In the past Europeans travelled to the colonies in Africa and extracted resources. Among the resources were artefacts that were part of the heritage of many different regions in Africa. By interpreting them out of context with an illusion of European supremacy colonialism damaged this diverse, rich heritage in many cases.
Five examples of past colonial prehistoric archaeology:
Applying European terminology to African lithic assemblages. Exporting stone tools and never bringing them back. Excluding colleagues that live in the area of research. Not listening to indigenous people speaking about their heritage. Not sharing data and results with indigenous people.
In archaeology in general but especially in our project “Our Way to Europe” and the A1 group we need to be sensible about working in Africa. For A1 this could mean being aware and critical aboutterminology, bringing back exported artefacts or not exporting them at all, working together with colleagues from Ethiopia and Egypt, students from Ethiopia and Egypt participating in field work, funding students from Ethiopia and Egypt, listening to indigenous people talking about the sites that are their heritage, finding ways to share results with indigenous people, knowing and mentioning people’s names. Self-reflection, Sensibility, Awareness, Equality, Participation, Listening, Sharing, Acknowledgment.
Decolonizing Archaeology is an ongoing process, maybe since the 1960s/1970s with a long way still to go. As a privileged PhD student I hope to be aware of personal shortcomings in this regard and to become a constructive part of this process.
Text: Christian Schepers
Christian Schepers is PhD candidate in the A1-project. He is currently working on the lithic technology of Mochena Borago and Sodmein Cave in the context of human dispersal.