BOOK REVIEW This book sets out to "introduce the general reader and beginning student to Africa's past". It does so in 29 short chapters, each treating a single topic or even, in a few instances, a single site. The result is inevitably episodic, with little integration between chapters and some important topics largely ignored. It is noteworthy, for example, that only three chapters are concerned with the palaeolithic. For later periods the choice of topics provides excellent coverage, with Egypt and North Africa well integrated with the rest of the continent. It is inevitable that a specialist reviewer will find areas of disagreement and it would be inappropriate to deal with them at any length, but it is unfortunate, to say the least, that chapter 5 (on the rock art of southern Africa) gives the erroneous impression that all this art is attributed to San. Connah, as usual, writes clearly and lucidly. He has taken decisions to avoid controversy and to concentrate on topics "best known from archaeological and related evidence". The result is disappointingly flat and blend. The author's judgement is in nearly all cases sound, but there is little trace of the excitement of new discovery, the development of understanding, or the re-evaluation of old ideas. The book will, indeed, provide a valuable and up-to-date guide to its subject, but the reader will have to be already committed to this particular interest; the waverer will find little here to grip or hold his/her attention. Part of the problem lies with the illustrations: there are only 67 of them - roughly one in every three pages, and 14 of them are maps. All are in black and white and all are informative, but neither their choice nor their reproduction will attract the attention of the inattentive reader. A few of the maps and plans (e.g. Fig. 64) are over-reduced and the maps lack standardisation, highland being variously defined by the 900-, 1000- or 1500-metre contours, or not indicated. No bibliographic references are cited in the text, but two works in English - ranging from monographs to 4-page encyclopaedia articles - are listed as "further reading" for each chapter. The index will not be easy to use, all rivers for example being listed under their individual names while larger bodies of water are grouped under "L" for Lake. Graham Connah's book is a worthy and useful contribution. Very few (if any) other Africanist archaeologists have the breadth of expertise or the writing skills to undertake such a project, and they have lamentably failed to convey their knowledge to others who might undertake the task. This book deserves a wider readership and a greater influence than, with its high price and pedestrian, unappealing appearance, it is likely to achieve. David W. Phillipson University of Cambridge, England DOI 10.3213/1612-1651-10048 © Africa Magna Verlag, Frankfurt M. Journal of African Archaeology Vol. 3 (1), 2005
Journal of African Archaeology – Brill
Published: Oct 25, 2005
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