Unsettled Settlements: Continuity and change in the Marakwet habitation of the northern Elgeyo Escarpment, northwest Kenya, from c. 1850 to the present-day
University of Cambridge
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
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Kay, D. (2021). Unsettled Settlements: Continuity and change in the Marakwet habitation of the northern Elgeyo Escarpment, northwest Kenya, from c. 1850 to the present-day (Doctoral thesis). https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.80367
The general aim of this thesis is to formulate a methodological and interpretive exemplar for the study of sedentary settlement across sub-Saharan Africa. Rural settlement dynamics across the continent—particularly the connections between long-term changes in settlement patterns/composition and the shorter-term lived experiences of the people whose lives embody those changes—remain notably understudied within both archaeology and associated disciplines. This thesis comprises an exploration of how archaeology might turn again to the past lives of Africa’s non-urban sedentary populations, in this case from the localised perspective of Marakwet. In doing so, I adopt and advocate for a cross-disciplinary methodology attuned to analysis at multiple scales to investigate the tangled relations that have conditioned the shape and experience of Marakwet settlement throughout the past several centuries and into the present. It is through this methodological and interpretive framework that I seek to reclaim a sense of the deep interrelationship between continuity and change that has characterised the built environment of these predominantly agrarian settlements throughout their history, and which is firmly rooted in the quotidian reality of their inhabitants’ lifeways. To do so, this thesis investigates the settlement history of the Marakwet community of Kacheseker, situated on Kenya’s northern Elgeyo Escarpment. Varied analyses are employed to chart the spatial development of the settlement since its foundation approximately 200 years ago, during which it has changed in terms of both the form and location of its principal habitation zone. To understand the detail of these changes, and why they have occurred in the way they have, I have utilised multiple methods drawn from across archaeology and its cognate disciplines, in which the analytic lens travels from the wider landscape, down to the level of individual housing compounds, and back again. These methods encompass archaeological and landscape survey, contemporary household survey, in-depth architectural and object recording of selected housing compounds, geoarchaeological sampling of abandoned compounds and environmental profiles, and a suite of oral history interviews. These methods complement each other so that an overall sense is gained not just of the material substance of Kacheseker’s historical development, but also the attitudes of its inhabitants and how these relate to the daily enactment of their lives both within the settlement itself and across the surrounding landscape. Diverse theoretical approaches are concurrently interwoven throughout the interpretation of the resulting data, building from a foundation in practice theory and historical ecology, through Ingoldian meshworks, materiality and assemblage theory, linked together using concepts drawn from rhythmanalysis. Overall, the research encompassed within this thesis contributes both to the understanding of the ‘shifting sedentism’ which characterises Marakwet settlement specifically, and to broader ideas concerning how we might study localised mobility and multi-scalar affectivity within sedentary settlement systems across sub-Saharan Africa. In doing so, it feeds into yet wider narratives that seek to reclaim the creative agency of rural African populations, past and present.
Archaeology, Landscape, Settlement, Marakwet, Kenya, East Africa, Household, Geoarchaeology, Oral History
Licenses: Kenyan National Commission for Science, Technology and Innovation research permit nos. NACOSTI/P/16/94222/14997, NACOSTI/P/18/94222/20518 and NACOSTI/P/20/3464. National Museums of Kenya excavation license NMK/ACL/k/Vol.1., and Material Transfer Agreement NMK.Arch.2017.153. Funding: U.K. Arts and Humanities Research Council Doctoral Training Partnership studentship, University of Cambridge Fieldwork Fund, King’s College Graduate Research Fund, Smuts Memorial Trust, Dorothy Garrod Memorial Trust, Mary Euphrasia Mosley Fund, British Institute in Eastern Africa Thematic Grant, and National Geographic Explorer Grant (no. EC-217R-18).
This record's DOI: https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.80367
Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
Licence URL: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/