Heritage and Monumentality in Eastern Africa: an Archaeology of [Baobab] Trees in Bagamoyo, Tanzania


African Humanities Program Postdoctoral Fellowships


Dept. of Archaeology & Heritage Studies


A key issue in historical studies that has not been critically examined is what constitutes 'cultural heritage sites'. Archaeologists continue perceiving heritage and monumentality using western concepts paying attention on variables such as scale, visibility, permanence, centrality and ubiquity (Hildebrand 2013). Consequently, some interpretations of 'material remains' at 'cultural heritage sites' remain problematic. The proposed study seeks to go beyond East African coastal structures, focusing on a tree species which, overtime, assumes size regarded as 'monumental'. Using a landscape approach, it investigates the interactions of local communities with baobab trees (Adansonia digitata) from the remote past to modern times in Bagamoyo, Tanzania. The preposition this proposed study intends to make is that, as they grow, sacred baobab trees become monuments, hence, 'living heritage remains.' Particularly, I want to redefine 'cultural heritage sites,' hence, contribute in changing the misconception of heritage and decolonize historical studies in Africa.