Even though numerous landscape features revealed by archeologists have been interpreted as a manifestation of European militarism in the West Africa region, the landscape presented the political and social organization of the people. …
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This article identifies some landscape features at Savi and Elmina and postulates accompanying social and political significance of the same. According to Norman & Kelly, many landscape features in Africa have been wrongly interpreted as manifestations European military exploits. However, these landscape features represent the politics of those regions, and have nothing to do with military exploits of the west. The Savi region is the capital of the coastal Hueda Kingdom, in Benin. The state and the capital formed an important part of the Atlantic slave trade. Hueda Archaeological Project under the leadership of Kenneth Kelly, has, since 1991, discovered and mapped the form of a ditch-complex. Later on, the project has concentrated on the palace complex (Kelly, Brunache,& Norman 1999, p. 2). The archeological activities sought to elucidate the political order of the time. The town became desolate in 1772 after the conquest of the Dahomeans. Excavations in the Savi area have yielded locally made potteries and smoking pipes. The local pipes discovered were more than the imported. However, it is the ditch complex is the most interesting Savi’s archeology. The ditches are as deep as 8 meters and as wide as 30 meters. Archeologists believe that these ditches separated the residencies of the elites and the rest of the town. This has been proven by the discovery of ramp that provided access to the elite residence. There is also the evidence of a gate structure restricting entry to the area. Additionally, the presence of an elevated watchtower made strong the case of social interpretation of the functions of the ditches. Within the elitist areas, there is evidence of more barriers indicating restrictions to some areas within the elite residence itself. In the palace unearthing, there is evidence of divisions separating different sections of the palace. Furthermore, there is evidence to indicate the presence of storied structures prior to the Dahomean conquest. Ceramics can be used as active objects domain for cultural configuration and transformation at numerous scales of quotidian lives. They can be used to explain some aspects of the cultural conversions that took place because of the engagement of West Africa in the Atlantic trade. Ceramics for the bulk of artifacts revealed at any excavation site. This is because of their resilience and pervasiveness, making them effective tools of deciphering identity. One useful category are the utilitarian ceramics, which archeologists use identify functional categories and internal group relations by observing the stylistic characteristics. Furthermore, landscape features were built by the interrelationship between political, social and religious institutions. The ditch systems in west African created physical barriers and societal boundaries. They created areas of safety and inclusion (Norman & Kelly 100). The ditch system served several purposes among them, to offer protection to the majority of the settlements, and differentiate between the royal residence and other non-elite dwellings. The massive work required in the making of such complex ditch system also indicates the level of social organization present in those areas. It shows that the king had the power to summon hordes of people to attend to the duties of the kingdom. This also could have been because of the religious organization of the time. Furthermore, apart from being a show of power, it also alludes to the duties of the king in ordering defensive work. To marshal such an amount of work force, the king must have been entrusted with the duty to defend the kingdom. Another insight that results from the observation of the ditch complex is the regional political climate of
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The author states that children were very unwilling to participate in the slave trade and in spite of their age they saw themselves captured and in imprisonment after the war. The women, children and the older people became particularly vulnerable after their men were killed during the war; the ones who were spared death were then ransomed as slaves.
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