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An integrated approach to the construction of cultural landscapes in Southwest Angola: the case of Huíla
Daniela Matos  1, 2, *@  , Luiz Oosterbeek  2, 3, *@  , Ziva Domingos  2, 4@  , Christopher Miller  1, 5@  , Nicholas J. Conard  5, 6@  , Manuel Neto  7@  , Paulo Valongo  8@  , José Fernandes  9@  , Maria Helena Henriques  10@  
1 : Institute for Archaeological Sciences, Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen  (INA)
Rümelinstr. 23, 72070 Tübingen -  Allemagne
2 : Quaternary and Prehistory Group, Geosciences Centre, University of Coimbra
Rua Sílvio Lima. University of Coimbra - Pólo II. 3030-790 Coimbra. -  Portugal
3 : Polytechnic Institute of Tomar  (IPT)
Estrada da Serra, Campus da Quinta do Contador, 2300-313 Tomar, Portugal -  Portugal
4 : Direção Nacional de Museus (Ministério da Cultura de Angola)  (DINAM)
5 : Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution and Paleoenvironment, Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen
Rümelinstr. 23, 72070 Tübingen -  Allemagne
6 : Department of Early Prehistory and Quaternary Ecology, University of Tübingen
7 : Universidade Mandume Ya Ndemufayo  (UMN)
8 : Museu Nacional de Arqueologia (Ministério da Cultura de Angola)
9 : Direção Provincial da Cultura do Namibe (Ministério da Cultura de Angola)
10 : Geosciences Centre, University of Coimbra
* : Corresponding author

Human behavior is influenced by multiple variables that tend to structure around basic notions of a perception of “landscape” mediated in a broad relationship by “culture”. Over time and space human groups have shaped the environment according to their adaptive strategies, not only as mere reaction to the territorial conditions (environmental, climatic and others) but as a concomitant process of culturally informed perceptions of its surroundings regulating collective structures that define cultural identity, ethnicity, social spaces and/or ritual-mythical references. The archaeological record is full of examples that show how humans are remarkable for their capacity to create complex social and technological structures over time and in different environments. Thus, cumulative culture seems to be the ultimate adaptive strategy of humankind.

Southwest Angola is a mosaic of biotopes of transition between desert, savanna and tropical rainforest and has undergone cyclic environmental changes shaping the landscape perceived today. The province of Huíla is an area of peculiar geomorphological characteristics that have allowed preservation of remains of past human societies under transitional conditions of refugia, spanning from the Plio-Pleistocene to the past millennium. This is a privileged region to analyze the processes that underlie the construction of cultural landscapes over a continuum of time in the evolution of human species, the establishment of hunter-gatherer societies and the persistence of forager communities among pastoralists and colonizers. 

The African Archaeology research line at the Earth and Memory Institute/Polytechnic of Tomar/Centre of Geosciences of Coimbra University and its partners propose an approach to these territories and cultural landscapes integrating the Geosciences in the anthropological research driving this archaeological inquiry. We aim to approach the aspects of hunter-gatherer activities and technological innovations that indicate dynamic developmental processes towards social stabilization in this specific ecological niche of Huíla. While in the Kwanza Sul and Namíbe provinces we have conducted research on cultural landscapes dominated by rock art and burial features, the richness of the Karst system of Huíla reveals great potential but remained only superficially studied.

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