Engaged Learning

NIU Ethnoarchaeological Field School in Western Kenya

Professor Sibel Kusimba is an associate professor of Anthropology in the NIU College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. She is an archaeologist interested in prehistoric and historic African cultures. Her fieldwork in Kenya has examined the lifeways of hunters and gatherers, the origins of food production and the development of urban settlements and precolonial East African states. She had directed field projects in Kenya for fifteen years and currently teaches courses in rise of civilization and African archaeology and ethnography.

Through participation in this program, participants will gain the following:

  1. Field experience in ethnoarchaeological field survey and mapping.
  2. Field experience in ethnographic interviewing and surveying.
  3. Laboratory experience in pottery analysis.
  4. Immersion in a rural African culture and physical setting.
  5. A multi-cultural experience with other international students and exposure to a new culture

The Site of the Program

East Africa has one of the richest, longest records of archaeological remains of human history in the world. The Mount Elgon research program has been uncovering the ancient past in Western Kenya for five years. Our goal has been to understand the origins of agricultural societies and the use of metal technology. Our excavated sites have yielded a rich repository of information on the formation of African communities over the last 2000 years. Our project for 2009 is to conduct ethnoarchaeological research in communities around our base of Kimilili. We will be working with local communities, researching and documenting patterns of their daily lives which will aid the interpretation of ancient sites and life ways in the area. We will be working with traditional potters, farmers, herders and craftspeople. We will document the manufacturing process of traditional pottery and its uses and meanings in our local communities through site mapping and ethnographic interviews, and conduct similar research with local farmers and herders. Students will work with artifacts in the lab, conduct ethnographic interviews in English and with interpreters, and map and document sites.