Sada Mire: Rethinking African History

Aiming to create a better understanding of Africa’s past, a team of multidisciplinary researchers at Leiden University digs in to everyday artefacts and local knowledge. Their work helps to invalidate false assumptions and make less dominant narratives available.

Diversity is a basic need

Using daily artefacts and local knowledge, archaeologist Sada Mire not only collects fresh evidence on Africa’s past, but challenges presumptions about history at large. She remembers how she dug up a sheep bone in Kenya, indicating that the people of its days had kept cattle, rather than ‘just’ hunting and gathering. Yet, the layer of ground in which she found it dated back to 1500 BC – thereby debunking the popular notion that hunting & gathering were followed by keeping animals, which only then leads to farming.

‘History is not linear, but circular,’ she believes. ‘People have mixed survival strategies; they use those which are most appropriate at that particular moment in time. During the Somali war, the ‘modern’ people in the cities suffered, whereas the ‘traditional’ pastoralists, who keep livestock, managed to survive as they knew the resources of the land. Diversity is a basic need for the survival of humankind.’ In her recent research in Somaliland, Mire studied rock art, landscapes and the practices of the people of the Horn of Africa. Her findings show  that, besides self-sufficiency economy, there is also a wide diversity in religious identity. Leiden’s Faculty of Archaeology allows her to pursue a holistic approach, and make less dominant narratives available.

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