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Fluid Spaces and Fluid Objects: Nocturnal Material Culture in Sub-Saharan Africa with Special Reference to southern Africa

Author(s): Shadreck Chirikure ; Abigial Joy Moffett

Year: 2016

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Summary

The transition of time from day into night is a fundamental pivot through which human existence revolves. And yet, as if ‘afraid of the dark’, few archaeological reconstructions have attempted to explore nightly practices. In the anthropology of southern Africa, particularly amongst groups such as the Shona, the dawn of the night opened the door to a host of nocturnal activities, which included learning, reproduction, relaxation, and ritual. For example, witches used mundane winnowing baskets as transport while they placed quotidian pestles adjacent to their partners as decoys to prevent them from noticing their absence during nocturnal expeditions. Given that houses and material culture used during the Iron Age (CE 200 – 1900) of southern Africa often closely resemble that used in some contexts, it is possible, within limitations, to delineate nocturnal activities. We fuse a rich body of anthropological knowledge, supplemented by participation in Shona society to explore nocturnal activities in an archaeological context. Interestingly, objects such as glass beads, often celebrated as symbols of prestige by archaeologists, were used to enhance sexual pleasure at night. The use of spaces and objects was fluid between day and night such that archaeological interpretation should be alert to multiple possibilities.


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Fluid Spaces and Fluid Objects: Nocturnal Material Culture in Sub-Saharan Africa with Special Reference to southern Africa. Shadreck Chirikure, Abigial Joy Moffett. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 402924)


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Spatial Coverage

min long: -18.809; min lat: -38.823 ; max long: 53.262; max lat: 38.823 ;

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America