Jeffrey Fleisher

Jeffrey Fleisher
Rice University · Department of Anthropology

PhD in Anthropology

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92
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1,219
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Publications

Publications (92)
Article
Full-text available
Historically, the Swahili of the eastern African coast have performed feasts through which they negotiated and contested social power. Feasts draw on tradition and practice, but create the space for, and conditions of, imbalance and social debt. Drawing on this historical frame, I examine the archaeology of feasting in the more distant Swahili past...
Article
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Public spaces have been long recognized as integral parts of urban settings, often granted importance by the public ceremonies and spectacles that they hosted. Interpretations of such public arenas often focus on elites that use them to construct and legitimize power and authority; city residents are thought to either accept these political machina...
Article
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Indian Ocean maritime networks have become a special focus of research in recent years, with emphasis not only on the economics of trade but also the movement of domesticated plants and animals (see Fuller et al . in Antiquity 2011: 544–58). But did such contacts inevitably lead to radical social change? Excavations at Tumbe reveal a settlement of...
Article
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Open spaces are an integral part of past urban settlement worldwide. Often large and devoid of visible traces of past activities, these spaces challenge mainstream archaeological approaches to develop methodologies suitable to investigate their history. This study uses geophysical survey, geochemical sampling and artifact distributions to examine o...
Article
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From its inception in 2014, the interdisciplinary Bantu Mobility Project has sought to refocus research on the Bantu Expansions away from the macroscale towards a “writ small” approach within a well-defined region with well-understood episodes of language expansion, namely, the middle Kafue and middle Zambezi catchments of southern Zambia. This tig...
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The fourteenth-to-sixteenth-century AD site of Songo Mnara, in the Kilwa archipelago in southern Tanzania, is a stone town with many standing coral buildings. Extensive excavations at the site have produced over 9,000 beads, 7,444 of which are glass. A subset of 140 of these was chemically analyzed using laser ablation-inductively coupled plasma-ma...
Preprint
Full-text available
The peoples of the Swahili coast of eastern Africa established a literate urban culture by the second millennium CE. They traded across eastern Africa and the Indian Ocean and were among the first sub-Saharan practitioners of Islam. An open question has been the extent to which these early interactions between Africans and non-Africans were accompa...
Chapter
How do we develop effective environmental and climate policy for regions of the world with few—if any—relevant paleoclimate, vegetation, and hydrological reconstructions and, therefore, impoverished models of the environmental and human impacts of future climate change? What if such regions are in countries with limited financial, institutional, or...
Article
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Swahili cuisine is known across Africa and globally as a highly distinctive product of a cosmopolitan, coastal, urban society. Here we present a comprehensive study of precolonial Swahili diet and culinary practices at the coastal town of Songo Mnara, positioning archaeological and ethnographic understandings of cuisine in a long-term coastal tradi...
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In this article, we present the results of a recent program of high-resolution radiocarbon dating on the urban sequence at Kilwa Kisiwani in southern Tanzania, including Bayesian modeling of 21 calibrated ¹⁴C dates. These data come from the 2016 excavation of a large trench directly adjacent to trench ZLL, one of the key 1960s excavations that serv...
Article
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The distribution of the black rat (Rattus rattus) has been heavily influenced by its association with humans. The dispersal history of this non-native commensal rodent across Europe, however, remains poorly understood, and different introductions may have occurred during the Roman and medieval periods. Here, in order to reconstruct the population h...
Article
This paper offers a mesoscale approach to the study of the urban landscape surrounding the fourteenth–sixteenth century Swahili site of Songo Mnara just off the southern Tanzanian coast. The study is based on a systematic, intensive survey of the town’s immediate island hinterland. Such an approach, we argue, exposes a set of activities that extend...
Preprint
Full-text available
The distribution of the black rat ( Rattus rattus ) has been heavily influenced by its association with humans. The dispersal history of this non-native commensal rodent across Europe, however, remains poorly understood, and different introductions may have occurred during the Roman and medieval periods. Here, in order to reconstruct the population...
Article
Full-text available
This paper seeks to challenge the notion of the invisible slave in the archaeological record and investigates the way in which material culture may reflect the movements and practices of enslaved labourers on the East African Swahili coast. Archaeological approaches to enslavement have revealed the nuanced and complex experiences of a group of peop...
Article
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This paper describes a course that I developed and co-taught with Dr. John Hopkins at Rice University in the spring of 2014, entitled "Virtual Reconstruction of Historic Cities." In this course, student teams worked to digitally reconstruct ancient Roman and Swahili buildings. The final products followed from a semester-long engagement with researc...
Chapter
This chapter critiques the use of archaeological evidence in the preceding case study of bushcraft in Iron Age Zambia. Commentary focuses on issues of data quality from published sources and the use of chronological estimates from radiocarbon dating. The discussion highlights the difficulty of working with published faunal assemblages, especially w...
Chapter
This chapter introduces the volume’s second case study. Through an assessment of the lexical reconstructions from published historical linguistic analyses, this chapter reexamines earlier arguments about the emergence of feasting on the eastern African, Swahili coast after AD 1000. The finding of a collection of word innovations about discussions,...
Chapter
This chapter summarizes practices of interdisciplinarity that emerged from writing the book, including the similarities and differences of our disciplines and datasets in terms of training, narrative scope and scale, preservation, dating, and the epistemologies governing the interpretation of ‘meaning.’ The supplemental method introduced in the vol...
Chapter
This chapter critiques the use of linguistic evidence in the preceding case study of feasting on the Swahili coast. Commentary focuses in particular on issues of dating historical linguistic evidence with a specific focus on debates surrounding the divergence dates for the Swahili, Sabaki, and Northeast Coastal groups. These debates have an importa...
Chapter
This chapter introduces the volume’s first case study. Archaeological and linguistic evidence for the history of hunting, fishing, and other forms of bushcraft illuminates the contingent values and articulations of food collection and food production in Iron Age central Zambia. Bushcraft emerged out of, rather than prior to, the transition to cerea...
Book
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This volume proposes a supplemental approach to interdisciplinary historical reconstructions that draw on archaeological and linguistic data. The introduction lays out the supplemental approach, situating it in the broader context of similar interdisciplinary research methods in other world regions. Reflecting the arguments of the volume and its go...
Article
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The eastern African coast is known for its Swahili “stonetowns.” Archaeological study of stonetowns has overshadowed that of Swahili rural life, and how it reformulated in the context of urban transformations after a.d. 1000. To help redress that imbalance, we focus here on village research carried out in a Swahili heartland—Pemba Island, Tanzania—...
Article
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The 15th century Swahili town of Songo Mnara (Tanzania) had six mosques-an unusual quantity for a town of only 7 hectares and a population of 500-1000 people. Large-scale archaeological investigations of two previously unstudied mosques, and detailed survey of the remaining four structures has suggested a complex pattern of Islamic practice in the...
Article
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Human-mediated biological exchange has had global social and ecological impacts. In sub-Saharan Africa, several domestic and commensal animals were introduced from Asia in the pre-modern period; however, the timing and nature of these introductions remain contentious. One model supports introduction to the eastern African coast after the mid-first...
Data
Details of methods used in ancient DNA (aDNA) and Zooarchaeology by Mass Spectrometry (ZooMS) collagen fingerprinting analyses. (DOCX)
Data
Total reads used in the BLAST analysis and results of Burrows-Wheeler Alignments (BWA). (DOCX)
Data
Results of experimental study of false positives. Incorrect genus identifications resulting from 500 test "libraries" obtained from whole mtDNA genomes of the genus Gallus. See text for explanation of experimental method. (DOCX)
Data
Reference specimens for ZooMS collagen fingerprinting. (DOCX)
Data
Decision tree illustrating research protocols. Tree illustrates the selection of faunal samples, the order in which specific analyses were applied to each subsample, and result. (TIF)
Data
Landmarks used in dental analysis. R. exulans tooth in occlusal view with simplified diagram to the right. The fixed landmarks are illustrated by large blue circles, sliding semi-landmarks by small red circles. The boundaries of the cusps and the stylids (small flat or saddle like surfaces joining cusps) are difficult to precisely identify, but hav...
Data
Reference specimens for analysis of tooth morphology. (DOCX)
Data
mapDamage analysis of deanimation patterns in bird specimens. For each of the sequenced specimens (specimen numbers indicated by JK0000), mapDamage analysis illustrates C to T (red) and G to A (blue) frequencies of mis-incorporation at 3’ and 5’ ends. (PDF)
Data
Spectra from modern Rattus taxa. MALDI peptide mass fingerprint spectra of collagen tryptic digests from the reference bone material of Rattus rattus (top), Rattus norvegicus (middle) and Rattus exulans (bottom). (TIF)
Data
Sites excavated by the Sealinks Project. (DOCX)
Data
Previously excavated sites included in the present analysis. (DOCX)
Data
Detailed results for bird specimens. Results of multiple ancient DNA analyses, with radiocarbon dates where available. Sites ordered from north to south. (DOCX)
Data
Detailed results for rodent specimens. Results of ancient DNA analysis, ZooMS collagen fingerprinting, and tooth morphology, with radiocarbon dates where available. Sites ordered from north to south. (DOCX)
Data
Spectra from modern rodent genera other than Rattus. A: MALDI peptide mass fingerprint spectra of collagen tryptic digests from the reference bone material of Aethomys kaiseri (top), Mastomys coucha (middle) and Mus minutoides (bottom). B: MALDI peptide mass fingerprint spectra of collagen tryptic digests from the reference bone material of Gerbill...
Data
Example of MALDI peptide mass fingerprint spectra in archaeological samples. Example of MALDI peptide mass fingerprint spectra of collagen tryptic digests from the archaeological samples studied, showing the three most commonly identified types: Rattus rattus (bottom); Group 1 (middle), which most closely resembles Mastomys; and Group 2 (top), whic...
Data
Spectra from unknown taxa in archaeological samples. MALDI peptide mass fingerprint spectra of collagen tryptic digests from archaeological specimens that form groups of unknown taxa. (TIF)
Article
Timothy Insoll . Material explorations in African archaeology. 2015. xiii+473 pages, numerous b&w illustrations, 17 tables. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 978-0-19-955006-7 hardback £90. - Volume 91 Issue 356 - Jeffrey Fleisher
Article
Past urban settlements in tropical island environments offer particularly challenging sites for mainstream archaeology. Often associated with shallow stratigraphic sequences, archaeological sediments and soils in these sites are strongly influenced by local geology and seawater. This study discusses the advantages and challenges of developing an in...
Article
Full-text available
Houses are linked to the urban landscape in multiple ways. They provide urban form, and shape movement and interaction. This article analyses these connections through the concept of territories, defined as areas linked to particular activities and/or groups, at the fourteenth–sixteenth-century Swahili town of Songo Mnara. Detailed excavation and s...
Chapter
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The coins minted at Kilwa Kisiwani on the southern coast of Tanzania challenge our expectations in several ways, offering a case study in the diversity of ways that coinage might operate. From the eleventh to fifteenth centuries CE, Kilwa was an enthusiastic minter of coins, with thousands of copper issues having been recovered by collectors and mo...
Chapter
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This chapter furthers recent attempts to theorize archaeological actors as emotional beings. For quite some time, archaeologists have included allusions to emotional states or emotive drivers in their renderings of past societies. Yet, in these discussions, emotions have been largely unfocused and implicit. Recent efforts to engage more explicitly...
Article
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I welcome Axel Christophersen's effort to offer a new approach to the study of Scandinavian medieval urban communities, and his outline of an ‘urban archaeology of social practice’. His presentation of a theoretical framework and language offers many insights as to how archaeologists can analyse the way people constructed their social lives through...
Article
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Research on the archaeology of the coast of eastern Africa is closely associated with the earliest days of the British Institute in Eastern Africa and in many ways quickly became synonymous with the Institute's journal - Azania. This is not surprising given that Neville Chittick, the first Director of the Institute and initial editor of Azania, was...
Chapter
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Article
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Resumen: En este artículo, evaluamos la hipótesis de que los pueblos Swahili de la costa oriental africana fueron una sociedad marítima a partir del primer milenio E.C. Basados en información histórica y arqueológica, proponemos que la asociación de la sociedad Swahili con el mar incrementó considerablemente con el tiempo y se manifestó de una for...
Article
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During archaeological fieldwork at Songo Mnara, a UNESCO World Heritage Site on the southern Tanzanian coast, a storm caused the collapse of a graveyard's retaining wall. The process initiated by the rebuilding of that wall serves as a case study in addressing the dialogue among researchers, community members, and national and international organiz...
Book
Theory in Africa, Africa in Theory explores the place of Africa in archaeological theory, and the place of theory in African archaeology. The centrality of Africa to global archaeological thinking is highlighted, with a particular focus on materiality and agency in contemporary interpretation. As a means to explore the nature of theory itself, the...
Book
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Recent efforts to engage more explicitly with the interpretation of emotions in archaeology have sought new approaches and terminology to encourage archaeologists to take emotions seriously. This is part of a growing awareness of the importance of senses-what we see, smell, hear, and feel-in the constitution and reconstitution of past social and cu...
Article
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Magnetometry and Slingram electromagnetic surveys were conducted at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Songo Mnara, Tanzania, as part of a multinational programme of investigation to examine the uses of space within and outside of this stonetown. The town was a major Islamic trading port during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. The surveys det...
Article
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A deposit of coins was recovered during excavations at Songo Mnara, Tanzania, containing over 300 copper Kilwa-type coins. This is the first deposit or hoard of these coins found in a well defined archaeological context and it therefore offers a unique glimpse into both the typology of these coins and their contemporary uses. The ramifications of t...
Article
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The study of urban space among the eighth to fifteenth-century Swahili of the eastern African coast is dominated by a social model that sees formalized town plans as crystallizations of relationships between clans and moieties over the centuries. In this paper, we develop instead a practice model, emphasizing town plans as the result of daily pract...
Article
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The Ceramics and Society dataset (Wynne-Jones and Fleisher 2013) includes a database that documents the analysis of over 2,000 potsherds of the Early Tana Tradition (ETT), a 7th-10th century ceramic tradition found along the eastern African coastline and hinterland. The dataset contains 40 variables for each sherd, including those related to vessel...
Article
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This paper explores the way that open spaces in ancient Swahili towns were part of a monumental landscape based on the performances that occurred within them. By exploring the physical arrangement of open space through the placement of monumental and other buildings, it is argued that some Swahili open spaces might be understood as a built exterior...
Conference Paper
The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Songo Mnara is one of the most impressive urban sites on the eastern African coast, with exceptionally well-preserved architectural remains and a short occupation during the 14th-16th centuries AD. Ongoing archaeological research at the site has produced a dense set of digital materials, including laser scans of st...
Article
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Geophysical survey at Kilwa Kisiwani, southern Tanzania, has recovered evidence for several aspects of town layout and the use of space within the town that enhance our understandings of this important Swahili site. Although excavations in the 1960s recovered substantial monuments at this stonetown and traced a chronology for the development of the...
Article
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The towns of the Swahili coast of East Africa are widely acknowledged as the remains of a maritime society whose relationship with the ocean was fundamental to their economy and identity. Yet research that links the terrestrial environments of the towns to their adjacent maritime landscapes is rare, and urgently required in the light of marine eros...
Article
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The development of the Swahili world involved new ways of organizing and conceiving of space. Archaeology and historical linguistics are both crucial in charting the trajectory of changing spatial practice during the late first and early second millennium ad, yet their respective datasets have been correlated only in specific and restricted ways. I...
Article
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Coinage occupies an unusual position in archaeological research. Thriving scholarship on numismatics and monetary history ensures that the objects themselves are well-studied, often seen as an indication of chronology and of stylistic and commercial links. Yet coins might also be analysed as artefacts, and explored as part of the symbolic world of...