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At a Crossroads of Bantu Expansions: Present and Past Riverside Communities in the Congo Basin, from an Integrated Linguistic, Anthropological and Archaeological Perspective

Project description

Bantu expansions in the heart of Central Africa’s rainforest

The migration of Bantu languages and Bantu-speaking people from their homeland (located between present-day Nigeria and Cameroon) to most of central, eastern and southern Africa is known as the Bantu expansion. Dating back thousands of years, this expansion was remarkably and uniquely fast and mainly longitudinal in orientation. The EU-funded BANTURIVERS project will study a crossroads of different Bantu expansions in the heart of Central Africa’s rainforest, namely the eastern part of the Congo Basin. This region is of particular interest because it hosts multiple language groups from Bantu and other origins, complex ethnic identities and people practicing complementary subsistence strategies. This multidisciplinary project will study both present and past riverside communities in the Congo Basin. The focus will be on the historical relations between speech communities and the role of rivers.

Objective

The “Bantu Expansion”, a research theme within the precolonial history of Central Africa, unites scholars of different disciplines. Much research is focused on the initial expansions of Bantu subgroups, which are explained as farmers ever looking for new lands and therefore avoiding the rainforest, also in the recent research on the “Savannah Corridor”. We want to study a crossroads of different Bantu expansions in the very heart of the Central-African rainforest, namely the eastern part of the Congo Basin (the Congo River and its tributaries up- and downstream of Kisangani until Bumba and Kindu). The region hosts multiple language groups from Bantu and other origin, complex ethnic identities and people practicing complementary subsistence strategies. Considering that farming is complicated in a rainforest environment, we will investigate the role of rivers in the settlement of these speech communities into the area, both as ways into the forest and as abundant source of animal protein (fish).
The project is multidisciplinary and will apply an integrated linguistic, anthropological and archaeological approach to study both present and past riverside communities in the Congo Basin. Historical comparative linguistics will offer insights into the historical relations between speech communities through language classification and the study of language contact, and will study specialized vocabulary to trace the history of river-related techniques, tools and knowledge. Anthropological research involves extensive fieldwork concerning ethnoecology, trade and/or exchange networks, sociocultural aspects of life at the riverside, and ethnohistory. Archaeologists will conduct surveys in the region of focus to provide a chrono-cultural framework.

Host institution

UNIVERSITE LIBRE DE BRUXELLES
Net EU contribution
€ 1 427 821,00
Address
AVENUE FRANKLIN ROOSEVELT 50
1050 Bruxelles / Brussel
Belgium

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Region
Région de Bruxelles-Capitale/Brussels Hoofdstedelijk Gewest Région de Bruxelles-Capitale/ Brussels Hoofdstedelijk Gewest Arr. de Bruxelles-Capitale/Arr. Brussel-Hoofdstad
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
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Total cost
€ 1 427 821,00

Beneficiaries (1)