Ann B. Stahl

Ann B. Stahl
Professor and Chair

PhD U of California, Berkeley

Office: COR B246B

I am an anthropological archaeologist with research interests in Africa. Since the mid-1980s I've engaged in a community-based historical and archaeological study of how daily life in the rural Banda area of west central Ghana has been reshaped through West Africa's involvement in global exchange (via trans-Saharan and later Atlantic networks) over the last thousand years .

My research draws on broader theoretical and methodological interests in: political economy; material culture studies; analogy; and the production of history in the present. In my research and writing I have been particularly concerned to address the methodological challenges of working with multiple lines of evidence (ethnographic, oral historical, documentary and archaeological) and to demonstrate the value of archaeological sources for historical anthropological inquiry.

A particular focus of my recent research and teaching is the active role of material culture in social negotiations and culture-making practices. The broader goal of these endeavours is to develop "material histories" that help us to understand the role of global connections in shaping the social and political economic worlds of colonizers and colonized alike. This work is complemented by my growing interest in digital heritage initiatives on which I am working in collaboration with communities and colleagues in Ghana, as described more fully below. See also Banda thru Time  and Banda thru Time Digital Heritage Resources for more information.


  • Archaeology
  • Comparative colonialism
  • Materiality
  • Digital heritage initiatives and sustainable digital data management
  • Africa
  • Ghana

Current projects

"Genealogies of Practice and Global Entanglements in Banda, Ghana, AD 1000-1900"

I continue to engage in the long-term work of the Banda Research Project (BRP) which has since the late 1980s investigated successively earlier sites in the Banda area of west central Ghana as a means of gaining comparative insight into the dynamics of cultural practice in contexts of changing inter-regional and intercontinental interaction.

Drawing on oral historical, archival and archaeological evidence, our project began by studying the dynamics of cultural practice (settlement, diet, ritual and crafting) as Banda was drawn into the British colonial sphere (after 1880). Our subsequent work has explored the continuities and changes in daily life as the region became subject to the expansionist Asante state and an external slave trade gave way to intensified internal trade (1770s to 1880s); prior to that as Banda peoples negotiated the southward shift in the gravity of trade with the opening of Atlantic networks (from the early 17th century); and the character of life in the period when village life was shaped by links to urban centres on the Niger River and the trans-Saharan trade (from the late 12th century).

This work challenges conventional images of West African societies as enmeshed in unchanging tradition and contributes to historical anthropological understandings of global entanglements. More specifically the project helps us to understand how communities were formed and reconfigured through material practice (the making and using of pottery and metal; the manipulation of objects in ritual; the acquisition, preparation and consumption of foods; and the depositional practices that created archaeological deposits). Our recent comparative analyses of practices within and across archaeological phases provide insight into the genealogical connections between communities as they negotiated a changing geopolitical landscape.

"Banda thru Time”: A Digital Heritage Initiative

Scholarly activity has long generated heritage resources of interest to source communities (images, documents, maps, etc.) but these are often housed in institutional repositories to which communities have limited or no access. While many repositories are in the process of developing publically accessible digital resources, there is an urgent need to recognize the heritage value of materials that remain in the collections of individual researchers. This project builds on long-term research centred on the history and archaeology of the Banda area, Ghana with the aim of collating and digitally repatriating resources generated by 20th-century scholars to Banda communities. One aim is to develop a digital public history site. Banda traditional authorities see this as a valuable means to communicate something of the region’s rich and dynamic histories to broader audiences. Another is to make digital heritage resources accessible--where deemed appropriate through community consultation--through a stable digital repository that can serve as a community resource.

This work has been being facilitated by my participation in the Institute on Digital Archaeology Method and Practice funded by the US National Endowment for the Humanities and hosted at by Michigan State University’s Anthropology Department and MATRIX (their Center for Digital Humanities and Social Sciences). Week-long institutes held in August 2015 and 2016 provided us with tools and guidance for developing a “Banda thru Time” web portal and supporting Digital Heritage Resources launched in August 2016. A summary of the “Banda thru Time” project aims can be found here. A longer term aim is to work collaboratively with colleagues in Ghana to develop strategies for sustainable curation of digital archaeological data and enhance open access data sharing and development of linked data.

“Springerbriefs in Archaeology: Contributions from Africa”

I am the inaugural series editor for a new Springerbriefs series aimed at rapid dissemination of recent research in African archaeology to a wide-ranging audience. Individual volumes will range in time from a focus on the earliest archaeological traces to contemporary material practice.

The aim is to develop the implications and significance of research in African archaeology and ethnoarchaeology for debates and perspectives in global archaeology. Of particular interest are volumes that spark innovative thinking across traditional disciplinary and evidential boundaries.

Prospective authors are encouraged to contact me for more information at

Knowledge in Motion: Constellations of Learning across Time and Place

Working in conjunction with Dr. Andrew Roddick (Department of Anthropology, McMaster University) and supported by funding from the Wenner-Gren Foundation, I co-organized a Society for American Archaeology Amerind Foundation Seminar focused on scale and power in processes of learning and their implications for communities and constellations of practice. Held in October 2014, our seminar brought together scholars with diverse disciplinary and geographical expertise with several aims: to more systematically account for power in past learning networks; to more fully explore the scalar dimensions of communities and constellations of practice; to consider how past learning communities relate to the socio-material units of varying scale through which archaeologists approach their analyses; and to probe how learning processes in contexts of power relate to the production and reproduction of social networks, particularly in contexts of social, political economic and environmental turbulence.

The resulting University of Arizona Press volume entitled Knowledge in Motion: Constellations of Learning across Time and Place was released April 2016. With individual contributions from Olivier Gosselain (Université Libre de Bruxelles), Patricia Crown (University of New Mexico), Elliot Blair (University of Alabama), Andrew Roddick (McMaster University), Mark Harris (University of St. Andrews), David Schoenbrun (Northwestern University), Barbara Mills (University of Arizona), Ken Sassaman (University of Florida) and myself, the volume explores these issues through empirically rich case studies from Africa, the American Southeast and Southwest and South  America.

Selected publications


  • 2016 (Andrew P. Roddick & Ann B. Stahl, editors) Knowledge in Motion: Constellations of Learning across Time and Place. Amerind Seminar Series. Tucson: University of Arizona Press.
  • 2005 - (editor) African Archaeology: A Critical Introduction. Oxford: Blackwell Press.
  • 2001 - Making History in Banda. Anthropological Visions of Africa's past. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Articles and chapters

  • Forthcoming:  Efficacious Objects and Techniques of the Subject: “Ornaments” and their Depositional Contexts in Banda, Ghana. In Relational Identities and Other-than-Human Agency in Archaeology, edited by Eleanor Harrison-Buck and Julia Hendon. Boulder: University Press of Colorado
  • 2017 (Amanda L. Logan and Ann B. Stahl) Genealogies of Practice in and of the Environment in Banda, Ghana. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory. DOI 10.1007/sI0816-017-9315-5. Published online 28 March, 2017. 

  • 2017 The Direct Historical Approach/L’approche historique directe. In African Archaeology Field Manual/Manuel de Terrain en Archéologie Africaine, edited by Alexandre Livingstone-Smith, Els Cornelissen, Olivier Gosselain and Scott MacEachern. Chapter 6, pp. 250-252. Tervuren: The Royal Museum for Central Africa.
  • 2016 Complementary Crafts: The Dynamics of Multicraft Production in Banda, Ghana. In Gendered Labor in Specialized Economies: Archaeological Perspectives on Male and Female Work, edited by Sophia E. Kelly and Traci Ardren, pp. 157-188. Boulder: University of Colorado Press. DOI: 10.5876/9781607324836.C006

  • 2016  Crafting Life in Turbulent Times: Communities of Practice in the Western Volta Basin from the 13th to 17th centuries A.D. In Knowledge in Motion: Constellations of Learning across Time and Place, edited by Andrew P. Roddick and Ann B. Stahl, pp. 179-215. Amerind Seminar Series. Tucson: University of Arizona Press.

  • 2016 (Andrew P. Roddick & Ann B. Stahl) Knowledge in Motion. An Introduction. In Knowledge in Motion: Constellations of Learning across Time and Place, edited by Andrew P. Roddick and Ann B. Stahl, pp. 3-35. Amerind Seminar Series. Tucson: University of Arizona Press.

  • 2015 Circulations through Worlds Apart: Georgian & Victorian England in an African Mirror, In Materializing Colonial Encounters: Archaeologies of African Experience, edited by François G. Richard.  pp. 71-94.  NY: Springer.

  • 2015 Metal Working and Ritualization: Negotiating Change through Improvisational Practice in Banda, Ghana. In The Materiality of Everyday Life, edited by Lisa Overholtzer and Cynthia Robin, pp. 53-71.  Archaeology Papers of the American Anthropological Society. Arlington VA: American Anthropological Society. DOI: 10.1111/apaa.12059.

  • 2015 - The Transactional Dynamics of Surplus in Landscapes of Enslavement: Scalar Perspectives from Interstitial West Africa. In Surplus. The Politics of Production and the Strategies of Everyday Life, edited by Christopher T. Morehart and Kristin De Lucia, pp. 267-306. Boulder: University of Colorado Press. DOI: 10.5876/9781607323808.COII

  • 2014 – (with Amanda L. Logan) Resilient Villagers: Eight Centuries of Continuity and Change in Banda Village Life. In Current Perspectives on the Archaeology of Ghana, edited by J. Anquandah, B. Kankpeyeng, and W. Apoh, pp. 44-63. Legon: Sub-Saharan Publishers.

  • 2014 – Africa in the World: (Re)centering African History through Archaeology. Journal of Anthropological Research 70(1): 5-33.

  • 2014 - Vantage Points in an Archaeology of Colonialism. In Rethinking Colonial Pasts through Archaeology, edited by Neal Ferris, Rodney Harrison and Michael Wilcox, pp. 483-499. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • 2014 – Intersections of Craft and Cuisine: Implications for What and How We Study. African Archaeological Review 31(2): 383-393.

  • 2013 - Archaeological Insights into Aesthetic Communities of Practice in the Western Volta Basin. African Arts 46(3): 54-67.

  • 2012 - Archaeology and the Study of Africa. In Oxford Bibliographies Online: African Studies, edited by Thomas Spear. New York: Oxford University Press.

  • 2012 - When Does History Begin? Material Continuity and Change in West Africa. In Decolonizing Indigenous Histories: Prehistoric/Colonial Transitions in Archaeology, edited by Maxine Oland, Siobhan Hart and Liam Frink, pp. 158-177. Tucson: University of Arizona Press.

  • 2010 - 'Route Work' through Alternative Archives: Reflections on Cross-Disciplinary Practice. South African Historical Journal 62(2): 252-267.

  • 2010 - Material Histories. In The Oxford Handbook of Material Culture Studies, edited by Dan Hicks and Mary Beaudry, pp. 148-170. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • 2009 - The Archaeology of African History. International Journal of African Historical Studies 42 (2): 241-255.

  • 2009 - (Ann B. Stahl & Adria LaViolette) “Introduction: Current Trends in the Archaeology of African History.” Special Issue of the International Journal of African Historical Studies edited by Ann B. Stahl and Adria LaViolette 42(3): 347-350.

  • 2008 - (Ann B. Stahl, Maria das Dores Cruz, Hector Neff, Michael D. Glascock, Robert J. Speakman, Bretton Giles & Leith Smith) Ceramic Production, Consumption and Exchange in the Banda Area, Ghana: Insights from Compositional Analyses. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 27: 363-381.

  • 2008 - The Slave Trade as Practice and Memory. What are the Issues for Archaeologists? In Invisible Citizens: Captives and their Consequences, edited by Catherine M. Cameron, pp. 25-56. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press.

  • 2008 - Dogs, Pythons, Pots and Beads: The Dynamics of Shrines and Sacrificial Practices in Banda, Ghana, AD 1400-1900. In Memory Work: The Materiality of Depositional Practice, edited by Barbara Mills & William Walker, pp. 159-186. Sante Fe NM: School of Advanced Research Press.

  • 2007 - Entangled Lives: The Archaeology of Daily Life in the Gold Coast Hinterlands, AD 1400-1900. In Archaeology of Atlantic Africa and the African Diaspora, edited by Akinwumi Ogundiran & Toyin Falola, pp. 49-76. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.