Society for the Anthropology of Lowland South America

Adria La Violette

Professor & Director of the Undergraduate Program in Anthropology


Archaeology of Africa; Iron Age; Swahili archaeology and history; precolonial urbanism; colonialism; household archaeology; craft specialization; collaborative heritage management.

I acknowledge that I live and work on the traditional lands of the Monacan people.

I am an Africanist archaeologist with a particular interest in the inner articulations and transformations of medium- and large-scale societies over the last two millennia. My PhD research was an ethnoarchaeological study focusing on blacksmiths, potters, and masons in Jenne, Mali, in the context of long-term traditions of such specializations in the Inland Niger Delta.  As a faculty member in archaeology at the University of Dar es Salaam, 1987-89, I began doing survey and excavation on Swahili archaeological sites along the mainland Tanzanian coast.  I also began research on Pemba Island, Tanzania, at the 15th-16th-century CE site of Mkama Ndume (Pujini), a site at the intersection of archaeology, ethnohistory, and history.  With Jeff Fleisher and Bertram Mapunda, I co-directed research in northern Pemba at the Swahili sites of Chwaka and Tumbe and smaller village sites, in which we explored household organization, regional political economy, the changing practice of Islam, the interface of domestic economy and long-distance trade networks with African mainland and Indian Ocean societies, and changes related to ongoing processes of urbanism; publication of that project is ongoing.  Most recently I co-directed a project with Neil Norman set on Unguja Island, Zanzibar, at a pair of Portuguese domestic/ agricultural/ warehouse settlements, Fukuchani and Mvuleni, to explore Portuguese/Swahili interaction in the 16th-17th centuries in the countryside. I have made a research priority the integration of village-dwelling and non-elite coastal peoples into Swahili historiography.  I maintain long-term collaborations with colleagues in Tanzania and contribute to local heritage development efforts.