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Dr. Kevin C. MacDonald – Current Research

I have been working in Mali since 1989, with the focus of my research gradually moving from the Late Stone Age and agricultural origins, to complex societies and historic states. Since 2000 I have co-directed fieldwork in the Dhar Néma region of Mauritania with Robert Vernet, around historic Segou with Moussa Sow and Seydou Camara, and at 18th/19th century Louisianan plantations with David Morgan. In approach I attempt to remain eclectic, using culture historical and direct historical approaches as my basis, prioritising the importance of multi-disciplinary research with historians, anthropologists, and linguists. Below I have listed details on my two primary ongoing field research projects.

Seydou Camara interviewing village elders
Seydou Camara interviewing village elders at Gassin, Spring 2005

Projet Segou (2004 to present)

The state of Segou (c.1712-1861) is one of West Africa’s best documented historical states, with a formidable array of recorded oral traditions, accounts of explorers/colonizers (e.g. Park, Mage, Gravier etc.), colonial records, and more recent historical syntheses. However, until the present study, Segou had not been analyzed from a geographic perspective, via its settlement system and the role of individual settlements within a political and socio-economic landscape. In 2005 our multi-disciplinary team began a village by village collection of local oral histories, coupled with corresponding archaeological investigations, in an attempt to understand the origins of Segou and form its critical history – subjects heretofore over-simplified and obscured by the hegemony of griotic accounts. Our work is ongoing and will ultimately produce a new monograph on the state as well as material for a broader synthetic book assembled by Andrew Reid and myself on Traditions of African Statehood.


Excavations at the Maison de Marie Thérèse
Excavations at the Maison de Marie Thérèse, Winter 2005-2006


Cane River African Diaspora Archaeological Project (2001 to present)

The Cane River African Diaspora Archaeological Project was organized as collaboration between the Institute of Archaeology (UCL) and the Cultural Resource Office of Northwestern State University of Louisiana (NSU) in 2001. It works in close collaboration with, and has received financial support from, the Cane River National Heritage Area and the U.S. National Park Service (NPS). The project aims to explore changes in relationships between Native Americans, African Americans, and colonial European communities in Louisiana during the 18th and early 19th centuries, with particular reference to Cane River’s early ‘Free People of Color.’

Doing historical archaeology along the Cane River is especially challenging as it involves recovering data from a wide variety of living cultural groups, using a multi-disciplinary combination of archival research, archaeological fieldwork, and (ultimately) active interpretation to an interested public. To meet these challenges the team members bring a sound combination of qualities and experiences to the project. Kevin MacDonald (UCL) became interested in the Atlantic diaspora from Africa, after working for over 12 years on the archaeology of West African complex societies and agricultural systems. He has worked primarily on the archaeology of Mande peoples in Mali, Mauritania, and Senegal - areas from which many of Louisiana’s first generation of African Americans were enslaved. David Morgan (National Center for Preservation Technology and Training [NPS] and NSU) is an anthropologist interested expressly in the history and archaeology of cultural contact in the southeastern United States, and has previously worked on combining ethnohistoric documents and archaeological settlement pattern data to explore interaction between the Chickasaw and European colonists. Fiona Handley (Winchester School of Art, University of Southampton) is concerned with theoretical approaches to investigating ethnic identity in archaeology, and current issues of presenting African American heritage to the public. Overall, the project has a strong commitment to public archaeology and is making a major contribution to interpretive materials for heritage tourism in the area.


© 2007 Editor, Sada Mire, and the individual authors of these African Heritage and Archaeology webpages

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