The Archaeology of Central Africa: Alexandre Livingstone Smith

May 30, 2023, 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm

As an archaeologist Alexandre Livingstone Smith is often asked if there is anything to find in Central Africa. The answer is: “Of course !”. The history of Central Africa is ancient, complex, and incredibly rich! In this presentation, he will propose keys to understanding various aspects of the past of Africa in general, and, more specifically, of Central Africa. To do so, Smith will refer to the Long History Exhibition Room at the Royal Museum for Central Africa – renovated 5 years ago. He will outline selected concepts pertaining to the construction of historical narratives, discuss the many sources that provide access to the deep past and show how archaeologists contribute to this endeavor.


Alexandre Livingstone Smith was trained at the Université Libre de Bruxelles in Belgium (ULB). He has a degree in Archaeology and the History of Art (1990) and in History (1987). He benefited from a Wiener-Grant Foundation grant for 2 years of Research on pre-dynastic Egyptian pottery at the Research Laboratory for History of Art and ArchaeologyOxford University (1990-91). He did a PhD at the ULB on pottery manufacturing processes in sub-Saharan Africa and their reconstruction in archaeological contexts in 2001. Since 2008 he has been head of research at the Royal Museum for Central Africa RMCA, 


He has fieldwork experience acquired in various international research projects on, for example, the Origin of the Kongo Kingdom in Central Africa, on the borderlands on West African Medieval Empires in Northern Benin and Southern Niger, on the production and distribution of copper in South-East Central Africa, on the roads of slavery in Central Africa (particularly at the opening of the Congo river and around Kasongo – Tongoni in Maniema (Eastern DRC)). He has an interest in impact assessments and rescue excavations. For 2 years he worked in rescue excavations along the path of the high speed train (TGV) from Lille (France) to Brussels (Belgium), where he had the opportunity to work on sites ranging from the early neo-lithic (6000 years BCE) to 16th century farmsteads. He also did some impact and mitigation archaeological surveys in the Tadrart Accacus and Mezzak Setafet in southern Libya on the behalf of Paris I Sorbonne, in Ituri and Katanga on behalf of the RMCA.


He has a longstanding interest in the study of material culture, specifically pottery. To reconstruct the past he and his colleagues starts in the present, interviewing lore keepers and studying material culture, before any excavations. He is currently working on the history of Riverine people in the North-Eastern Congo Bend (between Kirundu and Basoko on the Congo River) and on the mapping of colonial exploration tracks as an index of precolonial trade networks.


Tuesday, May 30th

6 pm


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