Precolonial African Material Culture

Precolonial African Material Culture

Combatting Stereotypes of Technological Backwardness

V. Tarikhu Farrar


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The idea of an inherent backwardness of technology and material culture in early sub-Saharan Africa is a persistent and tenacious myth in the scholarly and popular imagination. Due to the emergence of the field of African studies and the upsurge in historical and archaeological research, in recent decades the stridency of this myth has weakened, and the overtly racist content of arguments mustered in its defense have tended to disappear. But more important are transformations in social, political, and cultural consciousness, which have worked to reshape conceptualizations of African peoples, their histories, and their cultures. Precolonial African Material Culture offers a thorough challenge to the myth of technological backwardness. V. Tarikhu Farrar revisits the early technology of sub-Saharan Africa as revealed by recent research and reconsiders long-possessed primary historical sources. He then explores the ways that indigenous African technologies have influenced the world beyond the African continent.


V. Tarikhu Farrar:
V. Tarikhu Farrar is professor of African American studies and history at City College of San Francisco.