Ann B. Stahl

Ann B. Stahl
Professor and Distinguished Lansdowne Fellow

on leave

Office: COR B332

PhD U of California, Berkeley

Area of expertise

Archaeology, comparative colonialism, materiality, digital heritage initiatives, Africa; Ghana

Accepting grad students for Fall 2021. Dr. Ann Stahl encourages M.A. applications from graduate students interested in public archaeology and digital heritage, particularly those with interest in becoming involved in the "Improving African Futures Using Lessons from the Past" initiative (see below).

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 Through 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


Spring 2023


Current projects

Improving African Futures Using Lessons from the Past

Improving African Futures Using Lessons from the Past (IAfF) is a research and training partnership funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. Our partnership brings together scholars, heritage professionals and communities motivated by recognition that cultural heritage resources sustain relationships to place and foster community well-being through knowledge revitalization. But to be usable, those resources and insights must be accessible to descendant communities; the data on which they are based must be sustainably curated and archived; and, where appropriate, the lessons drawn and sources of insight shared with broader audiences as a means to improve futures. These are the urgent challenges our partnership addresses with a focus on Ghana.

Our multi-year Partnership Development Project (2018-2023) is creating digital heritage collections that foster new forms of research and knowledge mobilization relevant to communities, scholars and broader publics. A key project outcome will be a public-facing Ghana Heritage web portal through which users can access sustainably archived digital heritage resources. The portal will provide entry to an expanding array of heritage resources (photos, videos, data bases, maps, reports) housed in trusted digital repositories distributed across institutions and countries. Working collaboratively with Ghanaian communities, we are co-creating relevant heritage resources, promoting training and providing mentoring in the archiving and uses of heritage resources that can help to build sustainable futures. We are working to produce educational benefit by developing English and first-language heritage curriculum for Ghanaian schools, fostering both literacy and digital literacy.

Members of our Canadian-Ghanaian partnership come together from the University of Victoria, the University of Ghana, Ghana Museum and Monuments Board, Digital Antiquity and two project-affiliated Ghanaian communities.

The project builds on an earlier pilot project facilitated by Ann Stahl’s 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 (Center for Digital Humanities and Social Sciences). Institutes held in August 2015 and 2016 provided the tools and guidance for developing a “Banda thru Time” web portal and supporting Digital Heritage Resources launched in August 2016. For an example of the digital heritage resources in development by the IAfF partnership, see the “Banda Through Time” digital exhibit hosted by the University of Victoria Libraries.

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.

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

  • 2021  Investigating Creativity and Improvisation through Archaeological Sources: An Introduction. International Journal of African Historical Studies 54(1): 1-20.
  • 2020  Assembling ‘Effective Archaeologies’ Towards Equitable Futures. American Anthropologist 122(1): 37-50. Open Access

  • 2018  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, pp. 197-236. Boulder: University Press of Colorado.

  • 2018  Market Thinking: Perspectives from Saharan and Atlantic West Africa. In Market as Place and Space of Economic Exchange: Perspectives from Archaeology and Anthropology, edited by Hans Peter Hahn and Geraldine Schmitz, pp. 152-179. Oxford: Oxbow Books.

  • 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 24:1356-1399. DOI 10.1007/sI0816-017-9315-5.

  • 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.