“The River: Peoples and Histories of the Omo-Turkana Area” is published by Archaeopress (2018) as a free-to-download e-Book and purchasable hard-copy volume. This sumptuously illustrated book brings together a remarkable collection of leading archaeologists, ecologists, historians and ethnographers who specialise in the region.
Unlike any place on earth, the Omo-Turkana area spans parts of Ethiopia, South Sudan and Kenya, and is today home to a unique diversity of peoples and cultures. Extraordinary fossil finds from the locale have illuminated the evolutionary origins of our species and archaeological and historical evidence has demonstrated it has been a dynamic crossroads of peoples, languages and identities for millennia. Over the past two decades, development interventions have transformed the environment and presented a threat to local forms of material and intangible heritage. Many local groups now face challenges to the long-term sustainability of their traditional ways of life. Recognising the Omo-Turkana area as a crucial resource of global heritage, the authors acknowledge its current vulnerability.
The book’s publication was officially launched on 24th November at the annual African Archaeology Research Day (AARD) held at the University of Cambridge’s McDonald Institute of 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.
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 Institutein an article entitled ‘Oral histories and the impact of archaeological fieldwork in contact encounters: meeting Socrates on the Omo.’
It 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.
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.