Fortunately the situation is not so grim throughout Africa, and there are many ancient civilizations that have been carefully investigated through archaeological and other methods. Written accounts by visitors (in Arabic and European languages) exist for some of the more recent civilizations and are very useful. Oral histories are also useful, and ethnographic analogy, when carefully applied, can be extremely helpful. Archaeology is making advances in many areas, including dating techniques. Former methods of only examining the lifestyles and prestige materials of the elite are giving way to a broader view of all levels of an ancient culture and a better understanding of the interactions that occurred both within and outside the cultures. Material objects and art have always been an active component of culture, and so this section will examine the art of a number of ancient cultures to obtain a glimpse at that process.