My Life’s Story and Love
James Denbow (Malawi 1968–70)
I have worked in African archaeology for almost 50 years, living for many years in Malawi, Botswana, and the Republic of Congo. My first experience in Africa was as a Peace Corps volunteer working in environmental health in a village in northern Malawi. My wife of 54 years, Jocelyne, and I were married in Blantyre, Malawi.
Because my BA degree was in archaeology, I was asked by the Peace Corps to carry out an excavation with another Peace Corps volunteer, Wayne Olts, for the Malawi Department of Antiquities at the Old Livingstonia Mission site, established by David Livingstone at Cape McClear. The Peace Corps thought this would be a good way to keep some Peace Corps teachers active during their school holidays. This experience led to my career.
After the Peace Corps, my wife and I moved to Maun, Botswana as Methodist Missionaries to help build and staff a new secondary school built for the Botswana government. It was the first secondary school on the banks of the Okavango Swamps where it met the Kalahari Desert. Here we slept under a mosquito net tucked under a mattress on the floor of our screened-in veranda where we were lulled to sleep every night by the grunts and snorts of the resident hippo that inhabited a pool in the river below our house.
After three years in Maun, we returned to the States where I earned a PhD in African archaeology at Indiana University. After my PhD research we returned to Botswana where I was hired by the National Museum of Botswana as its first Director of Antiquities. My work was supplemented by SIDA (the Swedish International Development Agency) and USAID.
In 1986 we returned to the States with our two children and Took up a position as an Associate Professor of Archaeology at the University of Texas at Austin, where I taught for over 30 years before retiring as Professor emeritus in 2018. During that time, I initiated several seasons of new excavations at Neolithic and Iron Age sites in Loango on the coast of the Republic of Congo.
I have written three books and published over 65 journal articles as well as a short blog on Loango for the Metropolitan Museum.
A love song
On a completely different subject, I have made a movie with song in honor of my wife Josie.