Original Paper

Journal of World Prehistory

, Volume 24, Issue 1, pp 1-23

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Domesticating Animals in Africa: Implications of Genetic and Archaeological Findings

  • Diane Gifford-GonzalezAffiliated withDepartment of Anthropology, University of California Email author 
  • , Olivier HanotteAffiliated withThe School of Biology, Centre for Genetics and Genomics, The University of Nottingham


Domestication is an ongoing co-evolutionary process rather than an event or invention. Recent zooarchaeological and animal genetics research has prompted a thorough revision of our perspectives on the history of domestic animals in Africa. Genetic analyses of domestic animal species have revealed that domestic donkeys are descended from African ancestors, opened a debate over the contribution of indigenous aurochs to African domestic cattle, revealed an earlier and possibly exogenous origin of the domestic cat, and reframed our vision of African dogs. Genetic diversity studies and mapping of unique traits in African cattle, sheep, goats, pigs and chickens indicate adaptations to regional environmental challenges and suggest hitherto unknown and complex patterns of interactions both among Africans and with Southwest Asia and other Asian regions on the Indian Ocean. This article argues against the static perspective on domestication as invention and for viewing it as a dynamic, locally based and continuing process.


Africa Domestication Genetics Zooarchaeology Co-evolution