2022-23 Lloyd & Susanne Rudolph Field Research Fellow
Project Title: Sharpening the Honey Adze: Using the Rock Art of Iringa and Mbeya to Understand the Role of Honey in Catalyzing Cross-Community Connection
Honey pervades 20th century East African ethnographies as a source of economic and social bonds between groups who follow different subsistence strategies. As East African archaeology becomes increasingly interested in modeling, “economic mosaics” between foragers, agriculturalists, and pastoralists, honey promises to be a revealing site of investigation into the structure of cross-community relationships. Unfortunately, insect remains, and related artifacts preserve poorly and are difficult to distinguish in the archaeological record. However, a newly documented rock art site in the Iringa Region of Tanzania, contains a wealth of honey-related iconography. This site, Mazombe rock shelter, has the potential to act as a “Rosetta Stone” for honeybee rock art because many of the motifs it reveals to be honey-themed are found throughout East African rock art. This could potentially lead to a vast expansion of the amount of rock art able to comment on honey and its social consequences. In order to enable honey’s essential role in constructing East African “economic mosaics” to become a site of archaeological investigation, this project will document, analyze, and sequence Mazombe and nearby site’s rock art in order to reveal patterns of cross-community interaction.
Rachel George is an archaeology PhD student in the anthropology department at the University of Chicago. She works on documenting and interpreting Kenya and Tanzania’s incredible rock art heritage. Her research emphasizes engaging local communities as co-producers of archaeological knowledge and creating sustainable conservation plans for rock art sites that rely on systems of local stewardship.
Read more at their department profile: https://anthropology.uchicago.edu/directory/rachel-george