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African Archaeological Review, Vol. 22, No. 2, June 2005 ( C 2005) DOI: 10.

1007/s10437-005-4192-9

Book Review

East African Archaeology: Foragers, Potters, Smiths and Traders. Edited by C. M. Kusimba and S. B. Kusimba. University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Philadelphia (ISBN 1931707618), 2003, 226 pp. Any volume that features archaeologists of African descent is well worth a thorough inspection to consider changes that may be taking place within the discipline. All the more important, then, is this volume which is coedited by a Kenyan, predominantly features scholars from Kenya and Tanzania, and sets out to indicate the breadth of archaeological initiatives being undertaken in East Africa today. Of still greater note is that it is published by a respected western academic press. Predictably, a number of papers review the historical development of particular ideas and seek to suggest new research directions. Kusimba and Kusimba, drawing on recent research in southern Africa explore a hunting and gathering tradition in south-eastern Kenya that lasted until very recently and which had an important role to play in exchange systems with Swahili coastal settlements, therefore challenging the traditional divide that has emerged between “Stone Age” and “Iron Age” archaeology. Ironically, in Eastern Africa at least, that divide was in the early stages less well-defined, partly because Louis and Mary Leakey recognized the need to explore both, and because it has long been recognized that stone-tool using pastoralists lived alongside early iron-using farming populations. Karega-Munene reconsiders this Pastoral Neolithic, or Neolithic as he prefers, in Kenya and northern Tanzania, and in particular considers the role of ceramic studies. Ultimately he suggests that all proposed ceramic sequences are problematic and that, rather than attempting to seek simple sequential order, a more complex understanding of ceramics needs to be developed that incorporates notions of manufacture, use and context, as well as decorative style and that allows the co-existence of distinct ceramic traditions within individual communities. He also believes that too much emphasis has been placed on herding and that this gloss masks hunting and gathering and cultivating societies. It is this mosaic of distinct
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source of data that is and argues that Hadzabe provide a rich vein for challenging our models of past hunter gatherer systems. This historical landscape. Importantly.106 Book Review activities stretching across wide ranging environments that he believes lies at the core of understanding society between 3000 and 1500 bp. Thus. well illustrated. It is therefore highly appropriate that archaeologists should be actively engaged in trying to resolve this issue. In recent times. whilst also allowing the possibility that contemporary foraging patterns may be a relatively recent artefact of their increasing marginalization. with . Mabulla reveals an excellent. In a way this serves Wandibba’s interests well. containing pastoralist burial cairns and many former livestock pens has become a virtual battleground. interspersed with observations of bis own. forcing the reader to disengage with conventional archaeological focuses and to contemplate instead the social life of pots. Similar concerns are raised by Musiba and Mabulla in discussing current management issues in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area with special reference to extant Maasai populations and to the archaeological resources at Olduvai and Laetoli. It is also noteworthy that this paper has no illustrations in contrast with conventional ceramic publications. effectively making this study more a history than an ethnoarchaeology. one that has existed for the last 3000 years in interaction with herders and cultivators. yet ultimately much more rewarding focus for study. the desire has been to remove Maasai from the area resulting not infrequently in men abandoning their families to their fate and heading for Dar es Salaam to seek employment. Wandibba’s study is largely a consideration of the wide-ranging literature on ceramic production throughout Kenya. Musiba and Mabulla thus make general proposals for the future management of the NCA. The globally renowned Olduvai Gorge and Laetoli find themselves within this zone of conflict and some facilities have actually been targeted by disaffected Maasai as emblems of government. whilst Wandibba takes a crosscultural look at contemporary ceramic production in Kenya. As one might expect the continuity of certain activities has encouraged ethnoarchaeological research. Mabulla does recognize the increasingly disadvantaged position of Hadzabe within the modern state. Rather than using simplistic notions of style to identify putative ethnic groups. archaeologists need to explore the rich contexts of production use and discard of individual pots: a much more difficult. As such it is important to recognize that this literature is between 20 and 30 years old. Historically. He found that roughly 25% of Hadzabe still practice a mobile foraging means of existence. Indeed a more organized campaign would be likely to actively target these very important sites in order to raise global awareness of the plight of Maasai populations in the area. the position of Maasai around Ngorongoro has been the subject of much debate in regards of whether their presence is detrimental to the animal populations. Mabulla presents a discussion of his research with Hadzabe foragers in northern Tanzania. Ultimately he concludes that ceramics are both a rich source of potential information but are also incredibly complicated. In dealing with Hadzabe foragers and in particular their land-use patterns.

Although this is the paper with the least archaeology in it. Mapunda also makes the case for pre-Bantu. nevertheless it is important to explore such possibilities rather than to be automatically dismissive. Were Swahili towns importing the relatively valued crucible steel? If so why were they using such a desirable commodity to make nails? Could crucible steel have been made on the East African coast? Was the relatively good quality East African bloomery iron being exported to India to facilitate crucible steel manufacture. mentioned on-going trade with this coast. For instance. Although I do not agree with his argument. Chami discusses his work at the site of Kivinja on the southern Tanzanian coast. this is perhaps the most important paper of the volume in pointing the way for the future of archaeology and in particular making it a more relevant discipline to the needs of present day states. moreover. Kivinja provides evidence of an earlier occupation of the coast by what are presumed to be Bantu-speaking farmers. perhaps the one archaeological topic in which the greatest strides have been made in recent years in East Africa. Kivinja’s earlier . from just five sites. certain items were made from crucible steel. a technique well-known to have been practiced in India. namely that iron was unimportant in the emergence of Swahili towns. demonstrating that technology appears to have been much more flexible than conventionally thought and more importantly that away from the inevitable emphasis on origins there are much more interesting questions about technological history to be explored across the African continent. Mbonelakuti (Batwa) iron smelting. that these questions are readily answerable with further analysis.Book Review 107 negotiation with. The results of excavations at this site appear to fill in an important gap that has existed in coastal archaeology. or was it being exported elsewhere? That these questions emanate from a single study and. and incorporation of. it was demonstrated that a significant range in the nature of iron was present. Two papers deal with issues relating to iron-working. Trading settlements on the East African coast were previously recognized as dating back to around AD 800 and yet a 1st century AD document from Egypt. In conjunction with documentary evidence that indicates that iron was both exported from and imported to the East African coast Kusimba and Killick are able to draw out the significance of certain items. This is very important for our understanding of the significance of iron smelting. Kusimba and Killick explode another misconception regarding iron production in East Africa. Mapunda discusses iron-working traditions in Ufipa (southwestern Tanzania). Maasai into the management framework. By analyzing a comparatively small range of iron artefacts. indicate that archaeologists of the coast need to take archaeometallurgical analysis much more seriously than has heretofore been the case. Further revision of coastal archaeology is offered in papers by Chami and Kessy. Well-known to many researchers are the huge natural draft furnaces (Malungu). The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea. Mapunda is also able to demonstrate that two other iron-producing technologies co-existed with the Malungu technique over the last five hundred years. However.

In this light Robertshaw explores a “dual-processual theory” developed by Blanton et al. Together with Chami’s findings. this paper paves the way for a re-exploration of the archaeology of the islands. to explore settlement organization and economies. As he recognizes. a factor that is particularly acute in many African contexts. with specific reference to BunyoroKitara. the value is not in the closeness of fit of the model but rather in suggesting ways in which archaeological investigation needs to develop in the future. This is in marked contrast to the traditional view of coastal settlement as entrepots for international trade— the larger the settlement the greater the amount of trade. These islands have over many years had a large number of archaeological sites recorded. Kessy combines data on date of occupation. glass and pottery. Underscoring this . this is still an important exercise. which Robertshaw is able to suggest indications of in the archaeological record. recognizing that the debate over exogenous origins is now over and that more effective explanatory models need to be constructed. which are found in association with imported beads. In common with many theoretical schemes honed in non-African contexts there are very real problems in not being able to consider cattle both as prestige items and as staple finance. (1996) and applied to Mesoamerica. by harnessing the resources around them. In particular he is keen to explore theoretical explanations for the emergence and maintenance of states. The first by Robertshaw considers the formation of the state in western Uganda. ceramics. presence of particular features such as mosques and other stone buildings. and makes a comparison with the Swahili coast. Nevertheless. particularly focusing on coastal towns. Whilst the recovery strategies of the past were highly selective. This site thus ably demonstrates that the original trading elements on the eastern African coast were not the stone towns or associated sites. quality of harbors and other available resources to construct a picture of changing cultural landscapes. This image demonstrates the importance of considering coastal settlements as communities that function as any other archaeological settlement. (and notwithstanding my own personal bias) I have considerable problems accepting a theoretical approach that fails to recognize the peculiar values associated with cattle.108 Book Review occupation consists of Kwale. The final paper by Mitchell provides a summary of the volume from a southern African perspective. independent of received wisdom on site location and mat fully explores their vast interior. or Early Iron Working. Whilst origins will always remain a popular focus for archaeologists. This is reliant on the distinction between exclusionary and corporate power strategies. exploring changing patterns of settlement on Zanzibar and Pemba. Kessy manages to demonstrate a fruitful alternative line of enquiry. on the coast or anywhere else. but earlier cultural phenomena As Chami rightly points out work needs now to focus on detailed exploration of these sites. This looks both at points of note for those working south of the Zambezi and equally also highlights elements of the research agenda in southern Africa that could and indeed should be addressed further north. The book ends with two summary papers.

Current Anthropology 31: 1–14.ac. these papers also demonstrate the importance of dismantling the crude compartmentalization of the past based on simple items of material culture. N. P. some African scholars are participating in research on earlier time periods they are a distinct minority.. Active hunter gatherer populations were extant until the nineteenth century and beyond. and Peregrine.. It is intriguing that none of the chapters by African scholars cite sources from general archaeological theory. Although. pointing out the problems of automatically associating particular material culture—pottery. London e-mail: a. emphasizing that the divisions that are perceived between the two are primarily of colonial origin. G. S. then the future is much brighter. More importantly.reid@ucl. Andrew Reid Institute of Archaeology University College London. They interacted with pastoralist and agriculturalist populations.uk . E. Most obviously this link is symbolized by the shared Bantu languages. However. R. Most obviously this is made clear by the lack of papers dealing with pre-Holocene times. emanating from the Nigeria/Cameroon border. to this volume.Book Review 109 chapter are the fundamental cultural links between eastern and southern Africa. This book is also representative of a distinct shift in the focus of research. Kowalewski. Feinman. colonial interpretations of the past intended to alienate African populations from land. REFERENCE CITED Blanton. if this indicates that scholars from East Africa are avoiding the quagmire of grand archaeological theory and are instead generating their own theoretical understandings appropriate to the local conditions. M. A. lithics. Clearly the past is much less simple than past reconstructions would have had us believe. (1996). rather than derived from. as we would recognize it in the west.. This complexity also suggests that the development of archaeological theory is paramount in making sense of the past. A dual-processual theory for the evolution of Mesoamerican civilization. If this indicates that scholars are ignoring problems of archaeological theory and interpretation then the future of the past in East Africa is bleak. despite. Conventional reconstructions of the eastern and southern African past view these languages as evidence of a population spread. This represents a growing swell of opinion amongst scholars of Eastern and Southern African opinion that has largely gone unremarked by Africanist archaeologists and badly needs to be addressed before it becomes a source of schism. a number of contributions implicitly (though not overtly) disagree with this reconstruction of the past. iron—with particular population groups.