragers on the Frontiers: The |Xam Bushmen of the Northern Cape, South Africa, in the Nineteenth Century” (PhD diss., University of Oxford, 2012).

(111.) Robyn Loughnane, Mark McGranaghan, and Tom Gueldemann, “Omnis Traductor Traditor: Linguistic Analyses of |Xam as Interpretive Tools,” in The Courage of ||kabbo: Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the Publication of Specimens of Bushman Folklore, eds. Janette Deacon and Pippa Skotnes (Cape Town: UCT Press, 2014), 303–316.

(112.) Mark McGranaghan, “The Death of the Agama Lizard: The Historical Significances of a Multi-authored Rock-Art Site in the Northern Cape (South Africa),” Cambridge Archaeological Journal 26 (2016): 157–179.

(113.) Simon Hall et al., “Towards an Outline of the Oral Geography, Historical Identity and Political Economy of the Late Precolonial Tswana in the Rustenberg Region,” in Five Hundred Years Rediscovered: Southern African Precedents and Prospects: 500 Year Initiative 2007 Conference Proceedings, ed. Natalie Swanepoel et al. (Johannesburg: Wits University Press, 2008), 55–85; and Gavin Whitelaw, “Pollution Concepts and Marriage for the Southern African Iron Age,” Cambridge Archaeological Journal 23 (2013): 203–225.

(114.) Gavin Whitelaw and Simon Hall, “Archaeological Contexts and the Creation of Social Categories before the Zulu Kingdom,” in Tribing and Untribing the Archive: Critical Enquiry into the Traces of the Thukela-Mzimvubu Region from the Early Iron Age until c. 1910, eds. Carolyn Hamilton and Nessa Leibhammer (Pietermaritzburg: University of KwaZulu Natal Press, 2016), 146–181; cf. Colin Webb and John Wright, eds., The James Stuart Archive of Recorded Evidence Relating to the History of the Zulu and Neighbouring Peoples (Pietermaritzburg: University of Natal Press, 1976).

(115.) Hamilton and Leibhammer, eds., Tribing.

(116.) Barbara Bender, “Time and Landscape,” Current Anthropology 43 (2002): S103–S112; Tim Ingold, The Perception of the Environment: Essays on Livelihood, Dwelling, and Skill (London: Routledge, 2000); and Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space, trans. Donald Nicholson-Smith (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 1991).

(117.) William Balée and Clark Erickson, “Time, Complexity, and Historical Ecology,” in Time and Complexity in Historical Ecology: Studies in the Neotropical Lowlands, eds. William Balée and Clark Erickson (New York: Columbia University Press, 2006), 1–17. See also Matthew Davies and Freda Nkirote M’Mbogori, ed., Humans and the Environment: New Archaeological Perspectives for the Twenty-First Century (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013).

(118.) Paul Lane, “Developing Landscape Historical Ecologies in Eastern Africa: An Outline of Current Research and Potential Future Directions,” African Studies 69 (2010): 304.

(119.) Paul Lane, “Environmental Narratives and the History of Soil Erosion in the Kondoa District, Tanzania: An Archaeological Perspective,” International Journal of African Historical Studies 42 (2009): 457–483.

(120.) Ceri Ashley, “Remaking Landscape and Place: An Archaeology of the Lake Ngami Mission (1893–1896), Khwebe Hills, Botswana,” Journal of Southern African Studies (in press); Rachel King, “Among the Headless Hordes: Missionaries, Outlaws, and Logics of Landscape in the Wittebergen Native Reserve, c. 1850–1871,” Journal of Southern African Studies (in press); and Paul Lane, “Re-constructing Tswana Townscapes: Toward a Critical Historical Archaeology,” in African Historical Archaeologies, eds. Andrew Reid and Paul Lane (New York: Kluwer, 2004), 269–300.

(121.) Wilhelm Bleek and Lucy Lloyd, Specimens of Bushman Folklore (London: George Allen, 1911).

(122.) Joseph Millerd Orpen, “A Glimpse into the Mythology of the Maluti Bushmen,” The Cape Monthly Magazine 9 (1874): 1–11.

(123.) E.g. John Campbell, Travels in South Africa: Undertaken at the Request of the Missionary Society (London: Black and Parry, 1815).

(124.) E.g., Wilfred Schoff, trans., The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea: Travel and Trade in the Indian Ocean by a Merchant of the First Century (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1912).

(125.) J. F. P. Hopkins and N. Levitzion, eds., Corpus of Early Arabic Sources for West African History, trans. J. F. P. Hopkins (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1981).

(126.) “The Kilwa Chronicles,” in The East African Coast: Select Documents, ed. G. S. P. Freeman-Grenville (London: Oxford University Press, 1962).