The significance of the oil palm (Elaeis guineensis Jacq.) in the late Holocene environments of west and west central Africa: A further consideration
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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 wordsWest and west central Africa Late Holocene environments Elaeis guineensis pollen occurrences Plant cultivation index
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