Matthew Knisley

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Chicago, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 9392

Approve Date

October 19, 2016

Project Title

Knisley, Matthew C., U. of Chicago, Chicago, IL - To aid research on 'An Archaeology of the 'Natural': Historical Landscapes of the Sandawe Homeland, Central Tanzania,' supervised by Dr. Francois G. Richard

Preliminary abstract: This project will carry out the first archaeological analysis of socio-natural landscapes in the Sandawe homeland of central Tanzania. This project will generate a basic corpus of data for the last 2,000 years of the region, including material culture inventories and chronologies, settlement patterns, and evidence of vegetation and environmental change. Traditionally, scholarship has cast the region as an isolated refuge for a remnant forager population until the late pre-colonial period. By extension, the region has been viewed as a pristine natural environment, which, until recently, was left relatively untouched by human activities. Reappraising the evidence produced by earlier research, this project hypothesizes instead that the Sandawe homeland has deep historic links to the broader sociopolitical and economic networks of eastern Africa. Further, the region’s reputation as an ecologically undisturbed hinterland may have resulted from how its inhabitants have engaged with these networks, rather than their isolation from them. This project investigates these hypotheses through a combination of landscape and frontier theory and more recent models of political economic mosaics. Multiple methods, ranging from survey and excavations to environmental proxy sampling, will help to explore the co-construction of social and ecological geographies. The multi-scalar nature of these datasets allows for an investigation of how local societies have differently organized themselves over time and in relation to broader political economic and ecological networks. This information can further allow for a critical assessment of what representations of the Sandawe homeland, and its inhabitants, as ‘natural’ has entailed historically.