USF St. Petersburg campus Faculty Publications


Collaborative Mapping of Sacred Forests in Southern Ethiopia: Canopies Harboring Conflict Landscapes?

SelectedWorks Author Profiles:

Kathryn Weedman Arthur

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The Boreda elders of southern Ethiopia requested that we create maps highlighting the locations of their historic settlements and sacred groves. Community elders led us along winding footpaths that ascended to nine mountaintops that had been occupied since the early thirteenth century and were abandoned nearly 100 years ago. Surrounding these historic communities are Boreda sacred groves with springs, caves, and boulders that are physical evidence in their Indigenous religion of the animation of the non-human world. Yet, the tree canopies also harbor walls, berms, and trenches that suggest a history of conflict. Thematic maps of these places and their landscapes illustrate the strategic alignment of Boreda sacred-fortified forested monuments, which spatially correspond to their oral traditions and histories recounting their resistance against neighboring slave raiders and the Northern Ethiopian state. By integrating precise spatial relationships with community knowledge of places and histories, we demonstrate the power of this knowledge in documenting precolonial histories.


African Archaeological Review