An African Commitment: Papers in Honour of Peter Lewis Shinnie


248 pages
Contains Photos, Illustrations, Maps, Bibliography
ISBN 1-895176-28-X
DDC 960'.1




Edited by Judy Sterner and Nicholas David
Reviewed by Matthew H. Hill

Matthew H. Hill is an associate professor of anthropology at the
University of Waterloo.


Festschrifts, even those as good as this one, are not apt to have a
uniform appeal. Few will feel drawn to read every paper, but any
Africana library should hold this book, for its contents cover half the
continent. Though it is primarily of specialist interest, the
combination of historical and geographical foci make this book more a
buffet than the dog’s breakfast many festschrifts become.

The 14 articles—plus tribute, preface, and appreciation—are
written by former students and both former and present colleagues of
Peter Shinnie, who is still actively publishing on his own research.
Most have been associated with the University of Calgary. Their subjects
include history, archaeology, social anthropology, ethnoarchaeology, and
various combinations of the four. The articles are organized in three
sections dealing, respectively, with “Northern Africa” (mainly the
Nile Valley in Sudan, with excursions to Dakhleh Oasis and the Maghrib);
with Ghana; and with Cameroon.

The Northern Africa section honors Shinnie’s Egyptian interests and
his career of archaeological research, teaching, and administration in
Sudan. Three papers by former students deal with Sudanese topics:
folklore about archaeology (Osman), research at Meroe (John Robertson),
and the Middle Paleolithic (Abu Bakr). Colleagues discuss
Saharan–Sudanese neolithic relations (McDonald) and a 19th-century
Maghribian “saint” (Hatt).

Ghana, where Shinnie taught and researched extensively, is represented
by one colleague and four former students. Three present archaeological
studies: of Mamprugu, in the northeast (Kense); of the Central Volta
(Stahl); and of the Akan region (Vivian). Two treat Asante residence
patterns (de la Gorgendiere) and chieftaincy (Ray).

The final section, focused on the Mandara Highlands of Cameroon, is by
a new generation of Calgary archaeologists working outside Shinnie’s
areas of African concern (one of which, Uganda, is not represented).
Nicholas David, Shinnie’s Calgary successor in African archaeology,
and his students-cum-colleagues maintain the reputation Shinnie
established for innovative and exploratory research. Here they report on
ceramics and symbolism (Sterner), mortuary ideology (David), ethnicity
and style (MacEachern), and contemporary smithing (Ian Robertson).


“An African Commitment: Papers in Honour of Peter Lewis Shinnie,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 18, 2024,