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 anthropological archaeologist with active research in eastern Africa, and a particular interest in indigenous medium-range and large-scale societies over the last two millennia. My 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 I have been conducting research along the East African coast, 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.  I am working on a monograph (w/ Jeff Fleisher) on four settlements in northern Pemba spanning the emergence of Swahili village and later urban/rural polities.  I am currently co-directing (w/ Neil Norman) a project on Zanzibar concerning Swahili/Portuguese interactions in the countryside during the early colonial period.  I am also working (w/ Hayden Bassett, Rhiannon Stephens, and Abdallah Ali) on two heritage management projects on Pemba and Zanzibar related to archaeological sites.  I have made the integration of village-dwellers and non-elite coastal peoples into Swahili historiography a research priority.  


Introduction to Archaeology, Archaeology of Africa, Ancient African Cities and States, Archaeology of Europe, Archaeology of Colonial Expansions, Archaeology of Identity, Household Archaeology


Archaeology; African Iron Age; Swahili archaeology and history; urban/rural landscapes; urban/rural landscapes; household archaeology; political economy; craft production and exchange; archaeology of Islam.

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.

2018 - Developments in Rural Life on the Eastern African Coast, a.d. 700-1500. Journal of Field Archaeology 43(5): 380-398. DOI: 10.1080/00934690.2018.1489661 (with J. Fleisher).

2018 - The Swahili World. London: Routledge (ed. S. Wynne-Jones and A. LaViolette
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

Sonia Alconini
David A. Harrison III Professor of American Archaeology
Ira Bashkow
Goldsmith Family NEH Distinguished Teaching Professor, 2018-2021: Associate Professor
Frederick H. Damon
Eve Danziger
Professor and Director of the Interdepartmental Program in Linguistics
Lise Dobrin
Associate Professor
Gertrude Fraser
Associate Professor
Richard Handler
Professor & Director of Global Development Studies Program
James Igoe
Professor & Chair
Kasey Jernigan
Assistant Professor of Anthropology and American Studies
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
China Scherz
Associate Professor, Director of Graduate Studies
Mark Sicoli
Assistant Professor, Director of Graduate Admissions
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