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Abstract

Archaeological excavations at Unguja Ukuu recovered a rock crystal cabochon seal with the word lillāh (“for God”) inscribed in the Kufic script on its domed surface. The artifact is an intaglio amulet seal engraved in the negative. Microscopic examination of the seal surfaces reveals that a rotary tool was used to make the initial inscription. At some later point, a diagonal spall was removed across part of the inscription. The diagonal spall appears to be along a natural crystal plane. It is impossible to determine if this was the result of intentional defacement or an accidental process that might have resulted in the eventual deposition of the seal. Strata dated by radiometric and relative methods coupled with the style of the Kufic script date the seal to the late-8th to 9th centuries CE. This artifact is the earliest known example of an Islamic amulet seal and of writing in the Zanzibar Archipelago.

In: Journal of African Archaeology

Abstract

The recent discovery of Nile crocodile remains in the mortuary complexes of two high-ranking courtiers of Nebhepetra Mentuhotep II, located in the early Middle Kingdom necropolis in the valley of North Asasif, opened the way to an exploration of the role of reptile remains in funerary contexts. The skeletal remains, which were not mummified, consisted of fragments of the skull and mandible, loose teeth, and osteoderms. This paper explores the association that may have existed between the deceased and the crocodile god Sobek, whom the ancient Egyptians identified with pharaonic power, inundation and fertility. From the Middle Kingdom, Sobek, who was believed to have risen from the Primeval Waters, was merged with the sun-god Ra, and in the solar form of Sobek-Ra was made part of the eternal journey of the sun from the east to the west. This association was also reflected in the Spells of the Coffin Texts, in which the deceased became Sobek.

In: Journal of African Archaeology
Author: Brian M. Fagan

Abstract

This brief report describes the animal bones from the first millennium BC discovered during Graham Connah’s excavations at Daima Mound in northeastern Nigeria in 1965–66. The faunal research was completed by the author in 1973, but, owing to various circumstances, it has not been possible to publish the report until now. Eighty percent of the 657 positively identified bones come from domestic cattle, probably a small-statured breed. They were mostly slaughtered while young adults, which suggests they were surplus males. Small stock, probably goats, and also hunting were less important. The inhabitants consumed shallow water fish, mainly Clariidae (catfish), easily trapped in shallow pools. The small Daima collection confirms faunal data from other Lake Chad sites, which show that cattle herding was an important activity during the first millennium BC.

In: Journal of African Archaeology
In: The Oasis of Bukhara, Volume 2: An Archaeological, Sociological and Historical Study
In: The Oasis of Bukhara, Volume 2: An Archaeological, Sociological and Historical Study
In: The Oasis of Bukhara, Volume 2: An Archaeological, Sociological and Historical Study

Abstract

Kansyore pottery-using groups of the northeastern Lake Victoria Basin represent one of only a few examples of ‘complex’ hunter-gatherers in Africa. Archaeologists link evidence of specialized fishing, a seasonal land-use cycle between lake and riverine sites, and intensive investment in ceramic production to behavioral complexity after 9 thousand years ago (ka). However, a gap in the Kansyore radiocarbon record of the region between ~7 and 4.4 cal ka limits explanations of when and why social and economic changes occurred. This study provides the first evidence of lakeshore occupation during this temporal break at the only well-studied Kansyore site in eastern Uganda, Namundiri A. Within the context of other sites in nearby western Kenya, radiometric and faunal data from the site indicate a move from the lake to a greater reliance on riverine habitats with middle Holocene aridity ~5–4 cal ka and the arrival of food producers to the region after ~3 cal ka.

Open Access
In: Journal of African Archaeology

Abstract

Ile-Ife in southwestern Nigeria is rich in art and craft traditions, most especially iron smelting. The town hosts hundreds of smelting sites with little or no archaeological record. Archaeo-geophysical prospection of a suspected smelting site in Ile-Ife involved the magnetic and electrical resistivity geophysical methods and archaeological excavation with the aim to identify its buried artefacts/features and date the site. The geophysical investigations located a circular/oval-shaped dipolar magnetic anomaly that coincided with a high resistivity zone, typical of a heat-impacted furnace or a slag trench. Iron slag, tuyere, fired clay furnace fragments, and charcoal were recovered from the pits excavated at the locations of the geophysical anomalies. Smelting activity at the site, from dated charcoal, took place at some point between the 13th-15th centuries AD, a middle to late age in Africa’s history of iron smelting. This study, therefore, validated the examined site as an ancient iron smelting site and situated its place in the archaeological history of iron smelting.

In: Journal of African Archaeology