Session Abstracts

Session Title and Organiser/s Abstract/Synopsis (Download PDF here)

Graduate Student Showcase Session – L. Fraser
An essential part of any student’s academic development is conference participation. Whether as a short 5-minute blitz presentation, or a 10-minute paper, the act itself involves more than just public speaking. It includes the formulation of an abstract, suitable title, visual presentation and oral lecture; all of which should form a coherent and academically sound ‘product’ or ‘research output’. As the Southern African Archaeological Student Council (SAASC), we wish to guide students through the formal process, providing guidance in terms of content, structure, language use and overall presentation skills. The aims of hosting a dedicated post-graduate student showcase include a) the facilitation of conference participation by first-time student presenters, b) showcasing the potential of our post-graduate students, and c) highlighting the contributions made by the annual Student Development Workshop, hosted by SAASC, in developing future academics. The session will bring together students from various universities, who have presented their work at the annual SDW over the past four years, but have yet to present their work on a more formal, conference platform.

Archaeologies of Mission: Contact, Colonisation and Christianity in Southern Africa – N. Swanepoel and J. Behrens
Southern Africa emerged as an important theatre of engagement for the Christian Evangelistic movement that grew in impetus and influence worldwide in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Given the sheer diversity of southern African societies, religious denominations of mission societies and the colonial contexts in which such engagements took place, southern Africa offers important insights into how religious change is interpolated with broader social, economic, religious and material culture change. Until now this field of study has largely been dominated by historians and anthropologists but mission archaeology is a rapidly growing field of study in southern African historical archaeology. This session brings together a group of papers that highlight the contributions archaeology and material culture studies make in understanding the interactions and creative possibilities inherent in the missionary encounter, or more broadly, the role of Christianity in southern Africa.

On the role of conservation in archaeology – I. McGinn
The aim of heritage conservation is to extend the usable life of collections or single objects in order for them to be studied, researched and enjoyed, which is particularly important in the case of archaeological materials as these have been buried or submerged and have over time reached a state of equilibrium with their surroundings. As soon as they are uncovered, or recovered however, this equilibrium is destabilized and the artefacts proceed to decay at an increased pace. This would suggest that artefact preservation be one of the guiding considerations involved from the very onset of research design and fieldwork planning, and yet archaeology and conservation seem at odds with one another in South Africa, which could be linked to the general misunderstanding that conservation entails ‘restoration’ and the ensuing removal of valuable research data.
The loss isn’t immediate or in the transportation of material from field to lab, or even with repeated handling and research procedures during research, rather it is a gradual and continuous process which continues once the initial field report has been completed and the existence of the collections become lost in time. Conservation, whether passive or interventive can assist in the promoting the longevity of these materials until their research potential is again unlocked through new approaches, new comparative studies and new technologies.

Public Archaeology: What it Means and Why it Matters – K. Scott
Public archaeology is as much an activity as a theoretical concept. It is engaging the public in order to share archaeological findings. It provides a means to make archaeology relevant to society and establishes the necessary platforms, through which the public can engage with their own, and their countries, heritage. It goes above and beyond merely exposing the public to the products (both physically and academically) of archaeological research. Although public archaeology is becoming a well-established sub-discipline in certain parts of the world, this relatively ‘young’ approach within South African archaeology is still finding its feet.
This session will bring together professionals that have first-hand knowledge of public participation in archaeology. Past and present projects will be showcased and the future possibilities, within this discipline and how it ties to main stream archaeology will be discussed.

Recent contributions to Later Stone Age research in southern Africa – T. Forssman and P. Mitchell
Since the 1920s when the Later Stone Age was first described by John Goodwin and Clarence van Riet Lowe there have been several methodological and theoretical shifts in research focus. Very generally, at first most studies were focused on the Later Stone Age techno-complex, but this eventually shifted to examine people and their ecological environment and later their social environment. Recently there has been a diaspora of research interests and an ever-widening application of techniques in studying excavated and rock art sequences. This growth has not only been witnessed in southern Africa, but in other hunter-gatherer-occupied territories across the southern hemisphere, making it possible to compare hunter-gatherer experiences, lifeways and material culture between continents. That research is developing at such a rapid rate and that the producers of this complex are of global interest, it is felt that a session reviewing growth within the field and providing a ‘state of the field’ exposé is a much needed exercise. The ASAPA conference provides an ideal opportunity to do so. The organisers intend on publishing a special volume with selected papers from the session.
The session aims to:
1. Showcase growth within the Later Stone Age field
2. Acknowledge important research developments
3. Promote and represent recent growth in a single combined output

The Fish in the Pond: Maritime Archaeology coming of age in South Africa – J. Bosohoff
South Africa has always had an intriguing and deep maritime past. Unfortunately, this has mostly been associated with shipwrecks and treasure hunting. Consequently, a large part of the archaeology of this maritime past has involved developing a legal and control framework to protect this fragile heritage. Research took somewhat of a back seat. This trend is changing with several innovative and new research projects starting and continuing in the last 10 years. This session invites papers to highlight some of the new projects and to provide insight into the development of the sub discipline in the past and into the future.

Plio-Pleistocene Archaeology and Palaeoanthropology of Southern Africa: Site Context, Hominins and Tools – M. Lotter and M. Caruana
The African continent preserves the world’s oldest evidence of hominin evolution and technology. In this context, the archaeological and palaeoanthropological records of southern Africa are critical for developing a broad perspective on human origins in the deep past. The multi-disciplinary approach towards southern African Plio-Pleistocene research has helped to bridge interpretations between studies focused on site formation, hominin species, technology and palaeo-environments. This has provided a comprehensive outlook on early hominin behaviour and evolution in this region, resulting from new methodological approaches towards old assemblages and sites, critiques of long-standing theories, and reports of new localities that fill critical gaps in the Plio-Pleistocene record. This session invites presentations on cutting-edge methods that reassess old sites, assemblages and theories, as well as surveys and reports of new fossil and archaeological localities. The aim of this session is to further develop our multi-disciplinary approach towards Plio-Pleistocene research in southern Africa.

New research at Klasies River main site – S. Bentsen and S. Wurz
In South Africa the MSA is a major focus of international research as numerous well preserved sites occur with data relevant to the evolution of modern humans globally. In this context the 20 meter pile of sediment at Klasies River has extensive potential to provide perspectives on modern human origins and subsequent adaptations. New excavations at Klasies River main site started in 2015 under the direction of Sarah Wurz. Through the use of a multi-disciplinary approach, including archaeobotany, micromorphology, faunal and lithic analyses, pyrotechnological perspectives, and detailed stratigraphical and spatial analyses, new avenues are opened for interpreting the fisher-hunter-gatherer lifestyle at the site. This session brings together results from this research and discusses how it integrates with developments within South African Middle Stone Age research.

Bioarchaeology in Southern Africa – V. Gibbon
This session will focus on bioarchaeological research where human remains are analysed within their archaeological and cultural context. Bioarchaeological analyses enhance our view of what life was like for people in the past by directly examining biological indicators at a population level through the study of human bone and teeth. The study of human remains provides additional information to the archaeological record by including, but not limited to, life history studies, osteobiographies, understanding general population demographics and interactions, trauma, diet, cultural practices, health and stress.

Archaeological Mitigation work completed for the raising of the Clanwilliam Dam dam wall – W. Fourie
A large number of specialist have contributed to the work conducted on the project and include Middle and Later Stone Age excavations, Colonial/Historical excavations, Rock Art documentation and relocation as well as landscape documentation and grave relocations.

Digital solutions to Archaeological Heritage Management – K. Bluff and J. Lavin
This session aims to include discussions on 3D scanning of sites and reconstruction of rock art, GIS solutions and the use of the South African Heritage Resources Information System (SAHRIS) in managing heritage resources digitally.

Papers in memory of Peter Beaumont – D. Morris and A. Val
Papers presented in honour of Peter Beaumont who passed away in 2016.

Heritage and Economy in Africa – Pamela Mac Quilkan
Heritage sites are unique treasures of humanity. Not only do these sites represent our past and present, but serve as important economic drivers for tourism, commercial business, infrastructure development, as well job creation through management, conservation and maintenance of the heritage. Heritage is intrinsically linked to economic activity as very often, there are a number of economic activities taking place within or around heritage sites, either being dependent on them or attracted to them. Successful utilisation of heritage sites for economic benefits require that communities are involved in conservation, thus creating opportunities for heritage awareness and the development of sustainable tourism activities. Numerous studies worldwide have attempted to understand this relationship and to estimate the value of heritage. These statistics can provide sufficient evidence to Governments and Funders regarding its promotion, conservation and protection. However, realisation of this requires that both heritage professionals and communities are capacitated in the areas of business. It is important that papers under this session showcase best practices highlighting the role of heritage in the economy not only as a reference for others but also to contribute towards its sustainability. Papers can address various aspects such as identifying projects that are economically benefiting communities within or around heritage sites; discussing the economic value and sustainability of heritage; and economic initiatives and methods implemented at or near heritage sites.

Climate Change and Heritage in Africa – Pamela Mac Quilkan
Climate change has increasingly become a pertinent issue in every sector worldwide, and heritage is no exception, with mounting evidence of the effects that climate change is having on both natural and cultural heritage. There is a need, therefore, for archaeologists and heritage managers to review the risks arising from climate change. The impacts of climate change affecting heritage range from increased ocean temperature, erosion, flooding, acidification and soil temperature, to bleaching of coral reefs, species and habitat change, intensified wildfires and desertification. It can also impact social and cultural aspects with communities having to change or abandon the way they interact with buildings, sites and landscapes. Above and beyond the negative impact, it has been recognised that heritage itself can play a role in mitigating the impact of climate change as well as enabling society to adapt to the change. Traditional knowledge embedded within heritage can also help to build resilience. It is necessary to have a better understanding of the effects and challenges being faced in the continent to appropriately determine a way forward. Papers in this session should address the specific challenges and impact of climate change on natural and cultural heritage in Africa; various solutions (adaptation and mitigation strategies) currently being implemented on the continent; the role heritage is playing in mitigating the impact of climate change as well as enabling society to adapt to the climatically-induced changes; and discuss traditional knowledge embedded within heritage enabling societies to build resilience.

Archaeological research on the aggregated complexes referred to as Tswana towns has focused on the historical context of their development in the later 18th and early 19th centuries, their spatial organisation and the interplay between oral histories and archaeological signifiers of identity, through time and space. Despite the fact that the landscape between present-day Pretoria and Zeerust is relatively densely settled, there has been a tendency to work within the precincts of large aggregations such as Molokwane, Marothodi and Kaditshwene. This has perhaps been reinforced by the oral record which depicts a fractured landscape that, from the later 18th century, was one of continual feuding between aggressively competitive chiefs. Little empirical attention, for example, has been given to relationships and connections across the wider region between towns, with smaller settlement clusters in between and importantly, the scales of production and consumption implied by their size and how these were politically and socially managed within their immediate and wider biophysical contexts. This session consequently will present ongoing research on these Tswana Towns and explore new methodologies and techniques in order to encourage, invigorate and fuel new questions and new approaches. Some issues, among others, will consider:

  • Recent LiDAR scans that provide more precision for comparative studies of intra- and inter settlement organisation through time and space.
  • Engaging experts in the field of remote sensing in order to optimise the capacity of these technologies.
  • The use of remote sensing to develop estimates of population numbers, herd sizes and scales of consumption that can generate inter-disciplinary research on the capacity of immediate and wider biophysical catchments, their sustainability and management.
  • Intensify material science studies that can track the movement of metal, ceramics and animals and develop models from oral and ethnographic sources that consider the social contracts and political hierarchies within which material mobility was framed and affiliation and identity expressed.
  • Intensify research on the pre-town sequence that comparatively considers oral histories, cultural heterogeneity, change and continuity through the 17th and 18th