From Roman to Native : Colonialism and the archaeology of rural water management in the Maghreb

University dissertation from Uppsala : Institutionen för arkeologi och antik historia

Abstract: This thesis considers the archaeology of rural water management in the Maghreb in relation to modern colonialism. An attempt is made to recover the attitudes to people and landscape expressed in the archaeological literature, and to analyse them in a colonial/postcolonial context. The primary focus lies on works relating to early water management in Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia and Libya.The study consists of three sections. In the first of these (Chapters 1, 2, 3), colonial legacies in the archaeology of the rural Maghreb are considered, and the archaeological material related to rural water management is briefly summarised. Common issues of geography, history and archaeology with relevance to the study of ancient water management are addressed in Chapter 3. In the main section of the thesis (Chapters 4, 5, 6), a selection of archaeological works are examined with respect to the representation of Roman and indigenous people, and attitudes to landscape. In these three chapters I deal respectively with early colonial writings from the turn of the nineteenth century, post-Second World War writings from the late 1940s through the 1950s, and recent archaeological survey publications produced during the period of political independence in the Maghreb, from c.1960 to the present. In the concluding section (Chapter 7), my observations are brought together in an analysis of colonial mindsets manifested in the archaeological literature. These include studies of the production of knowledge, nationalism and colonial ideology, the use of stereotypes in representing the Other, and Western attitudes to landscape. Finally, the concept of creolisation is suggested as an alternative interpretive framework for rural water management in the Roman-period Maghreb.A shift of focus from Roman to native is observed in archaeological interpretations of Roman-period rural water management in North Africa, changing over time from the late nineteenth century to the present. It is concluded that there is a strong relationship between modern colonialism, including decolonisation, and the representation of ancient, Roman colonialism. Dualistic approaches to colonialism are a common feature of the literature, as is a similar attitude to man and nature.

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