skip to content

Department of Archaeology


Long-distance exchange networks played key roles in the socio-political history of Central Africa before the 20th century, but they are poorly known prior to the 19th century owing to a scarcity of written sources covering the earlier centuries. Archaeological data, however, suggest that major 19th-century trade routes were well established several centuries before.

This project aims thus to investigate the history of long-distance exchange networks, studying both their physical patterns and how they worked. It will focus on the main copper deposits, the Niari Basin (south Republic of Congo) and Copperbelt (south-east DRC) and surrounding area, which have known large flows of goods and are relatively well documented. Inspired by methodology developed in network analyses and archaeo-geography, the 19th-century patterns of exchange will be used as a starting point. Sources describing networks prior to the colonial period will be recorded and geo-referenced. Going back in time, these patterns and models of network organisation will be compared to historical and archaeological evidence to explore change and continuity in network organisation.

Besides improving our knowledge of the ancient economic history of the area, the project results will provide empirical grounds for the development of a general analytical and theoretical framework for assessing ancient interaction and exchange networks for periods and places where material culture is the only clue.

The project is funded by the Philippe Wiener – Maurice Anspach Foundation

Project Lead

Project Tags

Environment, Landscapes and Settlement
Rethinking Complexity
Periods of interest: 
Other Historical
Geographical areas: 
Research Expertise / Fields of study: 
Socio-Politics of the Past
Environmental Archaeology, Geoarchaeology, and Landscape studies
Powered by Drupal