Abstract: Sites, ancestors and trees: landscapes of historical archaeology in Southern Mozambique


Despite a conceptual distinction between nature and culture, anthropologists have long debated that people derive cultural meanings from natural elements. More recently, the dialectic of nature-culture became intrinsic to studies of landscapes and archaeological monuments in which nature provides a fundamental concept for understanding cultural forms. In this lecture I explore the significance of nature as integrated into local narratives of past events performed by elders in the Manjacaze district (Southern Mozambique). Natural elements, particularly trees and tree groves, are endowed with cultural and historical significance, participating in interpretations and memorialization of local ancestors, in an association between archaeological sites, rituals and narratives of events that took place within contexts of colonial expansion. This analysis draws on a multidisciplinary approach that examines narratives embedded in representations of landscapes, in which elements of nature are accorded special significance in the interpretation of the past and of archaeological sites.



Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic:

Colson, Elizabeth 1997 “Places of Power and Shrines of the Land” in Paideuma: mitteilungen zur Kulturkunde, 43: 47-57

Fairhead, James and Melissa Leach 1998. “Representatives of the Past: trees in historical dispute and socialized ecology in the forest zone of the Republic of Guinea, West Africa” in The Social Life of Trees: anthropological perspectives on tree symbolism, edited by Laura M. Rival, pp. 253-271. Berg, Oxford.

Newitt, Malyn 1995 A History of Mozambique. Indiana University Press, Bloomington.

Schmidt, Peter R.  2006 Historical Archaeology in Africa: representation, social memory, and oral traditions. Altamira Press, Oxford.



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