In the age of the African Renaissance, southern Africa has needed to reinterpret the past in fresh and more appropriate ways. The last 500 years represent a strikingly unexplored and misrepresented period which remains disfigured by colonial/apartheid assumptions, most notably in the way that African societies are depicted as fixed, passive, isolated, un-enterprising and unenlightened. This period is one the most formative in relation to southern Africa’s past while remaining, in many ways, the least known. Key cultural contours of the sub-continent took shape, while in a jagged and uneven fashion some of the features of modern identities emerged. Enormous internal economic innovation and political experimentation was taking place at the same time as expanding European mercantile forces started to press upon southern African shores and its hinterlands. This suggests that interaction, flux and mixing were a strong feature of the period, rather than the homogeneity and fixity proposed in standard historical and archaeological writings. Five Hundred Years Rediscovered represents the first step, taken by a group of archaeologists and historians, to collectively reframe, revitalise and re-examine the last 500 years. By integrating research and developing trans-frontier research networks, the group hopes to challenge thinking about the region’s expanding internal and colonial frontiers, and to broaden current perceptions about southern Africa’s colonial past.
This Handbook provides a comprehensive synthesis of African archaeology, covering the entirety of the continent's past from the beginnings of human evolution to the archaeological legacy of European colonialism. It includes a mixture of key methodological and theoretical issues and debates and situates the subject's contemporary practice.
Africa has the longest and arguably the most diverse archaeological record of any of the continents. It is where the human lineage first evolved and from where Homo sapiens spread across the rest of the world. Later, it witnessed novel experiments in food-production and unique trajectories to urbanism and the organisation of large communities that were not always structured along strictly hierarchical lines. Millennia of engagement with societies in other parts of the world confirm Africa's active participation in the construction of the modern world, while the richness of its history, ethnography, and linguistics provide unusually powerful opportunities for constructing interdisciplinary narratives of Africa's past. This Handbook provides a comprehensive and up-to-date synthesis of African archaeology, covering the entirety of the continent's past from the beginnings of human evolution to the archaeological legacy of European colonialism. As well as covering almost all periods and regions of the continent, it includes a mixture of key methodological and theoretical issues and debates, and situates the subject's contemporary practice within the discipline's history and the infrastructural challenges now facing its practitioners. Bringing together essays on all these themes from over seventy contributors, many of them living and working in Africa, it offers a highly accessible, contemporary account of the subject for use by scholars and students of not only archaeology, but also history, anthropology, and other disciplines.