Slave sacrifices in the Upemba Depression? Reinterpreting Classic Kisalian graves in the light of new linguistic evidence

Marcos Leitão de Almeida*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

The current state of archaeological research about slavery in Africa faces the challenge of recognising the existence and grasping the meanings of slaving practices from times without written records. These challenges translate into methodological difficulties as to how to identify the material signatures of slavery without having recourse to a pre-established, and therefore static, definition of slavery. Building on the contributions of archaeologists, historians and linguists, this article explores how Proto-Luban speakers, an ancient speech community belonging to the Bantu linguistic family, conceptualised slavery and might have used enslaved individuals in ritualised sacrifices to placate or please ancestors during the burial of powerful individuals in the Upemba Depression of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The reconstructed lexicon of the language once spoken in the area suggests that the process of killing individuals involved the reinterpretation of a durable set of meanings related to slaving practices in Central Africa as social actors responded to important changes in social and political life. The paper suggests that the method of direct association between archaeological and linguistic evidence allows scholars to shed new light on the antiquity of both slavery and human sacrifice among Proto-Luban speakers during the early second millennium AD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)421-438
Number of pages18
JournalAzania
Volume55
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - 2020

Keywords

  • African history
  • Democratic Republic of Congo
  • Historical linguistics
  • slavery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology

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