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An Alternative to a Strictly Materialist Perspective: A Review of Historical Archaeology, Ethnoarchaeology, and Symbolic Approaches in African Archaeology

  • Peter R. Schmidt (a1)

Over the last three decades archaeologists of Africa have developed distinctive perspectives in their use of oral traditions in historical archaeology and ethnoarchaeology. Many of these innovations reflect the cultural attitudes of Africans about their own history and have lead to an archaeology that is increasingly sensitive to questions of an African historical identity free from the Western structure of thought. The African archaeological tradition accepts, with materialist interpretations and explanations, the importance of symbolic subsystems in a synthetic and systemic approach. Consequently, the application of structural and symbolic analysis to interrelated archaeological and ethnographic information is an integral part of an anthropological approach to the later prehistory and history of Africa.

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