Journal Article



in African Affairs

Published on behalf of Royal African Society

Volume 98, issue 392, pages 393-406
Published in print July 1999 | ISSN: 0001-9909
Published online July 1999 | e-ISSN: 1468-2621 | DOI:

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  • African Studies
  • International Relations
  • African History
  • Regional Political Studies


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African archaeology, both in theory and practice, suffers from a burdensome colonial experience. By gaining independence, the temptation to fashion the past in terms of models of European nationalism must be countermanded by a serious consideration of the role and character of nation states in an open global society. The emergence of divisive sectarian, ethnic or linguistic factions requires new models of nation-building that can facilitate the integration of diverse groups without the authoritarian hegemony of any ruling party. African archaeology should aim to provide examples of such forms of government in pre-European contexts.

Africa's archaeological and cultural heritage in the light of the current global economic disparities should not only contribute to a sense of pride and achievement, but must also become a means to economic development and trans-cultural education. Archaeologists can provide policy-makers with models of alternative tourism, and may contribute to the revival of traditional crafts, as well as the use of archaeological know-how in locating water resources, discovering sustainable modes of subsistence, and workable models of social organization. None of these contributions, however, can be achieved at the current pitiful level of financial support. Local governments and international organizations are asked to contribute effectively to the capacity building of African archaeological institutions. The road to a better future lies in reshaping our notions of our common past and our shared human bonds. Africa is no longer the dark continent it was once believed to be, but, by contrast, the continent where humanity saw the dawn of its day. Africa has been and remains an integral element in the fabric of humanity. The veil of its recent colonial experience should be lifted to reveal the shining face of its achievements in the art of living.

Journal Article.  0 words. 

Subjects: African Studies ; International Relations ; African History ; Regional Political Studies

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