The Future of Archaeology in Lesotho

  • Author: Moleboheng Mohapi
  • Topic: Theory and method
  • Country: Lesotho
  • Related Congress: 13th Congress, Dakar

Lesotho is a small mountainous kingdom in the southern part of Africa which has rich cultural heritage resources. The archaeological record comprises of a number of Middle Stone Age (MSA), Late Stone Age (LSA) and Iron Age sites as well as rock art. However, this country only has five archaeologists, of whom only one is practising in the Lesotho while the rest are employed outside the country. Worst of all, the Department of Culture, which is the custodian of all heritage sites in the country, does not have a qualified archaeologist at its service and there is no National Museum. In addition, the few consultancy firms in the country specializing in Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) lack a strong cultural heritage component. This situation has meant that archaeological work has been conducted by foreign institutions and most of the artifacts and archives exported with little development of archaeological infrastructure. Lesotho`s rich heritage resources are also highly under-researched. So far, most research has focused on lithics and rock art, yet there have been very few studies of agropastoral societies. The ongoing Metolong Cultural Resources Management project has shown that large dam projects prioritising capacity building and skills transfer offer one way forward. This paper looks beyond this current work and proposes a framework for archaeological infrastructure as a whole, by proposing first, that the country has to have a National Museum. Secondly, the Department of Culture needs to employ a qualified archaeologist/ archaeologists. The National University of Lesotho (which has until recently been the only University in the country) has to strengthen its archaeology programme (Archaeology courses have only been offered since 2008 in this University). Moreover, Lesotho needs a strong consultancy firm dealing with cultural heritage issues. These four institutions would have to work hand-in-hand to consolidate archaeological research and increase public awareness with regards to Archaeology in Lesotho.

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