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.
This study examines a glass bead assemblage from surveyed and excavated portions of the Falemme (Senegal) to present a classification system for the analysis of archaeological beads in Africa and beyond. Although bead classification poses special problems, it is argued that such analysis is worthwhile, as beads may shed light on the dynamics of production, exchange and consumption in the past, on processes of culture change and continuity, and, most particularly, on chronological assessment. Focusing on the latter, the typological analysis helped us extract diagnostic information from the 474 mainly European-made beads, which complements and nicely supports the temporal sequence derived from imported trade materials and local ceramics.