1st Edition

African Islands A Comparative Archaeology

By Peter Mitchell Copyright 2022
    338 Pages 195 Color Illustrations
    by Routledge

    338 Pages 195 Color Illustrations
    by Routledge

    African Islands provides the first geographically and chronologically comprehensive overview of the archaeology of African islands.

    This book draws archaeologically informed histories of African islands into a single synthesis, focused on multiple issues of common interest, among them human impacts on previously uninhabited ecologies, the role of islands in the growth of long-distance maritime trade networks, and the functioning of plantation economies based on the exploitation of unfree labour. Addressing and repairing the longstanding neglect of Africa in general studies of island colonization, settlement, and connectivity, it makes a distinctively African contribution to studies of island archaeology. The availability of this much-needed synthesis also opens up a better understanding of the significance of African islands in the continent's past as a whole. After contextualizing chapters on island archaeology as a field and an introduction to the variety of Africa’s islands and the archaeological research undertaken on them, the book focuses on four themes: arriving, altering, being, and colonizing and resisting. An interdisciplinary approach is taken to these themes, drawing on a broad range of evidence that goes beyond material remains to include genetics, comparative studies of the languages, textual evidence and oral histories, island ecologies, and more.

    African Islands provides an up-to-date synthesis and account of all aspects of archaeological research on Africa’s islands for students and academics alike.

    1. Why Africa, Why Islands?

    2. The Multitude of Isles

    3. Arriving

    4. Altering

    5. Being

    6. Colonizing and Resisting

    7. Island Archaeology: The African Contribution


    Peter Mitchell is Professor of African Archaeology at Oxford University, Tutor and Fellow in Archaeology at St Hugh’s College, Oxford, and Research Associate of the Rock Art Research Institute, University of the Witwatersrand. Former President of the Society of Africanist Archaeologists, he has written widely on African archaeology and related topics



    "As far as this reviewer is aware, this is the first book to treat the archaeology of the circum-African islands as a coherent whole. It does so expertly and comprehensively. Mitchell is one of the few scholars qualified to write a book of this type, moving as it does across enormous swathes of space and time and drawing on various traditions of archaeology and theoretical perspectives. The result is a major contribution to African archaeology, with relevance far beyond the continent." Thomas P. Leppard - Journal of African Archaeology

    "Overall, the book effectively illustrates the value of archaeological research on African islands, highlighting the rich and variable material record of people’s engagement with islands around the continent, as well as possibilities for future research. The book’s many examples of existing and potential research on African islands are analysed through comparisons with other African islands and, more broadly, with other island regions. This approach provides a comprehensive overview of current research on African islands and offers Africanist archaeologists and Island archaeologists alike exciting opportunities to reimagine their current research." Eréndira M. Quintana Morales, Antiquity

    This book is Winner of the SAfA Book Prize 2023.

    “…with this book, Mitchell has leapfrogged African islands into prominence, which must surely bode well for new research across this vast, dynamic, and culturally varied maritime space, encompassing two oceans.” Krish Seetah - The African Archaeological Review