Genetics and African Prehistory: Possibilities and Challenges
Speaker: Scott MacEachern, Bowdoin College
April 10, 2014, 6pm
Business Administration Building, C Wing, Room 116 (BAC 116)
There has been less archaeology done in Africa than on any other continent, and the prehistory of much of this vast continent remains more or less unknown. Historical genetics provides us with a new and extremely powerful way of looking at population movements and contacts in the past, and the comparison of archaeological and genetic data offers the prospects of immense improvement in our understanding of African prehistory. At the same time, there are dangers involved in such interdisciplinary undertakings: archaeological and genetic data offer insights into different aspects of human history, and each approach has its own strengths and weaknesses. In particular, genetics can reinforce assumptions that African populations are ‘people without history’, remnants of humanity’s past. This lecture will offer a discussion of these issues, with examples drawn from the Lake Chad Basin and other parts of the continent.
Scott MacEachern is Professor of Anthropology at Bowdoin College. He holds his degrees from the University of Prince Edward Island and the University of Calgary (M.A. and Ph.D. in Archaeology), and his areas of specialization are African archaeology, ethnoarchaeology, state formation processes, and archaeology and genetics. He has conducted fieldwork in Cameroon, Chad, Nigeria, Kenya and Ghana, as well as a number of sites in Canada, and is Director of the DGB Archaeological Project in Northern Cameroon. He has published extensively, and has been the recipient of many grants and fellowships.
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