Roundup: African Archaeology

For all of his swagger and bravado, Indiana Jones makes a terrible archaeologist. With all due apologies to Harrison Ford and Steven Spielberg, Indiana was always slightly more interested in the treasure and his fetching female companions than he was with the “who, what, when, where, how, and why” of the historical sites he visited — even when he wasn’t trying to beat his enemies to the finish line. Real archaeologists are more interested in the value of the knowledge they can glean from their finds than their monetary value.

Africa is one country that would be a veritable treasure trove for anyone interested in archaeology, which makes it unsurprising that University of Wisconsin – La Crosse professor Kate Grillo chose African Archaeology as the focus for her students to edit Wikipedia. Expanding content on UNESCO World Heritage Site Gorée Island was a priority due the excavation of pre- and post- European settlement sites provided the archaeologists with invaluable information about the island’s past — something made more difficult as Gorée was now primarily a tourist destination. Much can also be learned from the breathtaking Kalambo Falls of Lake Tanganyika on the border of Zambia and Tanzania, as it is considered to be one of the most important archaeological sites in Africa. This single drop waterfall has been witness to over two hundred and fifty thousand years of human activity and may have even had people living there continuously since the Late Early Stone Age.

New additions to Wikipedia include the article Ifri Oudadane, a site located on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in the northeast Rif region of Morocco that holds valuable evidence that shows how North Africans moved from hunter-gatherers to food producers. The 2006 research project led by archaeologists from all over the world marked Ifri Oudadane as one of the first North African sites that investigated the the transition of humans from hunter-gatherer groups to food production. Students also added a large amount of content to and greatly overhauled the the Nok culture article.

Perhaps most impressive is the students’ work on the article for the ruins of Gedi, as they took the article from a mere stub to a lengthy article filled with so much information and images that it helped the article later pass Good Article criteria. Located in Kenya, these are the ruins of a medieval Swahili-Arab coastal settlement that in its heyday may have traded directly or indirectly with China, South Asia, and the Islamic world. Some of the buildings that still remain standing include mosques, a palace, and numerous houses.

Want to help share knowledge with the world? Contact Wiki Education at Wiki Education to find out how you can gain access to tools, online trainings, and printed materials to help your class edit Wikipedia.

Image: Great Mosque of Gede, by Mgiganteus, CC-BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.


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