Adria LaViolette

Professor, Anthropology & Archaeology
Person Type

Adria LaViolette (Professor, Anthropology Department) is an archaeologist with active research in eastern Africa, and a particular interest in indigenous medium-range and large-scale societies over the last two millennia. Her early research in West Africa focused on the ethnoarchaeological study of craft production in Jenne, Mali, with implications for early Iron Age urbanism in the Inland Niger Delta. Since 1987 she has been doing research along the East African coast. She has conducted survey and excavation in several coastal regions on the Tanzanian mainland and on the offshore islands of Pemba and Zanzibar (Unguja), on interconnected topics related to the archaeology of the Swahili from the 7th-15th centuries CE: emergent urban landscapes, household organization, craft production, the practice of Islam and other Swahili spiritualities, and political economy including the interface of local, regional, and long-distance trade and exchange.  She is working on a monograph (w/ Jeff Fleisher) on four settlements in northern Pemba spanning the emergence of Swahili village and later urban/rural polities.  Professor LaViolette is currently co-directing (w/ Neil Norman) a project on Zanzibar concerning Swahili/Portuguese interactions in the countryside during the early colonial period.  She is also working (w/ Hayden Bassett, Rhiannon Stephens, and Abdallah Ali) on two heritage management projects on Pemba and Zanzibar related to archaeological sites.  She has made the integration of village-dwellers and non-elite coastal peoples into Swahili historiography a research priority.  In 2018 she stepped down after ten years as Editor-in-Chief of the African Archaeological Review.

Professor LaViolette’s recent research has appeared in Journal of Field ArchaeologyAntiquityAmerican Anthropologist, International Journal of African Historical StudiesJournal of African Archaeology, and Archaeologies: Journal of the World Archaeological Congress. She recently published a major volume about Swahili archaeology, history, and culture entitled The Swahili World (co-edited w/ S. Wynne-Jones, Routledge 2018) which was awarded the Society of Africanist Archaeologist’s Book Award (Edited Volume, Any Topic) for 2018-2021. At UVa her courses include Introduction to Archaeology, Ancient African Cities and States, African Archaeology, Archaeology of Europe, Archaeology of Colonial Expansions, Household Archaeology, and Archaeology of Identity.