"The Land is now OK": Three Centuries of Marakwet Settlement on the Elgeyo Escarpment, Northwest Kenya

Author(s): David Kay

Year: 2019


This is an abstract from the "African Archaeology throughout the Holocene" session, at the 84th annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology.

Situated within the Great Rift Complex of northwest Kenya, the Elgeyo Escarpment and surrounding region has been home to Marakwet communities for the last three hundred years. Many of these communities inhabit settlements which span diverse ecosystems, from semi-arid bush to highland forests. In tandem with changes in local lifeways and social/ecological relationships, the location of these settlements has shifted across the landscape since their original foundation. Drawing on archaeological and ethnographic research conducted over the past three years, this paper will explore these changes in settlement form and location, alongside the cultural and environmental variations that are interwoven with such trajectories. Combining survey, geoarchaeological and interview data, it will argue that such settlements should not be interpreted as discrete ‘villages’, but rather as inhabited zones within broader parcels of landscape in which a variety of human activities and relationships have played out over time. These parcels roughly correspond to ‘clan territories’, but are cross-cut by inter-clan land-use agreements, marriages, trading relations, irrigation networks and modern infrastructure. Taken as a whole, these networks highlight the intrinsically historical-cum-ecological nature of Marakwet settlement, and serve as a potential guide for archaeological investigations of more ancient contexts throughout eastern Africa and beyond.

Cite this Record

"The Land is now OK": Three Centuries of Marakwet Settlement on the Elgeyo Escarpment, Northwest Kenya. David Kay. Presented at The 84th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Albuquerque, NM. 2019 ( tDAR id: 452020)

Spatial Coverage

min long: 24.082; min lat: -26.746 ; max long: 56.777; max lat: 17.309 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 23642