Sewasew Haileselassie Assefa
Grant TypeDissertation Fieldwork Grant
Institutional AffiliationWashington U.
Grant numberGr. 10603
Approve DateSeptember 29, 2023
Project TitleHaileselassie Assefa, Sewasew (Washington U.) "Temporality of Diet, Foodways, and Social Identity among Urban Populations on the East African Coast"
This project investigates diet and foodways at two urban centers of the East African coast, Mtwapa and Manda, Kenya, during the 14th to17th century, a period in which local East African urban populations negotiated Portuguese colonialism in the region. Identities of urban East African Coastal populations were shaped by millennium-old currents of international trade, politics, and religion. As such, burial populations of urban elites from Mtwapa and Manda provide an unprecedented insight into sociopolitical and economic fragmentation and continuity. The goal of this project is to reconstruct dietary patterns to understand how localized socioeconomic and political conditions impacted foodways and to examine how these conditions are differentially experienced by individuals of various identities. Using carbon and nitrogen stable isotopic analysis, the project aims to 1) reconstruct and compare human dietary patterns between Manda and Mtwapa as reflective of ecologically and historically distinct communal experiences; 2) understand dietary variation between individuals of diverse identities including age, gender, socioeconomic status, and religion at Manda and Mtwapa; and 3) develop a local isotopic baseline using archaeological animal tissues to interpret human dietary data 4) develop high resolution burial sequence using radiometric dates.