TOWARDS A COMPARATIVE ARCHAEOLOGY OF AFRICA’S ISLANDS

In: Journal of African Archaeology

Island archaeology is a well-established and increasingly active field of the wider discipline. Most studies, however, draw solely upon Pacific and Mediterranean examples, with Africa’s islands correspondingly neglected. This paper reviews previous archaeological work on Africa’s islands and asks what could be obtained from more systematic research on them. Several themes are identified, to all of which a comparative archaeology of Africa’s islands could contribute: patterns of colonisation and abandonment; transformations of island ecology wrought by human settlement; the role of islands in systems of international trade; the establishment of plantation economies; and the constitution and development of distinctive island cultures. Emphasis is also placed on the contribution that such a comparative archaeology could make to island archaeology as a whole and to enhancing the global profile of Africanist archaeological research.

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