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Debating the Swahili: Archaeology Since 1990 and into the Future

Debating the Swahili: Archaeology Since 1990 and into the Future The Swahili are arguably the most studied society in ancient Sub-Saharan Africa. The Swahili are of African in origin but balance their character between continental Africa and influences from the Indian Ocean, including Islam. City-states and towns along the eastern coast of Africa attest that the Swahili built coral monuments and commercial networks with broad connectivity. Colonial archaeologists claimed foreign origins and cast the Swahili as transplants, false representations evident by 1990 through the contributions of African and other archaeologists and interdisciplinary scholarship. Other aspects of the Swahili continue to be debated, and gaps and shortcomings present impediments to resolution. In this article, we characterize the Swahili and note early trends in the region’s archaeology relevant to contextualize Swahili archaeology post-1990. The article then discusses aspects of Swahili archaeology from 1990 to 2015 and current practices. We note trends, substantive achievements, and lapses in substance and practice during 30 years. Finally, we make observations and suggestions to advance archaeology the region’s archaeology. Archaeology in the Global South can learn from the case of the Swahili and the affirmations, critiques, and suggestions offered here, which we intend to promote future archaeological practice in East Africa. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Archaeologies Springer Journals

Debating the Swahili: Archaeology Since 1990 and into the Future

Archaeologies , Volume 17 (3) – Dec 1, 2021

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Publisher
Springer Journals
Copyright
Copyright © World Archaeological Congress 2021
ISSN
1555-8622
eISSN
1935-3987
DOI
10.1007/s11759-021-09434-x
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

The Swahili are arguably the most studied society in ancient Sub-Saharan Africa. The Swahili are of African in origin but balance their character between continental Africa and influences from the Indian Ocean, including Islam. City-states and towns along the eastern coast of Africa attest that the Swahili built coral monuments and commercial networks with broad connectivity. Colonial archaeologists claimed foreign origins and cast the Swahili as transplants, false representations evident by 1990 through the contributions of African and other archaeologists and interdisciplinary scholarship. Other aspects of the Swahili continue to be debated, and gaps and shortcomings present impediments to resolution. In this article, we characterize the Swahili and note early trends in the region’s archaeology relevant to contextualize Swahili archaeology post-1990. The article then discusses aspects of Swahili archaeology from 1990 to 2015 and current practices. We note trends, substantive achievements, and lapses in substance and practice during 30 years. Finally, we make observations and suggestions to advance archaeology the region’s archaeology. Archaeology in the Global South can learn from the case of the Swahili and the affirmations, critiques, and suggestions offered here, which we intend to promote future archaeological practice in East Africa.

Journal

ArchaeologiesSpringer Journals

Published: Dec 1, 2021

Keywords: History of archaeology; Critical African archaeology; Futures; Ethics of care; Swahili; East Africa

References