Archaeological reconnaissance and excavation in the Republic of Congo

  • Author: James Denbow
  • Topic: 2000 to 10,000 BP,1000 to 2000 BP,500 to 1000 BP
  • Country: Republic of the Congo
  • Related Congress: 13th Congress, Dakar

This paper discusses the results of reconnaissance and excavations carried
out along the Loango Coast of the Republic of Congo between 1987 and
1993. Over 200 sites were located, with excavations carried out at 14 sites.
Thirty seven radiocarbon dates document the period from the end of the Late
Stone approximately 3000 years ago, to the appearance of ceramic using
LSA around 800 BCE. Iron appears in small quantities around 350 BCE, and
in greater quantity with new ceramic traditions beginning approximately 150
BCE. An Early Iron Age developmental sequence found at several sites from
the last century BCE to the forth or fifth centuries CE was briefly influenced
by an intrusive ceramic industry in the 2nd to 3rd century CE. While the intrusive
wares disappear from the Congo after that time, some of the design
elements continue in Iron Age wares as far south as Divuyu in northern Botswana
in the 7th century. At one site, these Early Iron Age wares are overlain
by another industry bearing similarities to wares recovered by Clark at
Dundo in the 1960s. In the Congo this material is insecurely dated to the 6th
century and at Dundo to the 8th century. Later Iron Age ceramics dated between
the 10th and 15th centuries contain “woven” diamond motifs common
to artifacts and cloth of this period from Congo to Angola. While the copper
deposits in the Niari Valley were likely mined in antiquity, no copper was
found on the coast until the 15th century, suggesting the Mayombe Mountains
formed a barrier to earlier trade. Linguistic differences on both sides of
the mountains support such a conclusion.

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