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The Burden of Tribalism: The Social Context of Southern African Iron Age Studies

  • Martin Hall (a1)

The study of the archaeology of farming communities in southern Africa is an inherently political activity but there has been little critical analysis of the role of social context in forming problems and in shaping answers. It is argued in this paper that the history of Iron Age research south of the Zambezi shows the prevalent influence of colonial ideologies, both in the earliest speculations about the nature of the African past and in the adaptations that have been made to contemporary archeological methodologies in their application to the subcontinent. Concepts such as ethnicity have acquired specific meanings in southern Africa that contrast with the use of similar ideas in other contexts such as Australasia. Such relativity reinforces the view that specific, detailed critiques of archaeological practice in differing social environments are necessary for an understanding of the manner in which the present shapes the past.

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American Antiquity
  • ISSN: 0002-7316
  • EISSN: 2325-5064
  • URL: /core/journals/american-antiquity
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