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Urban Space, Social Memory, and Materiality on the 15th - 16th-century Southern Swahili Coast

This pilot project seeks funds to conduct preliminary  archaeological  research at the Swahili stonetown  of Songo Mnara, a World Heritage Site on the southern Tanzanian  coast. The goal of this preliminary  field season is to gather baseline data in order to submit a proposal to the National Science Foundation Archaeology Program for a three-year, multi-sited  research project. The research focuses on the use of space as settings for daily practice in an ancient urban center, investigating public (centrally-located religious architecture, cemeteries, and open areas) and private spaces (stone houses).  Concepts of materiality (Miller 2005; Meskell2005), and recent research on the spatial practices of death and social memory (Chesson  200 I; Silverman 2002), and the archaeology  of performance (lnomata and Coben 2006) provide a theoretical  basis.  In comparing public and private spaces, this project aims to delineate particular material practices related to the constitution  of social identities through domestic activity and through ritual and/or commemorative practices associated  with centrally-located cemeteries and open areas. Although it has been recognized that Swahili houses were the setting for acts of self-realization (Donley­ Reid 1990, Fleisher and LaViolette 2007), no previous research has explored  this within the full range of public and private activity.