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Uganda -- Archaeology

A wide range of archaeological remains have been discovered in Uganda, ranging from early stone tools to trade goods brought from the coast by nineteenth century traders and explorers.

The Paleolithic collections housed at the Geological Survey at Entebbe include 2,500 pieces from the former environs of Lake Victoria, which were exposed along the Kagera River valley, chiefly around Nsonezi. These finds indicate a richly developed Acheulean handaxe culture, which has been dated at between 100,000 and 50,000 years. Handaxes have also been discovered in gravel deposits near Parra and Mweya. Later stone tools of the Sangoan Culture (named after the Sango Bay in Masaka District) have been found in western Uganda along the Kagera River valley and on hills around Mbarara.

The Magosian Culture, named after a water-hole site in Karamoja, flourished 7,000 to 5,000 years ago, leaving deposits of small stone tools. Many beautifully fashioned quartz tools, resembling those of the Stillbay Stone Age Culture of Somaliland, have been found near Moroto. Agriculture reached Uganda 2,000 to 3,000 years ago and quickly spread over western Uganda. Nevertheless, hunting and food-gathering people, making tools resembling those of the Wilton Stone Age cultural tradition, lived in caves and rock shelters near Lake Victoria. These peoples were slowly absorbed into the more settled Bantu agriculturists.

The Nsongezi rock shelter was re-excavated in 1961 and dated to about 1,000 A.D. These Stone Age survivors, perhaps kin to the present-day Bushmen, were probably responsible for the rock paintings found in Teso, at Kakoro in Bukedi and on Lolui Island in Lake Victoria.

Some time during the last twelve hundred years, iron working spread into Uganda from the north. When excavated in 1957, Bigo was found to have defensive ditches cut 12 feet into solid rock, evidently made with metal tools, which stretch across nearly four miles of country. During the 1960s, archaeological work focused on Bigo forts, village sites, and painted pottery, as well as on legendary associations with a mythical peoples known as the Bachwezi. Excavations at Bigo showed a two-phase occupation, one associated with the Bahima Bachwezi, the other with the Babito.

Excavations were carried out in 1961 by the British Institute of History and Archaeology in East Africa at Kantsyore Island in Ankole and near Suam in Sebei. These sites are particularly important for their dimple-based ware, early Iron Age pottery, and hut foundations.

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