Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2022

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




DeCorse, Christopher R.


African Diaspora, Atlantic History, Environment, Ghana, Landscape Archaeology, Remote Sensing

Subject Categories

African History | Arts and Humanities | Geography | History | History of Art, Architecture, and Archaeology | Remote Sensing | Social and Behavioral Sciences


This doctoral archaeological research examines the Pra River Basin in southern Ghana through lenses of landscape, temporality, and transformation. Drawing on the Annales school and the writings of Tim Ingold, this study moves away from binary constructions of natural and cultural landscape features toward a more integrated view of the landscape's long human history. The primary temporal focus of this research is the past three millennia but evidence recovered of even more ancient eras is also examined. The artifacts and features documented while surveying this landscape allow us to glimpse pre-Atlantic (pre-1450 CE) settlement patterns, subsistence, and technology, as well as more recent and ongoing transformations of the landscape. Artifacts including ceramics, quartz flakes, stone beads, ground stone tools, and iron slag were found on hilltop sites throughout the surveyed areas. Most of these sites represent a pre-Atlantic pattern of settlement that continues, to a lesser extent, into the early Atlantic era (1450-1700 CE). Long grinding slicks, possibly related to Nyame Akuma production, are present on numerous rock outcrops in the region. Test excavation at an iron smelting site near Adiembra (AD31) yielded a temporally extensive range of dates. The bulk of the slag was deposited in the early second century CE, but deeper ceramic bearing contexts stretched back through the first millennium BCE. A single early seventh millennium BCE date associated with stone flakes underlay the site, representing the oldest date recovered from an archaeological context in the region. The archaeological evidence this study presents suggests the entire landscape has undergone continual alteration for numerous millennia, but much of the landscape's current form represents Atlantic influences and more recent historical dynamics and transformations of the colonial and post-colonial periods. I examine this fragmented landscape using satellite remote sensing, archaeological pedestrian survey, diagnostic artifact analyses, and limited test excavations to identify and assess features and transformative processes.


Open Access