Ann B. Stahl

Ann B. Stahl
Professor and Distinguished Lansdowne Fellow (2020-23)

Not accepting students

Office: COR B332

PhD U of California, Berkeley

Area of expertise

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

I am an anthropological archaeologist with research interests in Africa. From the mid-1980s, I've been involved in a community-based historical and archaeological study of how daily life in the rural Banda area of west central Ghana has been reshaped over the last thousand years through West Africa's involvement in global exchange, first through Saharan and later Atlantic networks. This work challenges conventional images of West African societies as enmeshed in unchanging tradition and contributes to historical anthropological understandings of global entanglements. 

My research draws on broader theoretical and methodological interests in political economy; material culture studies; analogy; and the production of history and heritage 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 understanding.

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 Learning From Our Past.


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


Fall 2023

  • ANTH 500 - Seminar in Anthropological Theory

Spring 2024

  • ANTH 365 - Colonialism and Daily Life

Current projects

African Archaeology in Support of School Learning

Funded by an SSHRC Connection Grant, this project brought together archaeologists and educators to develop a special 40th-anniversary issue of the African Archaeological Review devoted to “Archaeology For Education.” Our editorial collective challenged a group of researchers accustomed to writing for other researchers to take a different tack: to write in lively and engaging ways for an audience of educators (primary and secondary levels) about what archaeologists learn from studying material traces like artifacts, buildings, and landscapes. Our motivation was twofold: (1) to provide teachers and educators with accessible and reliable resources that are useful for learning about Africa’s diverse and rich pasts and (2) to model and create value around mobilizing knowledge in interdisciplinary ways among archaeologists and educators alike. Doing so effectively requires archaeologists and educators to work together, and we hope that the open access Sept 2023 (V40, no. 3) issue provides a catalyst for expanding collaborations.

2023 Ann B. Stahl, Allison Balabuch, Kathy Sanford, Amanda Logan, Kate Grillo and Ibrahima Thiaw, guest editors, “Archaeology for Education.” 40th-anniversary issue of the African Archaeological Review 40(3).

The Earthen and Organic Materials Technologies of Banda, Ghana

Funded by a British Museum Endangered Material Knowledge Programme grant (2020LG05), researchers from UVic Anthropology are collaborating with community members to digitally document through video, audio and photography the technologies and knowledge systems central to construction of earthen and thatch shelters, the making of fibre objects and the uses of these sustainable local materials to ensure family and community well-being. These knowledge systems and technologies are endangered by rapid change, ushered in by recent construction of a hydroelectric dam in the area, and exacerbated by a perception that things and technologies from elsewhere are, by default, improvements and necessary pathways to modern life.

The project builds on the multi-decade collaboration between PI Ann Stahl and Banda area communities and--since 2016--a partnership with the Banda Heritage Initiative, a community committee dedicated to developing heritage resources to support educational initiatives.

In 2022, our team documented the making of basketry fish traps by Ewe fishermen whose livelihood has been undermined by the dam, as well as raffia palm mat-making by Nafana knowledge holders. In 2023, we documented the processes of building a coursed earth (atakpame) and a wattle-and-daub house. Built at the Banda Cultural Centre, these will serve as heritage resources that support community educational initiatives. Open-access digital documentation produced through this project will be sustainably curated by the British Museum.

Improving African Futures Using Lessons from the Past

Improving African Futures Using Lessons from the Past (IAfF) was a research and training partnership funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (2018-2023). Our partnership brought 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.

Our Canadian-Ghanaian partnership involved members from the University of Victoria, the University of Ghana, Ghana Museums and Monuments Board, Digital Antiquity and communities in Ghana to create digital heritage collections that foster new forms of research and knowledge mobilization relevant to communities, scholars and broader publics. We have worked to produce educational benefit by developing English and first-language heritage curriculum for Ghanaian schools, fostering both literacy and digital literacy. For examples of the digital heritage resources developed by the IAfF partnership, see the Banda Through Time digital exhibit and the Learning From Our Past school learning resources hosted by the University of Victoria Libraries

The IAfF project builds on an earlier pilot project facilitated by Ann Stahl’s participation in the 2015-2016  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).  

Selected publications


  • 2023 – Archaeology: Why It Matters. Cambridge: Polity Press. ISBN: 978-1-509-54987-0
  • 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

  • 2023 (Ann B. Stahl, Allison Balabuch, Kathy Sanford & Emmanuel Mushayikwa) African Archaeology in Support of School Learning: An Introduction. African Archaeological Review 40(3). DOI: 10.1007/s10437-023-09539-4

  • 2023 (Allison Balabuch & Ann B. Stahl) School Learning Enriched by Doing: An Apprenticing Model. African Archaeological Review 40(3). DOI: 10.1007/s10437-023-09540-x

  • 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

  • 2020 Slavery in Africa: The Spoken Subject. Azania: Archaeological Research in Africa 55(4):1-12. DOI:10.1080/0067270X.2020.1826701
  • 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.