The impact of fieldwork in African archaeology

It is important today that archaeologists consider and attempt to demonstrate the broad and multifaceted impact that their work may behold in addition to its contribution to the intellectual growth of the discipline. Often conducted in public spaces and alongside inhabitant communities, archaeological fieldwork is a highly visible and engaged practice in which participants often express varying, if not contrasting, perspectives about heritage, the past, and perhaps even the aim of archaeology itself.

Mursi elders lift the first stone

In Mursiland, we wanted to connect with the immediate impact of fieldwork and the subsequent traces of its legacy. We wanted to build some frame of reference against which we might be able to understand the value of archaeological fieldwork to an agri-pastoral community, and the means by which that work entered into the lives and landscape of our Mursi partners. We hoped that this might help us to improve our own methods and standards of practice, as well as to inform debate concerning archaeology and heritage practice in Africa.

But how might we identify, measure and conceive of impact as part of the project’s fieldwork design? What sort of ‘impact practice’ might we employ to best observe, document, process and learn from the impact of fieldwork?

We approached the Mursi’s rich tradition of oratory and oral history as a basic indicator of impact, registering over successive seasons a combination of formal and informal response to the processes of fieldwork and the products of its discovery, with the gradual modification of those testimonies over time.

The results of this novel conversation-led approach to impact practice in fieldwork are presented in the December issue (volume 23) of the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute in an article entitled ‘Oral histories and the impact of archaeological fieldwork in contact encounters: meeting Socrates on the Omo.’

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Taitu – Ethiopia’s oldest hotel fire damaged

Taitu hotel, 2011It was with great sadness to read in January of this year of a fire that has ravaged through Addis Ababa’s Taitu hotel. Built in 1900, this had retained many of the original fittings, most notably from the 1930s, and like many travellers and researchers we have enjoyed its welcoming atmosphere since 2010.

The hotel was planned as the venue for a small exhibition on the Mursiland Heritage Project. We send out warmest condolences to all at the Taitu, and hope that a future regeneration is possible.Grand stairwell of Taitu hotel, 2011Dining Hall, Taitu hotel 2010

 

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Mursi and their environment, an exhibition

A summary of an exhibition on changes in Mursi relations with their environment has been posted on our Exhibitions page. This was curated in 2014 by Juan Salazar Bonet and Anna Albiach Serrano as part of a joint venture between the Mursiland Heritage Project and the Botanical Garden of the University of Valencia.

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New updates are being made to this website, but please browse through the pages for current information relating to the project.

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