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Stephanie is an Africanist archaeologist, specialising 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.
Careers and Employability Coordinator
Athena Swan Chair
Chair of the Teaching Committee (2011 - 2015)
Departmental Library Rep (2013 - 2015)
Deputy Head of Department (2019 - )
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.
(with Dr Jeffrey Fleisher, Rice University)
This is a large scale excavation project, funded by the National Science Foundation (US) and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (UK). Stephanie's work at the site looks in particular at domestic space, investigating the ways that stone and mud houses were lived in and structured through practice. This is part of a comprehensive approach to the site, exploring both the areas outside houses and the larger, public spaces and areas of memorialisation and ritual.
(with Dr Thomas Biginagwa, University of Dar es Salaam)
This British Academy-funded project seeks to build a new understanding of the East African coastal past through GIS modelling of the coastal region. The project is a collaboration with the University of Dar es Salaam, and the University of Cape Town. We are building a comprehensive database of known sites for the Swahili past, to be housed at a GIS hub at the University of Dar es Salaam and to act as a resource for researchers in the region. In the process, we are exploring what insights can be gained from exploring the Swahili past spatially.
Hayley McParland - Exploring Urban Space through Phytolith Studies
Tom Fitton - Pushing the Boat Out; a study of spatial organisation and redevelopment in the early Swahili ports of East Africa
Ema Bauzyte (at Centre for Urban Network Evolutions, Aarhus) - Iron production and the urban landscape