Myths as ‘Evidence’: Community narratives and the development process at Great Zimbabwe.

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


People interpret their past through stories they tell about themselves and their environment. Recovering these stories and using them in enhancing information about place has however been difficult in archaeology and its related disciplines. The result is that heritage impact assessments do not capture these stories and miss crucial information that could be used to protect areas within a sacred landscape. Listening to myths and legends of a place and analysing them through narrative inquiry has many benefits for protection of living heritage. First, it creates collaboration between the researcher and the people that he/she is researching on. It thus makes people, and not artefacts or sites, central to archaeological inquiry. Secondly, the narratives also contain very crucial environmental information which can be used to define what is important to communities beyond the boundaries created by archaeological research. It forces archaeologists to think of every place as a part of a wider landscape and not just a ‘site.’ Narratives can also be used to question the authorised discourses which often focus on national agendas at the expense of local concerns. By allowing people to tell their stories one is also allowing multiple interpretations and recognising the various social layers that a place can have. Using examples of myth and legends told about Great Zimbabwe, I show how ignoring community narratives during the development process has impacted on the sacred aspects of the sacred landscape.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationN/A
Publication statusUnpublished - 7 May 2017
EventImpact Assesments Contribution to the Global Efforts in Addressing Climate Change: Living Heritage: Challenges for Development Projects - Sheraton Montreal, Montreal, Canada
Duration: 2 Apr 20177 Apr 2017


ConferenceImpact Assesments Contribution to the Global Efforts in Addressing Climate Change
Abbreviated titleIAIA17

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