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Forests and rivers: The archaeology of the north eastern Congo

Forests and rivers: The archaeology of the north eastern Congo

The Central African Rainforest was long thought to be a green desert. Intensive archaeological research during the last decades has shown the contrary. The rainforest of the Congo bassin has a long and rich history, but its heavy vegetation cover made it difficult to find evidence of human settlements. Indeed, an overview of archaeological collections held at the RMCA (Royal Museum for Central Africa), shows that, before the 1980’s, very few sites were reported for the Rainforest area of DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo). Since then a series of river-born reconnaissance have shown that there were sites aplenty in the Inner Congo Basin. Latter surveys along the Congo River and its tributaries further East, between Bumba and Kisangani (DRC), indicate that this is also true in the North-Eastern part of the Congo River. Our results show that the region’s archaeological record consists primarily of pottery finds associated with old soil horizons or pottery arranged in pit-structures, with lithic assemblages being relatively rare. This work offers a first assessment of the past 2000 years of human occupation in a region that was an archaeological terra incognita. In the process, we also confirm a powerful research strategy, combining forestry inventories with systematic archaeological sampling. Recent work in forestry showed that there was not a single primeval rainforest, but rather a patchwork of forests. This approach allowed us to access inter-fluvial portions of a dense rainforest environment and provided essential data for the regional chrono-stratigraphy.

Authors: Smith, A.L.; Cornelissen, E.; de Francquen, C.; Nikis, N.; Mees, F.; Tshibamba Mukendi, J.; Beeckman, H.; Bourland, N.; Hubau, W.

Topic: soil, forests, rivers, rain forests

Geographic: Democratic Republic of Congo

Publication Year: 2017

ISSN: 1040-6182

Source: Quaternary International 448: 95-116

DOI: 10.1016/j.quaint.2016.10.010

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