ASAUK Panel proposal 5 (of 12)
Panel title: Navigating the Cultural and Environmental Past of the Congo River
This panel will be presented at the biannual conference of the ASAUK (African Studies Association in the UK) in September 2012 (Leeds, Sept 6-8). The organizers have invited the Congo Research Network to participate in this. 12 Congo related panels have been accepted.
If you wish to participate, you can join already accepted panels or you can submit a stand-alone paper. Participants should submit their paper abstracts via the ASAUK website. First, they should register as authors, then select the panel in which they want to participate, and then enter their abstract.
The following link gives you more information about registration: http://www.asauk.net/conferences/asauk12.shtml
The deadline for the submission of paper abstracts is 27 April 2012.
To attend the event without presenting a paper, contact the conference organizer David Kerr (firstname.lastname@example.org, +44 (0)121 414 5124)
Panel Convenor: ?
On April 30th 2010, a multidisciplinary team of scientists left for an expedition on the Congo River. The expedition Boyekoli Ebale Congo 2010 was organized by the University of Kisangani, the Royal Museum for Central Africa, the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, and the National Botanical Garden of Belgium. With an exhaustive study of the biodiversity along the Congo River they meant to mark the year of biodiversity as well as the 50th anniversary of the independence of the DRC. In five weeks, the expedition visited four sites between Bumba and Kisangani. The team did not only consist of natural scientists. Also linguists and archaeologists participated in the expedition, in order to document the linguistic diversity and to study the cultural and environmental past of the region. They will present the first results of their research in this panel.
The linguistic team gathered lexical and grammatical data for four Bantu languages and three dialects. They were specifically interested in specialized vocabulary concerning fauna, flora, pottery, and cooking, amongst others. A historical comparative study of these words allows for insights in the cultural history of the respective speech communities. For this panel, the linguists will explore pottery vocabulary gathered for the languages So and Lokele. They will put these words in a historical perspective, comparing them with pottery vocabulary in other Bantu languages and confronting them with the analysis of Bostoen (2005) concerning Bantu pottery history.
The archaeologists collected archaeological and palaeobotanical samples from systematic excavations. On most sites artefacts were found in association with charcoal fragments. A first series of these have been radiocarbon dated and thus provide for the first time a chronology for the introduction of pottery in this area.
A first objective is precisely the establishment of a chronological and cultural framework for this segment of the Congo River basin. The style and technology of artefacts (pottery, stone tools, metal equipment etc.) yield information on the origin and history of past populations (e.g. Wotzka, 1991). Unveiling the history of the first settlement of this area, a crossroad between the east and the west, will contribute in understanding the mechanisms of the spread of cultural phenomena such as the expansion of eastern and western Bantu languages. Data on contemporary potting techniques were also collected as pottery represents a crucial methodological and historical interface in material and immaterial cultural studies.
A second objective is to identify the charcoal fragments. This offers insight in the composition of the surrounding forest and provides the first direct evidence for the vegetation history of the central Congo Basin. Mapping of old forest areas supplements the existing forest refuge hypothesis (e.g. Maley, 1996). Finally, the array of woody species used by humans through time can be compared to contemporary data on species preference.
In summary, this multidisciplinary analysis of past and present cultural and biological diversity allows a reconstruction of both vegetation and cultural history and their relationship.
Els Cornelissen: PhD, senior researcher, Royal Museum for Central Africa, Tervuren, Belgium
Wannes Hubau: PhD student in Bioscience Engineering, Ghent University
Jacky Maniacky: PhD, researcher, Royal Museum for Central Africa, Tervuren, Belgium
Birgit Ricquier: PhD student in linguistics (FNRS fellow) at the Université Libre de Bruxelles and the Royal Museum for Central Africa
Alexandre Smith: PhD, senior researcher at the Section of Prehistory and Archaeology of the Royal Museum for Central Africa, Tervuren, Belgium