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.

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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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



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  • The future of the past on the African continent. P. de Maret