Re-mapping Ancient Socio-political Complexity Among Small-scale Societies in Eastern Africa: a Historical Archaeological Approach


African Humanities Program Postdoctoral Fellowships


Eastern and much of central Africa was comprised of small-scale societies during pre-colonial times. Located outside or on the margins of major state systems such as the Luba-Lunda, the Marave, the Lozi, the Kongo, the Zimbabwe Culture and monumental Swahili city-states, these societies have not, until recently, been perceived as complex. However, an historical archaeological study of the Chagga on the lower slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro radically challenges this view. The Chagga constructed massive and complex bolt-holes, forts and a system of defensive ditches surrounding palaces, systematically managed water resources from the mountain, and managed trade networks for local and regional markets in a manner that suggests ancient complexity existed among small-scale societies in africa (Silayo 2017). The study hereby proposed seeks to further highlight this view through the use of archaeological survey, mapping, analyses of oral and written sources, and ethnographic enquiry into the pre-colonial Chagga.