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.