Finding Bosutswe: archeological encounters with the past

This paper presents a micro-scale examination of archaeological fieldwork and its impact on archaeologists, foreign and indigenous students, and the local communities that both host and labour for them. The discussion centres on the rediscovery and excavation of a site known as Bosutswe in the eastern Kalahari, Botswana. James Denbow’s initial interactions with the site and subsequent excavations there span more than two decades. His expos on the fieldwork is enlarged with interjections from Morongwa Mosothwane and Nonofho Ndobochani, both Batswana archaeologists who participated in the Bosutswe excavations in 2001 and 2002, as they react to Denbow’s text. The discussion touches upon issues such as the multiple positionalities of foreign and indigenous researchers who introduce new constructions and contestations of race, gender, power and identity into the communities around the sites they excavate; the multiple levels of confrontation with decentred relations of power and prejudice that lie close to the surface of indigenous constructions of identity and place; the often dialectical vacillations between tradition and modernity; and the sets of memory traces, conflicting assumptions, diverse behaviours, and cultural misunderstandings experienced during the interactions with one another and their encounters with ‘the past’. Notes, ref. [ASC Leiden abstract]

Title: Finding Bosutswe: archeological encounters with the past
Authors: Denbow, James
Mosothwane, Morongwa
Ndobochani, Nonofho Mathibidi
Year: 2008
Periodical: History in Africa
Volume: 35
Pages: 145-190
Language: English
Geographic term: Botswana
External link: http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/history_in_africa/v035/35.denbow.pdf
Abstract: This paper presents a micro-scale examination of archaeological fieldwork and its impact on archaeologists, foreign and indigenous students, and the local communities that both host and labour for them. The discussion centres on the rediscovery and excavation of a site known as Bosutswe in the eastern Kalahari, Botswana. James Denbow’s initial interactions with the site and subsequent excavations there span more than two decades. His expos on the fieldwork is enlarged with interjections from Morongwa Mosothwane and Nonofho Ndobochani, both Batswana archaeologists who participated in the Bosutswe excavations in 2001 and 2002, as they react to Denbow’s text. The discussion touches upon issues such as the multiple positionalities of foreign and indigenous researchers who introduce new constructions and contestations of race, gender, power and identity into the communities around the sites they excavate; the multiple levels of confrontation with decentred relations of power and prejudice that lie close to the surface of indigenous constructions of identity and place; the often dialectical vacillations between tradition and modernity; and the sets of memory traces, conflicting assumptions, diverse behaviours, and cultural misunderstandings experienced during the interactions with one another and their encounters with ‘the past’. Notes, ref. [ASC Leiden abstract]