1. University of Virginia
  2. Arts & Sciences

Adria LaViolette

Professor, Director of Undergraduate Studies

Ph.D. Washington University 1987

Brooks Hall, 309


I am an archaeologist with active research in Africa and a particular interest in medium-range and large-scale societies over the last two millennia. My earliest research was in West Africa where I conducted an ethnoarchaeological study of craft production in Jenne, Mali with implications for early urbanism in the Inland Niger Delta. Since 1987 I have been working on the East African coast, conducting survey and excavation in several regions on the mainland and on Pemba Island, Tanzania, on sites at the intersection of archaeology, ethnology, and history. At the Swahili centers of Pujini, Chwaka, and Tumbe, and at smaller village sites, I am exploring such topics as household organization, political economy, the changing practice of Islam and its effects on social and cultural life, the interface of regional domestic economy with long-distance Indian Ocean trade networks, and the transformations in social structure within the contexts of urbanism and colonialism. I have made a research priority the integration of village-dwelling and non-elite coastal peoples into Swahili historiography. I maintain long-term collaborative relationships with colleagues in Africa, the US, and Europe. With Neil Norman, I am developing a project in the Zanzibar countryside concerning the effects of Portuguese colonialism. I am also the Editor-in-Chief of the African Archaeological Review, a premier journal of our discipline with wide-ranging theoretical, topical, and geographic coverage of the continent and beyond.


Archaeology of Africa, Archaeology of Colonialism, Archaeology of Identity, Household Archaeology, Advanced Topics in African Archaeology, Contemporary African Societies, Modern Africa through African Film, Introduction to Archaeology, Archaeology of Europe, Ancient African Cities and States.


Archaeology of Africa; African Iron Age; Swahili archaeology and history; urbanism and inequality; colonialism; household archaeology; political economy; specialization.

Selected Publications

Forthcoming - Town and Country: A Regional Study of Swahili Village and Urban Households on Pemba Island, Tanzania, AD 800-1600. Adria LaViolette and Jeffrey B. Fleisher.

Forthcoming - The Swahili World. Stephanie Wynne-Jones and Adria LaViolette, eds. London: Routledge.
2015 - When Did the Swahili become Maritime? Jeffrey Fleisher, Paul Lane, Adria LaViolette, Annalisa Christie, Mark Horton, Edward Pollard, Erendira Quintana Morales, Thomas Vernet, and  Stephanie Wynne-Jones. American Anthropologist 117(1): 100-115.    

2013 - The Early Swahili Trade Village of Tumbe, Pemba Island, Tanzania, AD 600-950. Antiquity 87 (338): 1151-1168.. (With J. Fleisher).

2013 - The Swahili World. Oxford Handbook of African Archaeology. Oxford University Press (Ch.62) 901-914 (Ed. P.Mitchell and P. Lane)

2013 - Swahili Historical Chronicles from an Archaeological Perspective: Bridging History and Archaeology, and Coast and Hinterland, in Southern Tanzania. In The Death of Prehistory.  P. Schmidt and S. Mrozowski, eds. pp. 117-140 (With M. Pawlowicz). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

2009 - The Urban History of a Rural Place: Swahili Archaeology on Pemba Island, Tanzania, AD 700-1500. International Journal of African Historical Studies 42 (3):433-455.  (With J. Fleisher).

2009 - The Archaeology of African History. Special Issue, International Journal of African Historical Studies 42 (3). (Ed. with Ann B. Stahl).

2008 - 'Bead Grinders' and Early Swahili Household Economy: Analysis of an Assemblage from Tumbe, Pemba Island, Tanzania, 7th-10th Centuries AD. Journal of African Archaeology 6 (2):161-181. (With J. Flexner and J. Fleisher).

2008 - Swahili Cosmopolitanism in Africa and the Indian Ocean World, A.D. 600-1500. Archaeologies: Journal of the World Archaeological Congress 4 (1):24-49.

2007 - Geographic Overviews, Africa, East: Swahili Coast. In Encyclopedia of Archaeology. D. M. Pearsall, ed. Pp. 19-21. New York: Academic Press.

2007 - The Changing Power of Swahili Houses, Fourteenth to Nineteenth Centuries A.D. In The Durable House: House Society Models in Archaeology. Robin A. Beck, Jr., ed. Pp. 175-197. (With J. Fleisher). Center for Archaeological Investigations, Southern Illinois University.

2005 - Encountering Archaeology in Tanzania: Experience in Teaching at the University of Dar es Salaam. In Salvaging Tanzania's Cultural Heritage. B. B. B. Mapunda and P. Msemwa, eds. Pp. 36-54. Dar es Salaam University Press.

2005 - The Archaeology of Sub-Saharan Urbanism: Cities and their Countrysides. In African Archaeology: A Critical Introduction. A. B. Stahl, ed. Pp. 327-352. (With J. Fleisher). London: Blackwell.

2004 - Swahili Archaeology and History on Pemba, Tanzania: A Critique and Case Study of the Use of Written and Oral Sources in Archaeology. In African Historical Archaeologies.  A. M. Reid and P. J. Lane, eds. Pp. 125-162. Kluwer Academic: Plenum Publishers.

2002 - Encountering Archaeology in Tanzania: Education, Development, and Dialogue at the University of Dar es Salaam. Anthropological Quarterly 75 (2):355-374.

2000 - Ethno-archaeology in Jenné, Mali: Craft and Status among Smiths, Potters and Masons.   Monographs in African Archaeology 49. British Archaeological Reports International Series. Oxford: Cambridge.

1999 - Elusive Wattle and Daub: Finding the Hidden Majority in the Archaeology of the Swahili (WithJeffrey Fleisher). Azania (34) 87-108.

1995 - Women Craft Specialists in Jenne: The Manipulation of Mande Social Categories. In Status and Identity in West Africa: Nyamakalaw of Mande. D. C. Conrad and B. E. Frank, eds. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

1994 - Masons of Mali: A Millennium of Design and Technology in Earthen Materials. In Society, Culture, and Technology in Africa. S. Terry Childs, ed. Pp. 86-97. Philadelphia: MASCA Research Papers in Science and Archaeology.

1990 - Iron Age Settlement around Mkiu, South-eastern Tanzania. Azania 25:19-26. (With W. B. Fawcett).

Department Faculty

Ira Bashkow
Associate Professor
Frederick H. Damon
Eve Danziger
Professor and Chair; Affiliated Faculty: Linguistics Program; Cognitive Science Program
Lise Dobrin
Associate Professor & Director of the Interdepartmental Program in Linguistics
Gertrude Fraser
Associate Professor
Richard Handler
Professor & Director of Global Development Studies Program
James Igoe
Ravindra Khare
Professor & Director of the Center on Critical Human Survival Issues
Adria LaViolette
Professor, Director of Undergraduate Studies
Daniel Lefkowitz
Associate Professor
George Mentore
Associate Professor
Rachel Most
Associate Dean for Undergraduate Academic Programs & Professor
Fraser D. Neiman
Stephen Plog
David A. Harrison Professor of Archaeology
China Scherz
Assistant Professor, Director of Graduate Studies
John Shepherd
Associate Professor
Mark Sicoli
Assistant Professor
Margaret Smith
Director & Curator, The Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection
Sylvia Tidey
Assistant Professor
Patricia Wattenmaker
Associate Professor
Kath Weston
Jarrett Zigon
William & Linda Porterfield Chair in Biomedical Ethics and Professor of Anthropology