Letter: Ancient Africa is still a missing continent

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The Independent Online
Sir: David Keys (Book Review; 'The first green shoot in a cultural drought', 5 July) is indeed correct in painting a sorry picture of the study and publication of Black African archaeology in this country.

While the university presses have often been eager to publish syntheses that cover the entire continent, there is an extraordinary lack of detailed publication of specific areas or cultures. Where can I find a modern study, in print, in English, devoted to ancient Ghana or Great Zimbabwe, to cite two examples of around 24 unpublished African societies?

Where the academic presses lead, the coffee-table market follows. There are rows of splendidly illustrated books on ancient Etruscans, or Greeks or Egyptians - civilisations that occupied a few hundred square miles, and the odd millennia. But for Africa, millions of years and an entire continent are all too often crammed into a meagre volume at the end of the series.

There is much admirable work undertaken in African universities and institutes, by a new generation of local scholars. As the study of the ancient Africa has virtually ceased in British universities, let us hope that the academic presses will accept this African research for publication, even though it may challenge the conclusions of European specialists.

Yours faithfully,


Department of Classics

and Archaeology

University of Bristol