Over the past decade, sub-Saharan Africa has virtually disappeared from the screen of archaeologists engaged in broadly comparative, theoretical discussions on the emer-gence of complex society. Prior to the 1980s, the sub-continent was represented with some regularity at important archaeological conferences and discussions on these issues (e.g., Cohen and Service 1978; Friedman and Rowlands 1978; Moore 1974) even while the actual archaeology of sub-Saharan complex societies remained nascent. Since then, the visibility of Africa in comparative theoretical discussions has declined considerably, despite the surge of interest in societies organizationally inter-mediate between small-scale, non-stratified and locally autonomous groups and the internally differentiated state (e.g., Arnold 1996; Drennan and Uribe 1987; Earle 1987, 1991c; Gregg 1991; Price and Feinman 1995; Upham 1990) and despite the abundance and diversity of such societies throughout the subcontinent at the time of European colonial expansion. Sub-Saharan regions are represented briefly, if at all, in some widely cited works (Earle 1987, 1991c; Ehrenreich et al. 1995; Haas 1982; Price and Feinman 1995; Renfrew and Cherry 1986; Trigger 1993 is a notable exception). Ironically, the archaeology of complex societies in Africa has grown remarkably during this same period (see, e.g., Shaw et al. 1993). The primary objective of this volume is to reintroduce an African perspective into archaeological theorizing about complex societies. This is a daunting task because the subcontinent is vast (over three times the size of the United States) and in historic times has exhibited an astonishing diversity of sociopolitical formations. Thus, any attempt at general coverage will necessarily suffer from incomplete and unsatisfactory geographic repre-sentation, and leave a host of relevant topics and poten-tial insights unexplored. Nevertheless, it is possible to identify certain themes emerging from the recent archaeological literature that find a particular resonance in the African comparative material. The ongoing effort to broaden archaeology's focus beyond preoccupation with the development of vertical control hierarchies (with the Polynesian chiefdom as prototype) to include less hierarchical, more decentralized or horizontally complex configurations is one such theme (Arnold 1996; Crumley 1987, 1995; Ehrenreich et al. 1995; Nelson 1994; Spielmann 1994). A growing interest in the initial emer-gence of hierarchy, rather than with its elaboration into more state-like formations is another (Arnold 1996; Price and Feinman 1995; Upham 1990). Related to both of these is the critique of deeply embedded evolutionary notions which continue to subtly influence and shape archaeology's conceptualization of what constitutes complexity, and how it can be identified and studied (Rowlands 1989b; Morris 1997; Yoffee 1993). Emerging from this critique is, again, the growing concern with documenting variability in both the forms and, especially, the developmental trajectories of complexity (e.g., Blanton et al. 1996; Drennan 1996; Feinman and Neitzel 1984; Yoffee 1993). Virtually all the contributors to this volume engage critically with one or more of these issues. The result is, I hope, a persuasive argument for consider-ing Africa central to any and all comparative discussions concerning the diverse forms of and pathways to complexity. In this chapter I aim to outline in a general manner some of the ways that African case material can contrib-ute to archaeological discussions of these issues. Certain recurrent aspects of African society, such as the co-occur-rence of vertical hierarchies with multiple, horizontally arrayed, ritual associations, and particular notions of ritual power and leadership, offer opportunities to recon-sider how we think about power and how it is used in crafting polity. I also attempt to reinsert Africa into the evolutionary critiques of the past decade or two. I begin with a brief consideration of why it is that Africa has been absent from the discussion table for so long.