The cool, moist, tropical highlands of southwest Ethiopia contrast dramatically with arid environments in the rest of the Horn of Africa. They have seen little archaeological research due to their remote location, wet conditions, and acidic soils and volcanic rocks thought to harbor few shelters or open-air sites capable of organic preservation. In 2004–2005, the Kafa Archaeological Project documented 27 shelters of diverse height, configuration, and formation processes; ten merited test excavations. Three have late Holocene cultural deposits, while another has high densities of ceramics, lithics, bone, and dried plant remains extending back to the middle Holocene. These sites suggest that the tropical highlands of Kafa contain numerous previously occupied caves and rockshelters with good organic preservation. Therefore, they have the potential of 1) establishing the region’s first Holocene cultural chronology that can be compared with better-studied areas of the Horn and eastern Africa; 2) contributing to a regional environmental record; and 3) reconstructing hunter-gatherer, farming and/or herding economics and social organization during a period of increasing socio-political complexity.
In contrast to the practice of history that is deeply rooted in African societies in the form of oral traditions, to many Senegalese, archaeological inquiry is rather a strange and mysterious endeavor. Both text and speech are based on language and thus permit historians to draw correlations between documentary and oral based histories. For archaeologists however, the difficulty of finding a local intellectual endeavor that matches what they do remains a tedious task. They dig up dirt, collect useless discarded sherds and stones from ancient sites and garbage dumps, and open up other peoples graves. What archaeologists do is locally associated with people suffering mental disability, thus putting a tremendous social pressure on local archaeologists. Recent interests in historical archaeology permitted us to distinguish two different attitudes of the public with respect to the archaeological past: a prehistoric past that is unclaimed and uncontested; and a recent historic past that is claimed and contested. While the history of archaeology in Senegal explains these public attitudes toward the archaeological past, the implications are extremely broad and pose problems of public outreach affecting the management of cultural resources, museums exhibits, etc.