Thomas John
HEEAL Junior Research Fellow

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Thomas John has worked as an archaeologist for the last seven years having completed a Bachelors’ degree in archaeology at the University of Dar es Salaam in 2002 (dissertation assessing of public awareness of archaeology in Irangi Hills, central Tanzania) and a Masters’ degree in Development Studies at the University of Dar es Salaam in 2004 (dissertation on watershed management in the Uluguru mountains).  From August 2003 to June 2006 he was working with the Department of Antiquities, Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism as a Conservator of Antiquities where he served as the desk officer for UNESCO on World Heritage sites in Tanzania.  He joined the University of Dar es Salaam in August 2006 to take an Assistant Lectureship in the Archaeology Unit where he taught first year courses in Primatology and Anthropology as well as the third year courses ‘Archaeology of Tanzania’ and ‘People and Cultures in Africa’. He joined the HEEAL project in October 2007 to undertake research on the 19th-century caravan trade in northern Tanzania, but remains a full member of staff with the University of Dar es Salaam where he will return as a lecturer on completion of his research.


Selected publications

Biginagwa, T.J. 2009. Excavation of 19th-century caravan trade halts in north-eastern Tanzania: A preliminary report. Nyame Akuma 72: 52-60.



Biginagwa's research is exploring changes to local diets and economies brought about by the expansion of the east African long distance caravan trade from the late 18th century AD onwards.  In addition to extensive archaeological surveys, he has excavated two sites located along the Pangani River caravan route in northeastern Tanzania; revealing more than 2m of well-stratified deposits including the remains of at least two post-built structures at Ngombezi, and deposits containing artefacts alongside faunal and botanical remains at Kwa Sigi. The analysis of this faunal assemblage is currently the focus of Biginagwa’s research, but he is also undertaking analyses of the ceramics and imported beads from these excavations.


An historical archaeology of the 19th century caravan trade in East Africa: people, trade and diet

Research group(s)

  • Landscape and Society



First year

Second year

Third year

External activities


Memberships, etc.

Biginagwa, GPS survey, Korogwe, Tanzania, 2009

Contact details

Thomas John
Department of Archaeology
University of York
The King's Manor

Tel: (44) 1904 433972
Fax: (44) 1904 433932