Cultural Resource Management and Africanist Archaeology. (Special Section)

By MacEarchern, Scott | Antiquity, December 2001 | Go to article overview

Cultural Resource Management and Africanist Archaeology. (Special Section)

MacEarchern, Scott, Antiquity


Among the general public, the extraordinarily important role played by cultural resource management (hereafter CRM) procedures in the conservation of archaeological materials usually goes unrecognized. Popular images of the swashbuckling adventures of Indiana Jones, or somewhat more generally of intrepid archaeologists making the latest Find of the Century, do not accord well with the concept that the remains of past human activities are actual resources, ones that can and should be managed in the interest of nations and their citizens. All too often, the significance of CRM legislation and the archaeological research that stems from it is not recognized even by academic archaeologists, in part because publication procedures and venues are so different in the worlds of academic and contract archaeology.

This lack of knowledge plays out even more strongly when CRM procedures are considered outside North America and Western Europe, in Africa for example. In the popular Western imagination, Africa remains, to far too great an extent, the Dark Continent, a place of adventure, tragedy and possibly danger but hardly an arena for the domestication of archaeology into a workaday, institutional routine. Nevertheless, cultural resource management initiatives have played an important role in the development of African archaeology over the last four decades. In a period of economic crisis and general governmental retreat from support of basic research, the relative importance of CRM research in Africa is likely to increase. This paper provides a short and selective history of CRM initiatives in Africa, a consideration of the state of the art in the year 2001, and some speculations about the role of such initiatives in the future.


We may divide African CRM initiatives with archaeological implications into two broad categories: those involving basic archaeological field research and those involving conservation of the archaeological heritage of a particular country, in some countries via the activities of national museums. The environments and implications of these different kinds of initiatives are obviously somewhat different, but one common thread is that both usually require a well-functioning civil government, for oversight and for the allocation of resources to different CRM priorities. Sadly, such functioning structures of civil government have often been absent in a great many African countries at different times over the last few decades. Recent history has seen the destruction through warfare of cultural and historical resources in a number of African states, including for example important museum, archival and library resources in Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Somalia. Just as troubling has been the hollowing-out of significant museum and site collections, through mismanagement, predatory collection by foreigners and outright theft (cf. Brandt & Mohamed 1996; jegede 1996; Sanogo 1999; Willett 2000). This has meant that structures supporting CRM -- infrastructure, personnel, educational programmes, legislation -- have in some cases had to be painfully rebuilt, often competing with what appear to be far more pressing national priorities.

The establishment of the Department of Anthropology at the South African Museum and the passage of the first antiquities laws on the continent in that country in 1911 and 1913 (Deacon 1990: 42), may be taken to mark the beginning of archaeological resource management in sub-Saharan Africa. Management of archaeological resources has taken different paths in different countries in Africa, reflecting colonial and post-colonial histories, the finances and infrastructure available to support research and the particular nature of archaeological materials uncovered (Robertshaw 1990). It is impossible to summarize developments across the continent as a whole, encompassing circumstances as varied as the establishment of the Institut Francais d'Afrique Noire at Dakar in 1941 and the Nigerian Antiquities Service in 1943, the increasing tempo of early hominid discoveries and the influence of the Leakey family in East Africa from the 1950s onward, and the comparatively well-developed research infrastructure found in South Africa. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)


1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Cited article

Cultural Resource Management and Africanist Archaeology. (Special Section)


Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.