An Ethnoarchaeological Analysis of Human Functional Dynamics in the Volta Basin of Ghana: Before and after the Akosombo Dam

By Swanepoel, Natalie | The International Journal of African Historical Studies, January 1, 2005 | Go to article overview

An Ethnoarchaeological Analysis of Human Functional Dynamics in the Volta Basin of Ghana: Before and after the Akosombo Dam


Swanepoel, Natalie, The International Journal of African Historical Studies


An Ethnoarchaeological Analysis of Human Functional Dynamics in the Volta Basin of Ghana: Before and After the Akosombo Dam. By E. Kofi Agorsah. Mellen Studies in Archaeology 2. Lewiston, N.Y.: The Edward Mellen Press, 2003. Pp. xxvi, 407; 87 figures; 41 photographs. $139.95.

This volume represents the culmination of twenty years of ethnoarchaeological and archaeological research in the Volta Basin, carried out under the auspices of the Volta Basin Archaeological Research Project. Its scope is broad but it can most succinctly be described as a study of the long-term "functional adaptation" of the various groups of people who inhabit the basin to the changing environmental, sociocultural, and economic circumstances in their surroundings. The most abrupt change notably was the building of the Akosombo Dam, which resulted in the wholesale relocation of communities and the transformation of the ecosystem in which they live.1

The book can be broadly divided into three parts. The first section comprises Chapters 1 and 2 and is a summary of the preceding archaeological work in the basin and the fieldwork that resulted in this volume. Also included is a broad overview of the cultural and environmental setting of the Volta Basin. The second section presents an in-depth spatial analysis of selected culture groups in the Basin, namely, the Krachi, Nawuri, Nchumuru, and Gonja. Throughout, greater emphasis is given to the Nchumuru as it is among these communities that the bulk of the fieldwork was carried out. Chapters 3, 4, and 5 cover land use, foodways, and occupation; house construction techniques and the use of space; and the changing nature of compounds and house architecture, respectively. These chapters will prove extremely useful to archaeologists working both in northern Ghana and elsewhere in West Africa as Agorsah goes into great detail about the material aspects of subsistence activities and the construction of houses as well as factors likely to influence their deterioration and the social and practical factors influencing the growth and expansion of compounds

The third section, comprising Chapters 7 to 10, focuses on the use of ethnoarchaeology as a methodology. In particular, Agorsah advocates a systematic use of ethnoarchaeological data that can be used to generate explanatory and analytical models for human behavior. …

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