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Dissertation Proposal Defense for Blair Zaid
April 24 @ 1:00 pm - 3:00 pm
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The Success of Bantu Expansion- An Archaeological Study of Cultural Change during the Central African Early Iron Age
Date: Monday, April 24, 2017
Time: 1:00-3:00 p.m.
Location: Room C103 McDonel Hall
Student: Blair Zaid
Abstract: This dissertation project seeks to produce an archaeological model for understanding cultural change of Bantu speaking groups of the Early Iron Age. To date, the significance and occurrence of the Bantu expansion across central, southern, and eastern Africa is well documented. Despite a century of research on the Bantu expansion, little is known about how Bantu speaking groups could successfully traverse the varied landscapes of the Congo River Basin at the end of Late Holocene between 4000-25000 BP, or the period of the Early Iron Age. Consequently, there is a lack of modeling cultural change via the archaeological record, in Central Africa. In addition, while there are several theories on the linguistic and genetic results of Bantu Expansion, questions of how and why that expansion was successful remain unanswered. How do scholars account for the ability of Bantu speakers to encounter different ecological zones and cultural groups and influence them in such enduring and lasting ways? Because such questions have yet to be applied to the anthropological archaeological study of cultural change in the region, our disciplinary arena has yet to appreciate the regional scale of this phenomenon. I propose that the changing cultural and ecological circumstances of the Late Holocene directly informed settlement strategies among Bantu populations across the region. Within this context, this study seeks to examine the existing archaeological evidence from 50 years of research in the region to identify the similarities and differences among settlement strategies within the multiple ecological zones of the Congo River Basin. The re-evaluation of the material record vis-a-vie settlement formation processes at a regional scale will allow me to model how and under what circumstances Bantu speaking people established new settlements during this time-period. As such, this project will contribute to the growing literature on the Bantu Expansion, settlement strategies in the Congo River Basin, and prehistoric cultural change in Africa.