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Abstract

This paper situates Eastern Africa in the early maritime trade of the Indian Ocean, reviewing evidence for connections from Egypt and Red Sea, the Gulf, and Southeast Asia from prehistory to the Islamic Period. The region played a pivotal role in developing global networks, but we argue that it has become the “forgotten south” in an era of emerging empires. One reason for this is a lack of understanding of maritime mobility around the rim of the Indian Ocean, often undertaken by small scale or specialist groups, including sea nomads. These groups are characterised as marginalised and victimised during globalisation, yet dualising into categories—such as “exploiter” and “exploiting”—oversimplifies what was almost certainly in reality a complex array of roles and activities, both in the context of East Africa and elsewhere around the Indian Ocean. Through modern scientific-based excavation and analysis, we can now begin to more fully understand these interactions.

In: Journal of Egyptian History

Abstract

The period from c. AD 900 to AD 1300 in southern Africa is characterized by transitions from small-scale Iron Age mixed economy communities to the beginnings of more intensive food production and eventually the emergence of complex polities. In Zambia, this coincides with the appearance of larger and more permanent agro-pastoralist villages that began participating in Indian Ocean trade networks. Unlike other parts of southern Africa where stone architecture became common, the predominance of wattle-and-daub type construction methods across Zambia have often impeded preservation of Iron Age activity areas. It has therefore been difficult to reconstruct how economic and land-use changes between the Early and Later Iron Ages impacted family and community relationships reflected in intra-site and intra-household spatial organization. Fibobe II, in the Mulungushi River Basin of Central Zambia, is a rare example of an Early-to-Mid Iron Age village site where these spatial patterns may be discernable due to preservation of activity spaces and vitrified remains of wattle-and-daub structures. This paper reports on new investigations following original testing of the site in 1979, confirming preservation of an Iron Age hut with distinct patterning of features, artifacts, and charcoal. These results reaffirm the unique nature of Fibobe II and indicate the potential for programs of household archaeology aimed at studying this important and understudied period in Zambian prehistory.

In: Journal of African Archaeology