The Invisible Archaeology of Slavery in the Horn of Africa?

Niall Finneran

in Slavery in Africa

Published by British Academy

Published in print November 2011 | ISBN: 9780197264782
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191754012 | DOI:

Series: Proceedings of the British Academy

The Invisible Archaeology of Slavery in the Horn of Africa?

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  • Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)


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Any archaeological study of slavery in the Horn of Africa (Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia) must take two factors into account: first, the paucity of archaeological evidence for this system, which is historically attested as being of immense economic importance in the Aksumite and post-Aksumite period; and second, that the ‘social memory’of slavery within the modern Ethiopian psyche has fuelled an ethnohistorical — potentially racist — dichotomy between the ‘Semitic’ highlands and the ‘Cushitic’ lowlands. This dichotomy also broadly mirrors a religious Christian/Muslim separation. This chapter argues that although apparently archaeologically invisible, the long history of slavery within this region of Africa has left a profound and legible cultural imprint upon its peoples and landscapes.

Keywords: archaeological study; slavery; slave systems; Aksumite period; social memory; Semitic highlands; Cushitic lowlands; Ethiopian psyche

Chapter.  11125 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)

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