Servicio de Información Comunitario sobre Investigación y Desarrollo - CORDIS

Final Activity Report Summary - HEEAL (Historical Ecology of East African Landscapes)

The goals of the HEEAL project were to investigate the archaeological and historical signatures of the last 500 years of human settlement in eastern Africa, and to illustrate through the use of specific examples how a longer term perspective can inform understanding of contemporary environmental problems, such as enhanced soil erosion, forest decline, rangeland degradation, and loss of local knowledge concerning natural resources management. Several of the sub-projects focused on the ecological, social and economic consequences of the expansion of the ivory trade during the 19th century, with particular reference to the northern route through the Pangani Basin and adjacent areas. Additional research was conducted on the development of specialised pastoralism, and colonial and post-colonial forestry policies and conservation initiatives.

The project was structured around two post-doctoral projects, each with interlinking components to three PhD studies, involving the project co-ordinator, two experienced researchers and three early stage researchers. This was the first attempt in the region to extend historical baselines concerning environmental trends from a primarily archaeological perspective while also relating these to contemporary environmental concerns. Archaeological, historical and anthropological research was conducted in the region by all team members, with particular emphasis placed on training Early Stage Researchers in relevant field and laboratory techniques, project planning and management, and report writing, presentation and dissemination skills.

The Experienced Researchers were also given the opportunity to develop in-depth studies of particular issues that built on their pre-existing research interests and allowed them to enhance their skills in these areas, in both cases with some supplementary training. HEEAL has also contributed to better research networking and dissemination of knowledge between Europe and Africa, especially through its links with the KITE research group at York, the PLATINA group in Stockholm, the World Historical Ecologies Network (WHEN) coordinated by Uppsala and the SEALINKS project based at Oxford, as well as with researchers based at various East African institutions.

At the heart of the HEEAL project has been the integration of a number of complimentary research strands - the bioarchaeology of the 19th century ivory trade, the archaeological record of the associated caravan halts, the geoarchaeological record of settlement and the expansion of farming and iron smelting, the archaeological evidence for agricultural intensification and specialised herding practices, the effects of colonial and post-colonial forestry policies, and changing perceptions and representations of landscapes - to form a more complete understanding of the interaction between human and natural processes and events in shaping East African environments and landscapes.

More specifically HEEAL has: 1) Greatly advanced understanding of the drivers of agricultural intensification in the region and its ecological consequences; 2) Demonstrated the viability of using bioarchaeological methods of analysis to understand the ecological consequences of the ivory trade; 3) Shown through geoarchaeological research the long-term effects of iron smelting and agriculture on the rates and occurrence of soil erosion in the Pare mountains and the impacts of climate change; 4) Documented the different consequences of colonial and post-colonial forestry policies in the Pare mountains and different local and international understandings of these; 5) Developed methods to link local scale data to landscape and global scale processes; 6) Produced results that can inform current environmental policy and management, in Kenya & Tanzania and more generally; 7) Trained young researchers in newly emergent techniques, and disseminated the project results.

Reported by

University of York
Heslington -
YO1 5DD York
United Kingdom
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