WAC Workshop: Archaeologists Without Borders


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Wednesday 18 February
3.00 – 6.00 p.m.
(Dept. of Archaeology)

Thursday 19 February
9.00 – 9.30
Opening Remarks – Professor C.A. Folorunso (University of Ibadan).

9.30 – 10.15
Paper presentation 1: Writing a paper acceptable for publication in a reputable journal: Some Dos and Don’ts. – Professor M. Adebisi Sowunmi (University of Ibadan).

10.15 – 10.45

10.45 – 12.30
Paper Presentation 2: WAC and the European legacy of ‘indigenization’ of the other peoples and cultures: Continuity or change since 1986 and on? – Dr Obare Bagodo (Univesite D’Abomey Calavi, republic of Benin).

12.30 – 14.00
Lunch Break

14.00 – 15.15
Paper presentation 3: Recovering archaeological evidence for symbolic meanings in the iron technology of Buhaya, Tanzania. – Professor Peter Schmidt (University of Florida, U.S.A.).

15.15 – 15.30

15.30 – 16.30
Open interactive session with students – Professor Peter Schmidt (University of Florida, U.S.A.).

16.30 Closing

Friday 20 February
9.30 – 10.15
Paper Presentation 4: The challenges and prospects of doing archaeology in Nigeria. – Dr S.O. Ogundele (University of Ibadan).

10.15 – 11.30
Break (Visit to Vice Chancellor)

11.30 – 12.45
Paper presentation 5: The centrality of environmental studies in archaeological research. –  Professor M.Adebisi Sowunmi (University of Ibadan).

12.45 – 14.00

16.00 – 19.00
9th Bassey Andah Memorial Lecture
Venue: CBN Lecture Theatre, Faculty of Science, University of Ibadan
African Archaeology and the Ancestors – Professor Peter Schmidt (University of Florida, U.S.A.).

Saturday 21 February
9.30 – 10.15
Paper presentation 6: African Archaeology and the challenge of research dissemination. Dr Zachary A. Gundu (Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria).

10.15 – 10.45

10.45. 12.30
Paper presentation 7: Gold, Subsistence and Ritual on the Asmara Plateau of Ancient Eritrea. – Professor Peter Schmidt (University of Florida, U.S.A.).

12.30 – 14.00

14.00 – 16. 00
General Discussions: WAC and You. – Professor C.A. Folorunso (University of Ibadan).


Sunday 22 February




Prof. Peter R. Schmidt, University of Florida

The Archaeologists without Borders (AWB) workshop held at the University of Ibadan was the first WAC effort to enhance dialogue in various regions of the world, regions where difficulties in transport and sparse institutional budgets prevent regular interchange among colleagues and students. The AWB workshop in Ibadan proved that a modest investment can go a long way towards improving intraregional exchange of ideas, increasing awareness of mutual research interests, and exposing younger scholars to work being conducted in other parts of the region, continent, and elsewhere in the world.

Nigeria is the most populous state in Africa, with large geographical territories separating the three active archaeology departments. The Department of Archaeology at Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria sent a large delegation of four faculty members and approximately 23 students to Ibadan. For the first time this group had an opportunity to mix with and learn from their peers at the University of Ibadan and other institutions with representatives in attendance—the University of Nigeria at Nsuuka, Obafemi Awolowo University at Ile-Ife, the National Commission for Museums and Monuments and the Université Abomey Calavi in Republic of Benin. Over the three days of the workshop, I heard repeated comments that this was a unique experience in Nigeria—that never before had such a large number of people interested in archaeology gathered together to exchange ideas. The excitement was palpable. Previously, the West African Archaeological Association meetings, when held in Nigeria, and the Nigerian Archaeological Association meetings have tended to draw only senior professionals—leaving students on the margins. What made the AWB workshop so successful and energizing is that students played a prominent and important part in the gathering, constantly contributing to discussions and debates (often eloquently), and interacting with archaeologists from other institutions, including the WAC facilitator.

As the outside facilitator for the AWB workshop in Ibadan, I played a variety of roles, each of which opened significant insights into current archaeological practice and thinking in Nigeria and surrounding countries such as Benin. These multiple roles encompassed the presentation of papers about long term archaeological research in two regions with which most archaeologists in West Africa have little contact—the Horn of Africa and East Africa.  These papers focused to two key themes: The importance of systematic regional survey for building culture history in previously unexplored areas and how the ethnoarchaeology of technology and ritual links up with the archaeological record. I found the responses to these presentations to be lively, inquisitive, and satisfyingly interactive—in one case continuing for nearly an hour.

A second role I played was as moderator and discussant for one paper. This was a welcome opportunity to provide detailed responses to what I found to be a thoughtful and stimulating discussion by Dr. Samuel Ogundele [Ibadan] in his paper on “The challenges and prospects of doing archaeology in Nigeria.” As with earlier and subsequent discussions, students as well as lecturers proffered ideas and analyses in a spirited debate, animated and probing.

Another role I had in the workshop was to act as an interlocutor during the discussion sessions after other papers, such as Prof. Adebisi Sowunmi’s [Ibadan] presentation on “The centrality of environmental studies in archaeological research” and Dr. Zachary Gundu’s [Ahmadu Bello] examination of “African Archaeology and the challenge of research dissemination”—guiding discussion in alternative directions, re-examining assumptions that have been guiding practice in West African archaeology over the last several decades, and offering comparative commentary from my perspective of an Africanist archaeologist and someone who has had long-term engagement in the development of archaeology in other regions.

In my capacity as the 2009 Guest Lecturer for the Bassey Andah Memorial Lecture—held at the end of the second day—I was able to reach a large audience made up professional archaeologists, students, members of the University of Ibadan community, and the public. Enthusiastic audience response to the lecture, “African Archaeology and the Ancestors,” affirmed that general interest in archaeology is a vital force that with additional nurturing and reorientation could be mobilized to underwrite and revitalize archaeology in Nigeria. Public declarations made by the Vice Chancellor after the lecture inspired the audience to believe that archaeology may have regained some important ground in the thinking of university administrators as an important avenue of study and practice.

I was most impressed by the enthusiasm and articulate contributions of students. I came away from the experience thrilled by their high level of discourse. I felt uplifted, and believe that archaeology has a bright future in Nigeria and this part of West Africa if such talent continues to be drawn to archaeology. The students are eager to learn, excited about conducting original research, and keen to forge links to the outside world. The undergraduate students at Ibadan—many of whom attended the workshop—produce their own archaeology magazine, replete with articles they and their lecturers write. During an interview for their magazine, I was asked incisive, probing questions about, for example, my vision for archaeology, the relationship between prehistory and history, and whether or not archaeology is lucrative. To this final question I answered, “Yes, archaeology is intellectually lucrative, emotionally lucrative, and communally lucrative when family, neighbors, and the larger community make contributions to the realization of archaeological goals.” Though concerns about the economic sustainability of archaeological careers loom large in the minds of students today, it is also apparent that there is no shortage of idealism about the future of archaeology.

The AWB workshop held in Ibadan proves that it does not take many resources to stimulate archaeological discourse in large countries where various intellectual centers are widely separated or in regions where language (English/French) identities or poorly developed infrastructure inhibit interaction. Most importantly, AWB breaks down the borders between older professionals and students, allowing students to interact closely with WAC facilitators(s) and professionals from the region. It also allows more extensive discussions of possible South-South collaborations as well as North-South collaborations, with the important dimension that local archaeologists have an extended period to assess the ideas and possible contributions of potential collaborators. This is a program that deserves the enthusiastic support of the WAC membership and additional implementation in other world regions.