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Field Manual for African archaeology


This manual aims at explaining essential concepts pertaining to the practice of conducting archaeological field work in Africa. No fewer than 63 authors draw on their practical experience in the field to cover specific topics.
It seeks to provide concise and readable notes that can be consulted in the field. Each chapter corresponds to a specific phase in the investigative process, from locating and excavating a site, to cataloguing and interpreting findings, and then publishing the results.

The book is online for free in English and in French. It has 9 parts and a total of 79 texts. Users can download the full manual or separate chapters, in high and low resolution versions.

Wit the support of Belgian Cooperation Development.

For more information, comments and/or suggestions, please email: FMAA@africamuseum.be

> Download the full manual:



High resolution (pdf, 4.3 MB) | Low resolution (pdf, 713 KB)

INTRODUCTION. Thinking and writing on the past in Africa
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Introduction. A. Livingstone Smith & S. MacEachern
Recovering the African past: looking back from the present. J. Sutton
Archaeology in Africa: who or what sets the agenda? S. K. McIntosh
Academic research in West Africa: the case of Senegal. M. Sall
African perspectives on academic research: the case of Cameroon C. Mbida Mindzie

CHAPTER 1. How do archaeologists plan projects in Africa?
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Introduction. A. Livingstone
Organising an international archeological research project in Africa. A. Haour and D. N’Dah
Cultural heritage management in Africa. P. Mitchell  
Case study: heritage management in Central Africa. N. Arazi  
Rescue and preventive archeology: roads, thermal power stations and quarries. R. Oslisly
Managing cultural heritage in Africa: a study of IFAN in Senegal. I. Thiaw 
Relations with local communities. N. David  

CHAPTER 2. Finding and describing archaeological sites
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Introduction. A. Livingstone   
Archeological exploration in an urban African context: Bangui. A. J.-P. Ndanga. 
Case study: rainforest. M. K. H. Eggert  
Field survey in the Sahel: an informal guide. K. MacDonald  
Ancient polities: archaeological survey in a metropolis. A.Ogundiran & B. Agbaje-Williams. 
Surveying towns. J. Fleisher  
Archaeological field survey and the recording and cataloguing of archaeological materials. P. J. Lane
Large scale reconnaissance and excavation strategy on the Loango Coast. J. Denbow  
Case study: participating as a student in an impact assessment. P. Nlend  
Surveying funerary sites. I. Ribot   
Finding rock art. B. Smith   

CHAPTER 3. How to protect archaeological sites
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Introduction. A. Livingstone Smith  
The excavacation of Stone Age sites. R. Vogelsang   
Village sites. H.-P. Wotzka
The pit: archaeological excavation and analysis. A. Assoko Ndong  
Excavating in urban contexts. J. Fleisher  
Megalithism. L. Laporte   
Metallurgic sites. C. Robion-Brunner and V. Serneels
Excavating funerary sites. I. Ribot  
Recording rock art. B. Smith   
Documenting and studying a rock-art site: the Lovo massif. G. Heimlich   
Rock art management and conservation. B. Smith  

CHAPTER 4. Analysis of materials 
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Introduction. A. Livingstone Smith 
From the field to the lab. D. Bosquet 
Cataloguing finds. S. Ozainne  
Making sense of lithics. N. Taylor   
A case study: analyzing lithics from Shum Laka, Nw province, Cameroon. E. Cornelissen 
Pottery analysis. A. Livingstone Smith & C. de Francquen  
Defining pottery styles. T. Huffman
Iron objects. D. Killick  
Copper. L. Garenne-Marot   
Case study: copper ingots in Central Africa. N. Nikis  

CHAPTER 5. Ecofacts and related studies     
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Introduction. E. Cornelissen
Archaeobotanical remains. A. Höhn
Archaeozoology in Sub-Saharan Africa. W. Van Neer 
Case study: domesticated or wild? V. Linseele
Soil cover in Central Africa. D. Schwartz
Case study in a Sudano-sahelian fluvial setting. M. Rasse 
Human remains. I. Crevecœur 
Radiocarbon dating. P. de Maret  
By means of example: Interpreting C14 dates. E. Cornelissen, P. de Maret & D. K. Wright 
Other radiometric methods of dating. D. K. Wright 
Relative dating methods. D. K. Wright 

CHAPTER  6. From present to past          
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Introduction. O.P. Gosselain   
The direct historical approach. A. B. Stahl
Oral tradition. D. Schoenbrun 
Historical Linguistics. K. Bostoen  
The ‘words and things’ method. B. Ricquier
Artworks. J. Polet  
Ethnoarchaeology. D. Lyons. 
Pottery and oral history. A. Mezop Temgoua-Noumissing
Architecture. V. Brunfaut and J.-F. Pinet   
Ceramic technology between past and present. A. Mayor   
Comparative technology. O. P. Gosselain   
Genetics and African archaeology. S. MacEachern  

CHAPTER  7. Publishing archaeological research results       
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Introduction. I. Gérard   
Preparing a manuscript and the process of peer-review. P. Robertshaw   
Where to publish? E.A.A. Garcea   
On-line publication and Open Access. J.-P. Devroey   

CHAPTER 8. Afterword    
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The future of the past on the African continent. P. de Maret   


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