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Histories of the Subaltern from the Kgalagadi's Fringe, Botswana


This dissertation research addresses the cultural dynamics of contact and the changing social landscapes between `San-speaking' foragers and ancestral `Bakgalagadi' farmers who lived in the Metsemothlaba River valley of southeastern Botswana on the fringe of the Kgalagadi Desert, c. 500-200 years ago. Using a practice approach to examine the material remains of their daily lives, this research demonstrates the everyday dynamic of contact as well as the wider social and economic connections both groups developed and maintained over time.

Archaeological materials analyzed in this research are faunal remains, ceramics, ostrich eggshell beads, glass beads, metal jewelry and tools, and stone tools. Together, these evidence the nature and degree of contact between the foragers who lived at AK47 shelter and farmers who lived at Botlhano Fela, located in close proximity to each other on Thamaga Hill, and their connections to the global trade networks flourishing in southern Africa before the arrival of Europeans to the area.

This research explores the persistence of identities via their material culture to demonstrate that equations of particular types of artifacts to specific groups obscures the realities and practicalities of their daily lives. With material signatures of interaction between different groups, this research looks at how these new materials may have functioned within the object world of the foragers by their acquisition and use, as well as how these good may have allowed the negotiation of new or affirmation of old identities.

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