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The Kintampo Archaeological Research Project (KARP): academic collaboration and field research in Ghana. (Special section).

The Kintampo Archaeological Research Project is the first venture conducted under the auspices of the academic collaboration established between the Department of Archaeology, University of Ghana (UG) and the Institute of Archaeology, University College London (UCL). KARP is a field-based project designed around two separate areas of research, encompassing the Late Stone Age (LSA) Punpun (hunter-gatherers) and Kintampo Cultures (agro-pastoralists) and development and change within iron metallurgical technology in the region. These studies aim to elucidate the social, economic and technological dynamics of prehistoric Ghana and to generate material that will be made available to researchers from both Universities. The direct responsibility for supervision of the project on the British side is Dr Kevin MacDonald (UCL), Dr Yaw Bredwa-Mensah (UG) supervises and co-ordinates the research collaboration, and overall responsibility for the project lies with Professor Peter Ucko (UCL). To date the project has undertaken three field seasons: an initial survey of the study area, followed by the excavation of several suitable sites during the second season and this year. An additional season will be conducted during summer 2002, completing the first phase of KARP. However, continuing joint collaborations are envisaged.

The initial seasons of KARP have laid the foundation for future work, both in the sense of working relationships and re-equipping the Department of Archaeology (UG). The first stage of this has been to provide a project LandRover, for field campaigns undertaken by both departments. Survey equipment and books have already been donated to the Department (UG). The KARP field project has been used as a joint training exercise for students from both departments and aims to develop into a `field-school' in future seasons. It is hoped that academic exchanges and visits from both Ghanaian staff and students will form part of the `Agreement of Academic Collaboration, and that this will lead to further joint research. A key aim of the agreement is jointly to edit and publish the Oliver Davies Archive (consisting of 25 years of unpublished survey data). Copies of the archive will be lodged with the Department of Archaeology (UG) and the Institute of Archaeology (UCL). This will provide a valuable reference for all researchers in Ghana.

The KARP field-project is based around the modern town of Kintampo, in the Brong Ahafo region of central-west Ghana. Past investigations in the area (Davies 1980; Flight 1976; Rahtz & Flight 1974; Stahl 1985) provided a resource that has been utilized as the foundation for an intensive diachronic study of the local archaeology. Previous area-based studies in Ghana (e.g. Casey 1993; Pole 1975) have provided a framework for the investigation of more specific questions concerning the development of socio-economic and technological complexity.

The earliest evidence for food production and increasing social complexity in sub-Sahelian West Africa is associated with the Kintampo culture, in the mid 2nd millennium BC. It is characterized by sedentism and a mixed subsistence economy featuring wild and domestic resources. One theme of KARP (DW) is to test existing theories concerning the origin(s) of the Kintampo Culture and its potential connection to the 'preceding' hunter-gatherers, known in the area as the Punpun Culture. The aims of the project will be achieved using survey and the excavation of a series of new sites and existing data (e.g. Stahl 1985). Excavations will focus on illuminating the stratigraphic relations of both Cultures and their socio-economic basis, v/a the recovery of organic (flora and fauna) remains. A comparative analysis of the relevant archaeological collections held in the National Museum of Ghana and the Department of Archaeology (UG) and an in-depth examination of the literature will enable comparison with other Kintampo and LSA hunter-gatherer sites in Ghana. The varied types of data will provide a solid framework from which to address both regional questions and more fundamental issues concerning sociocultural change and the development of agriculture in West Africa.

The second KARP theme (JW) is investigating iron technologies and their cultural and environmental impact in the Kintampo region. The project aims to examine a range of sites encompassing both the early and later iron ages in order to understand changes in working practices and their impact. The foundation of this project will be an examination of the technology used in the production processes across the range of iron-working sites. These processes will be compared with other West African iron-working sites, including recent work by JW from Mall and Mauritania. The aim is not to create a definitive chronology for West African iron-working or try to answer the question of origins, but to develop a regional sequence, defining technical parameters for each stage and understanding how these impacted on associated cultures.

The survey season highlighted a number of concerns, that are relevant to West African archaeology generally and Ghanaian archaeology, in particular. Previous survey-work by Oliver Davies (unpublished) located a number of archaeological sites in our study area. However, attempts to relocate these sites were thwarted, as many have been completely destroyed by the spread of settlement around the town of Kintampo and the intensification of vegeculture in the Brong Ahafo region. Our attempts to include the knowledge of the local people concerning the location of possible sites met with limited success, as many of the `sites' we were shown had been destroyed by tractors employed to level and extend the available cultivable land. Indeed, the major metallurgical site at Anyima had only been preserved because the area is inaccessible to tractors and is farmed using relatively low-impact traditional techniques.

A major problem of archaeological research in Ghana has been both the resolution of data and quality of publications arising from previous excavation projects. Many sites have never been adequately published, nor has the material been fully analysed (e.g. the sites of Mumute and Boanase (Dombrowski 1976)) and some have never been published at all (e.g. most of the rockshelters investigated by Flight (1976)). An additional problem is that very few projects have provided funding for the conservation of excavated materials. This has meant that the burden for care, storage and post-excavation analysis has olden fallen on the under-funded Ghanaian authorities at both the National Museum and the Department of Archaeology (UG).


Acknowledgements. We would to thank Joseph Gazari Seini, of the Ghana Museum and Monuments Board, Prof. L.B. Crossland, Mr Y. Bredwa-Mensah and Mr B. Murey of the Department of Archaeology (UG) and Mr Kubi Appiah for his invaluable assistance in the field. Finally, we would like to express our gratitude to Prof. Peter Ucko and Dr Kevin MacDonald (UCL). The areas of research are being tackled by the authors as part of their Ph.D.


CASEY, J. 1993. Unpublished. The Kintampo complex in Northern Ghana: Late Holocene human ecology on the Gambaga escarpment. Ph.D thesis, Department of Anthropology, University of Toronto.

DAVIES, O. n.d. Unpublished survey notes. Legon: Department of Archaeology, University of Ghana.

1980. The Ntereso Culture in Ghana, in B.K. Swartz & R.A. Dumett (ed.), West African culture dynamics: 205-25. The Hague: Mouton.

DOMBROWSKI, J.C. 1976. Mumute and Bonoase -- two sites of the Kintampo Industry, Sankofa 2: 64-71.

FLIGHT, C. 1976. The Kintampo culture and its place in the economic prehistory of West Africa, in J.R. Harlan, J.M.J. deWet & A.B.L. Stemler (ed.), Origins of African plant domestication: 211-21. The Hague: Mouton.

POLE, L.M. 1975. Iron-working apparatus and techniques: Upper Region of Ghana, West African Journal of Archaeology 5:1139.

RAHTZ, P.A. & C. FLIGHT. 1974. A quern factory near Kintampo, Ghana, West African Journal of Archaeology: 4:1-31.

STAHL, A.B. 1985. The Kintampo culture: subsistence and settlement in Ghana during the mid-second millennium BC. Ph.D thesis, Department of Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley.

DEREK WATSON & JAMES WOODHOUSE, Institute of Archaeology, University College London, London WC1H 0PY, England.
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Author:Watson, Derek; Woodhouse, James
Geographic Code:6GHAN
Date:Dec 1, 2001
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