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Stephanie is an Africanist archaeologist with interests in East African coastal urbanism, material culture, and social practice. She completed a BA in Archaeology at the University of Bristol in 1998, followed by an M.Phil (2000) and PhD (2005) from the University of Cambridge. Stephanie’s PhD research was based on the Swahili coast of Tanzania, where she conducted a survey of the region around Kilwa Kisiwani, a major Swahili town of c. AD800 – 1500. Stephanie continues to work in eastern and southern Africa, with a series of projects that focus on Swahili towns, trade, material culture, identity, heritage and community archaeology.
After completing her PhD, Stephanie moved to Nairobi to become the Assistant Director of the British Institute in Eastern Africa from 2005 to 2008. She came to York from a Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellowship held at the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology in Bristol (2008-2011). Stephanie is currently a Lecturer in the Department of Archaeology. In 2015 she was awarded a Pro Futura Scientia fellowship at the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study, and spent two years in residence in Uppsala, affiliated with the Department of Archaeology and Ancient History.
Deputy Head of Department (2019 - )
Director of Partnerships (2019 - )
Research staff coordinator (2020 - )
University Research Champion for Culture and Communication
Coordinator, Africa Research Network
Stephanie has conducted fieldwork in several regions of the East African coast, including her PhD research at Kilwa Kisiwani, Tanzania, survey on Mafia Island (with Dr Paul Lane and Dr Bertram Mapunda), excavations at Vumba Kuu, Kenya (with the National Museums of Kenya) and along caravan routes through Tanzania, with work near Lake Tanganyika. She has recently completed a major campaign of excavation back in the Kilwa archipelago, at Songo Mnara (with Dr Jeffrey Fleisher). Excavations at this 14th – 16th century stonetown are aimed towards providing a richer understanding of the uses of urban space among the Swahili, and the ways that objects were bound up in spatial practices inside and outside the structures. The fieldwork is now complete, and the project monograph is in process.
This work at Songo Mnara builds on a broader interest in material culture and spatial practice as a route through which to approach issues of society, identity and interaction.
In addition, Stephanie has research interests in urbanism, and in the precolonial African past more generally. She is a core group member of the Centre for Urban Network Evolutions at Aarhus University, Denmark. Urbnet is funded as a Centre of Excellence by the Danish National Research Foundation, and seeks to explore the nature of urban formations in many parts of the ancient world. With colleagues at Urbnet, particularly Dr Federica Sulas, Stephanie is exploring Urban Transitions on Zanzibar, with a programme of excavation, sampling and off-site testing aimed at recovering the relationship between past towns and their environment.
This project, funded by the Leverhume Trust (2019-2022) is an exploration of the ways that early urban centres on Zanzibar drew on and affected their resource landscapes during two major periods of urban growth. Fieldwork at Unguja Ukuu (7th - 15th centuries) and Tumbatu (11th - 15th centuries) on Zanzibar will explore domestic contexts in detail, analysing the ways that local resources were used and built into the spaces of the towns. Sampling for geochemistry, plant and animal remains, will complement off-site survey for environmental change. The result will be a clearer understanding fo the relationship between these urban centres and their surrounding resource landscapes, and the ability to comment upon sustainability and cultural priorities for these early towns.
Urban transitions and ecology in the Zanzibar archipelago is part of a collaboration with Urbnet, Aarhus University. Dr Federica Sulas, at Urbnet, is the project co-investigator and is jointly responsible for directing the research.
This project brings together UK and African archaeologists, heritage professionals, and community groups in the built heritage of the East African, or Swahili, coast. It aims to explore and celebrate the rich architectural heritage of Pangani with different local stakeholders.
Rising from the Depths aims to identify how the tangible submerged and coastal Marine Cultural Heritage (MCH) of Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique and Madagascar, and its associated intangible aspects can stimulate ethical, inclusive and sustainable economic growth in the region, of benefit not only to building social cohesion and reducing poverty in individual states, but also in enhancing the value and impact of overseas aid in the maritime sector.
Large scale excavations at Songo Mnara (2009-2017) were part of a collaboration with Dr Jeffrey Fleisher, Rice University, and were funded by the National Science Foundation (US) and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (UK). They were aimed at exploring the practices of daily life at Songo Mnara, a 14th - 15th century stone town on the southern coast of Tanzania. Excvations included large-scale testing of open spaces and household structures, exploring the distirbution of artefacts, faunal and botanical data as well as more ephemeral aspects such as soil chemistry and phytoliths. The result has been an unprecedented picture of the uses of space at a Swahili site. The project is currently being written up for publication as a site monograph.
Elizabeth Hicks - Communities of Consumption: an integrated approach to ceramic function and foodways along the Swahili coast during the first millennium AD
Daria Lynch - Decolonising York: telling alternative stories in a heritage city (co-supervision with Gerard McCann)
Grant Bettinson - Developing digital tools for engaging communities in heritage at Kilwa, Tanzania
Samir Belgacem - Heritage conservation in Algeria: Between consonance, dissonance and identity (co-supervision with Louise Cooke)
Sophie Rowson (co-supervision with Colleen Morgan)