Advertisement

Vegetation History and Archaeobotany

, Volume 8, Issue 3, pp 199–210 | Cite as

The significance of the oil palm (Elaeis guineensis Jacq.) in the late Holocene environments of west and west central Africa: A further consideration

  • M. Adebisi Sowunmi
Article

Abstract

Abundant archaeological evidence of the occurrence of the endocarp of the oil palm,Elaeis guineensis, in the rain forest and woodland savanna zones of west and central Africa from about 5000 B.P. has shown the tree to be an important element in the subsistence economy of the region; its pollen also has been recorded in most of the regional terrestrial sediments studied so far. The distinct and consistently sudden and more marked increases in this pollen during the late Holocene when compared with the late Tertiary and late Pleistocene frequencies strongly indicate that the late Holocene upsurges were due to both natural and human factors favourable for the expansion of this heliophytic tree. Reasons are given for suggesting that upsurges in oil palm pollen during the late Holocene period in this region can be used as indices of plant cultivation. While the oil palm is known from early Tertiary deposits in west Africa, its earliest palynological record from terrestrial sediments in the west central part dates back only to the early Holocene. More palynological studies of Tertiary and Quaternary terrestrial cores are required to establish with more certainty the antiquity ofE. guineensis in west central Africa.

Key words

West and west central Africa Late Holocene environments Elaeis guineensis pollen occurrences Plant cultivation index 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Andah BW (1987) Agricultural beginnings and early farming communities in West and Central Africa. West African J Archaeol 17: 171–204Google Scholar
  2. Andah BW (1993) Identifying early farming traditions of West Africa. In: Shaw T, Sinclair P, Andah B, Okpoko A (eds) The archaeology of Africa: food, metals and towns. Routledge, London, pp 240–254Google Scholar
  3. Anquandah J (1993) The Kintampo complex: a case study of early sedentism and food production in sub-Sahelian west Africa. In: Shaw T, Sinclair P, Andah B, Okpoko A (eds) The archaeology of Africa: food, metals and towns. Routledge, London, pp 255–260Google Scholar
  4. Bassey-Duke BE (1981) The experimental archaeological reserve: an experiment in decay at Adesina Oja, Ibadan, Nigeria. West African J Archaeol 11: 53–73Google Scholar
  5. Burkill HM (1985) The useful plants of west tropical Africa, (2nd edn, vol. 1) (A revised edition of Dalziel's The useful plants of west tropical Africa). Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, LondonGoogle Scholar
  6. Corner EJH (1966) The natural history of palms. The University of California Press, Los AngelesGoogle Scholar
  7. Coursey DG (1976) The origins and domestication of yams in Africa. In: Harlan JR, Wet JMJ de, Stemler ABL (eds) Origins of African Plant Domestication. Mouton, The Hague, pp 383–408Google Scholar
  8. Cowan CW, Watson PJ (eds) (1992) Origins of agriculture: an international perspective. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington DCGoogle Scholar
  9. Denbow J (1990) Congo to Kalahari: data and hypotheses about the political economy of the western stream of the early iron age. African Archaeol Rev 8: 139–175Google Scholar
  10. Dupont LM, Weinelt M (1996) Vegetation history of the savanna corridor between the Guinean and the Congolian rain forest during the last 150,000 years. Veget Hist Archaeobot 5: 273–292CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Eggert MKH (1993) Central Africa and the archaeology of the equatorial rainforest: reflections on some major topics. In: Shaw T, Sinclair P, Andah B, Okpoko A (eds) The archaeology of Africa: food, metals and towns. Routledge, London, pp 289–329Google Scholar
  12. Elenga H, Schwartz D, Vincens A (1992) Changement climatiques et action anthropique sur le littoral congolais au cours de l' Holocène. Bull Soc Géol France 163 (1): 83–90Google Scholar
  13. Elenga H, Schwartz D, Vincens A (1994) Pollen evidence of late Quaternary vegetation and inferred climate changes in Congo. Palaeogeogr Palaeoclimatol Palaeoecol 109: 345–356CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Elenga H, Schwartz D, Vincens A, Bertaux J, Namur C de, Martin L, Wirrmann D, Servant, M (1996) Diagramme pollinique holocène du lac Kitina (Congo): mise en évidence de changements paléobotaniques et paléoclimatiques dans le massif forestierGoogle Scholar
  15. Elenga H, Vincens A (1990) Paléoenvironnements quaternaires récents des plateaux Bateke (Congo): étude palynologique des dépots de la dépression du bois de Bilanko. In Lafranchi R, Schwartz D (eds) Paysages quaternaires de l'Afrique centrale atlantique. ORSTOM, Paris, pp 271–282Google Scholar
  16. Fagg B (1959) The Nok culture in prehistory. J Hist Soc Nigeria 1 (4): 288–293Google Scholar
  17. Flight C (1976) The Kintampo culture and its place in the economic prehistory of west Africa. In: Harlan JR, Wet JMJ de, Stemler ABL (eds) Origins of African plant domestication. Mouton, The Hague, pp 211–221Google Scholar
  18. Gabel C (1976) Microlithic occurrences in the Republic of Liberia. West African J Archaeol 6: 21–35Google Scholar
  19. Harlan JR (1971) Agricultural origins: centres and noncenters. Science 174: 468–474Google Scholar
  20. Harlan JR (1992) Indigenous African agriculture. In: Cowan CW, Watson PJ (eds) Origins of agriculture: an international perspective. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington DC, pp 59–70Google Scholar
  21. Harris DR (1976) Traditional systems of plant food production and the origins of agriculture in west Africa. In: Harlan JR, Wet JMJ de, Stemler ABL (eds) Origins of African plant domestication, Mouton, The Hague, pp 311–356Google Scholar
  22. Harris DR (1996) Introduction: themes and concepts in the study of early agriculture. In: Harris DR (ed) The origins and spread of agriculture and pastoralism in Eurasia. University College London Press, London, pp 1–9Google Scholar
  23. Harris DR (1997) Book review of Sutton, JEG (ed) The growth of farming communities in Africa from the equator southwards (Azania Special Volume 29–30). African Archaeol Rev 14 (3): 201–206Google Scholar
  24. Harris DR, Hillman GC (1989) (eds) Foraging and farming: the evolution of plant exploitation. Unwin Hyman, LondonGoogle Scholar
  25. Hartley CWS (1977) The oil palm. Tropical agriculture series (2nd edn) Longman, LondonGoogle Scholar
  26. Hather JG (ed) (1994) Tropical archaeobotany: applications and new developments. Routledge, LondonGoogle Scholar
  27. Hutchinson J, Dalziel JM (1968) Flora of west tropical Africa (vol 3 part 1) (2nd edn revised by Hepper, FN). Crown Agents, LondonGoogle Scholar
  28. Ingold T (1996) Hunting and gathering as ways of perceiving the environment. In: Ellen R, Fukui K (eds) Redefining nature: ecology, culture and domestication. Berg, Oxford, pp 117–155Google Scholar
  29. Jahns S (1996) Vegetation history and climate changes in west equatorial Africa during the Late Pleistocene and Holocene, based on a marine pollen diagram from the Congo fan. Veget Hist Archaeobot 5: 207–213CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Kadomura H, Kiyonaga J (1994) Origin of grassfields landscape in the west Cameroon highlands. In: Kadomura H (ed) Savannization process in tropical Africa (vol 2), Department of Geography, University of Tokyo, Tokyo, pp 47–85Google Scholar
  31. Leach HM (1997) The terminology of agricultural origins and food production systems — a horticultural perspective. Antiquity 71: 135–148Google Scholar
  32. Maley J (1991) The African rain forest vegetation and palaeoenvironments during late Quaternary. Climatic Change 19: 79–98CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Maley J (1996) The African rain forest — main characteristics of changes in vegetation and climate from the Upper Cretaceous to the Quaternary. Proc R Soc Edinburgh 104 B: 31–73Google Scholar
  34. Maley J, Brenac P (1998) Vegetation dynamics, palaeoenvironments and climatic changes in the forests of western Cameroon during the last 28,000 years BP. Rev Palaeobot Palynol 99: 157–187Google Scholar
  35. Maley J, Brenac P (in press) Les variations de la végétation et des paléoenvironnements du sud Cameroun au cours des derniers millenaires. Etude de l'expansion du palmier à huile. In: Bilong P, Vicat JP (eds) Géosciences au Cameroun. Publication Occa-sionelle GEOCAM 1: 1–15Google Scholar
  36. Maley J, Giresse P (in press) Etude d'un niveau argilleux organique du Mayombe (Congo occidental) riche en pollens d'Elaeis guineensis et daté d'environ 2800 ans BP. Implications pour les paléoenvironnements de l'Afrique Centrale. In: Bilong P, Vicat JP (eds) Géosciences au Cameroun. Publication occasionnelle GEOCAM 1: 1–6Google Scholar
  37. Maley J, Livingstone DA (1983) Extension d'un élément montagnard dans le sud du Ghana (Afrique de l'Ouest) au Pléistocène supérieur et á, l'Holocene inférieur: premières données polliniques. C R Acad Sci Paris Sér 2 296: 1287–1292Google Scholar
  38. Maret P de (1982) New survey of archaeological research and dates for west central and north central Africa. J African Hist 23: 1–15Google Scholar
  39. Maret P de (1985) Recent archaeological research and dates from central Africa. J African Hist 26: 129–148Google Scholar
  40. Maret P de (1986) The Ngovo group: an industry with polished stone tools and pottery in lower Zaire. African Archaeol Rev 4: 103–133Google Scholar
  41. Maret P de, Clist B, Neer W van (1987) Résultats des premières fouilles dans les abris de Shum Laka et d'Abeke au Nord-Ouest du Cameroun. L'Anthropologie 91: 559–584Google Scholar
  42. Oyelaran PA (1998) Early settlement archaeological sequence of the northeast Yorubaland. African Archaeol Rev 15(1): 65–79Google Scholar
  43. Reynaud-Farrera I, Maley J, Wirrmann D (1996) Végétation et climat dans les fôrets du sud-ouest Cameroun depuis 4770 ans BP: analyse pollinique des sédiments du lac Ossa. C R Acad Sci Paris Sér 2 322: 749–755Google Scholar
  44. Richards K (1986) Preliminary results of pollen analysis of a 6,000 year core from Mboandong, a crater lake in Cameroun. Hull Univ Geogr Dept Misc Ser 32: 14–28Google Scholar
  45. Sanford WW, Isichei AO (1986) Savanna. In: Lawson GW (ed) Plant ecology in West Africa: systems and processes. Wiley, New York, pp 95–149Google Scholar
  46. Schwartz D (1992) Assèchement climatique vers 3000 B.P. et expansion Bantu en Afrique centrale atlantique: quelques reflexions. Bull Soc Géol France 163(3): 353–361Google Scholar
  47. Schwartz D, Foresta H de, Dechamps R, Lafranchi R (1990) Découverte d'un premier site de l'âge du fer ancien (2110 B.P.) dans le Mayombe congolais. Implications paléobotaniques et pédologiques. C R Acad Sci Paris Séries 2 310: 1293–1298Google Scholar
  48. Shaw T (1976) Early crops in Africa: a review of the evidence. In: Harlan JR, Wet JMJ de, Stemler ABL (eds) Origins of African plant domestication. Mouton, The Hague, pp 107–153Google Scholar
  49. Shaw T (1990) The prehistory of west Africa. In: Ki-Zerbo J (ed) General history of Africa: methodology and African prehistory. (vol. 1, abridged edn) Heinemann/UNESCO, London, pp 611–630Google Scholar
  50. Smith AB (1975) Radiocarbon dates from Bosumpra cave, Abetifi, Ghana. Proc Prehistoric Soc 41: 179–182Google Scholar
  51. Sowunmi MA (1981a) Nigerian vegetational history from the late Quaternary to the present day. Palaeoecol Africa 13: 217–234Google Scholar
  52. Sowunmi MA (1981b) Aspects of late Quaternary vegetational changes in West Africa. J Biogeogr 8: 457–474Google Scholar
  53. Sowunmi MA (1981c) The late Quaternary environmental changes in Nigeria. Pollen Spores 23 (I): 125–148Google Scholar
  54. Sowunmi MA (1985) The beginnings of agriculture in West Africa: botanical evidence. Curr Anthropol 26 (1): 127–129Google Scholar
  55. Sowunmi MA (1987) Palynological studies in the Niger delta. In: Alagoa EJ, Anozie FN, Nzewunwa N (eds) The early history of the Niger delta. Buske, Hamburg, pp 29–64Google Scholar
  56. Sowunmi MA, Awosina EO (1991) Pollen analysis of Kariya Wuro rock shelter, Bauchi State. Nigerian Field 56 (3–4): 163–170Google Scholar
  57. Spriggs M (1996) Early agriculture and what went before in Island Melanesia: continuity or intrusion? In: Harris D (ed) The origins and spread of agriculture and pastoralism in Eurasia. University College London Press, London, pp 524–537Google Scholar
  58. Stahl AB (1984) A history and critique of investigations into early African agriculture. In: Clark JD, Brandt SA (eds) Hunters to farmers: the causes and consequences of food production in Africa, University of California Press, Berkeley, pp 9–21Google Scholar
  59. Stahl B (1985) Reinvestigation of Kintampo 6 rock shelter, Ghana: implications for the nature of culture change. African Archaeol Rev 3: 117–150Google Scholar
  60. Stahl AB (1986) Early food production in west Africa: rethinking the role of the Kintampo culture. Curr Anthropol 27: 532–336Google Scholar
  61. Stahl AB (1993) Intensification in the west African Late Stone Age. In: Shaw T, Sinclair P, Andah B, Okpoko A (eds) The archaeology of Africa: food, metals and towns. Routledge, London, pp 261–273Google Scholar
  62. Swaine MD (1992) Characteristics of dry forest in West Africa and the influence of fire. J Veget Sci 3: 365–374Google Scholar
  63. Swaine MD, Hall JB (1986) Forest structure and dynamics. In: Lawson GW (ed) Plant ecology in West Africa: systems and processes. Wiley, New York, pp 47–93Google Scholar
  64. Talbot MR, Livingstone DA, Palmer PG, Maley J, Melack JM, Delibrias G, Gulliksen S (1984) Preliminary results from sediment cores from Lake Bosumtwi, Ghana. Palaeoecol Africa 16: 173–192Google Scholar
  65. Tamura T (1986) Regolith-stratigraphie study of late-Quaternary environmental history in the West Cameroon Highlands and the Adamoua Plateau. In: Kadomura H (ed) Geomorphology and environmental changes in tropical Africa: case studies in Cameroon and Kenya. Hokkaido University, Sapporo, pp 63–93Google Scholar
  66. Tamura T (1990) Late Quaternary landscape evolution in the West Cameroon Highlands and the Adamoua Plateau. In: Lafranchi R, Schwartz D (eds) Paysages quaternaires de l'Afrique centrale atlantique. ORSTOM, Paris pp 298–318Google Scholar
  67. Vincens A, Guillaume B, Elenga H, Fournier M, Martin L, Namur C de, Schwartz D, Servant M, Wirrmann D (1994) Changement majeur de la vvégétationdu lac Sinnda (valléedu Niari, SudCongo) cconsécutiffàal'assèchementclimatique holocèneesupérieur apport de la palynologie. C R Acad Sci Paris Séries 2 318: 1521–1526Google Scholar
  68. Vincens A, Schwartz D, Bertaux J, Elenga H, Namur C de (in press) Late Holocene climatic changes in western equatorial Africa inferred from pollen from Lake Sinnda, south Congo.Google Scholar
  69. White F (1983) The vegetation map of Africa. UNESCO, ParisGoogle Scholar
  70. Zeven AC (1964) On the origin of the oil palm (Elaeis guineensis Jacq.). Grana Palynol 5: 121–123Google Scholar
  71. Zogning A, Giresse P, Maley J, Gadel F (1997) Late Holocene paleoenvironment in the Lake Njupi area, west Cameroon, implications regarding the history of Lake Nyos. J African Earth Sci 24: 285–300CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. Adebisi Sowunmi
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Archaeology and AnthropologyUniversity of IbadanIbadanNigeria

Personalised recommendations