think piece 1 - History Relies on Archaeology and Oral...

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History Relies on Archaeology and Oral Tradition Where did we come from? What were our earliest ancestors like? How do we know? Understanding Africa’s past and answering these questions has been complicated and controversial task among historians. While many resources are available to offer insight into Africa’s origins, there are two that closely work hand-in-hand to do so. Oral tradition and archaeology use each other to prove themselves accurate and useful in establishing Africa’s history. Although unwritten, oral tradition passes down myths, legends, songs, genealogies, folklore, and proverbs from one generation to the next. The fact that ideas are being shared by memory and word-of-mouth bestows greater meaning and value to each individual involved. As said in class, killing one person would be equivalent to burning down one library. Every community, family and generation have both similar and different customs to practice and share. Written history isn’t more accurate than oral history because it, too, can be edited and biased by the author. Whether they don’t have all the facts or a story is framed towards a particular bias, the news, media, and our textbooks give us incomplete biased information. In addition, just as our textbooks become outdated as we continuously obtain new information, African societies can alter their understanding of the past by tweaking stories too; they just don’t kill trees to make updates. “…Even among peoples who have writing, many historical sources, including the
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think piece 1 - History Relies on Archaeology and Oral...

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