Posted on 9 December 2020
A special issue of the journal Azania: Archaeological Research in Africa published this month explores the archaeology of slavery within Africa. Stephanie Wynne-Jones of the Department of Archaeology is guest editor of the issue, along with her PhD student Henriette Rødland.
Archaeologies of slavery are notoriously difficult to interpret, as enslaved groups lacked material wealth and are relatively archaeologically invisible. The nature of labour relations is also difficult to determine from the material record alone. Although understanding enslavement in the past is imperative, these understandings have been sought only in specific contexts. In particular, enslaved labourers have been studied on plantations in the US and other colonial situations. On the continent of Africa it is often recognised that multiple forms of enslavement and indentured labour existed in the past, yet these forms have only rarely been the subject of archaeological scrutiny.
In this issue archaeologists working across Africa tackle these challenges, exploring routes to making enslaved persons visible in archaeological and heritage contexts. The article by Rodland, Wynne-Jones, Wood and Fleisher also draws on the University of York project at Songo Mnara and is developed from an undegraduate thesis written by Rødland when she studied for her BA at York.