Vegetation History and Archaeobotany

, Volume 23, Issue 1, pp 15–32 | Cite as

Land use history and resource utilisation from a.d. 400 to the present, at Chibuene, southern Mozambique

  • Anneli EkblomEmail author
  • Barbara Eichhorn
  • Paul Sinclair
  • Shaw Badenhorst
  • Amelie Berger
Original Article


This paper discusses changing patterns of resource utilisation over time in the locality of Chibuene, Vilankulos, situated on the coastal plain of southern Mozambique. The macroscopic charcoal, bone and shell assemblages from archaeological excavations are presented and discussed against the off-site palaeoecological records from pollen, fungal spores and microscopic charcoal. The Chibuene landscape has experienced four phases of land use and resource utilisation that have interacted with changes in the environment. Phase 1 (a.d. 400–900), forest savanna mosaic, low intensity cattle herding and cultivation, trade of resources for domestic use. Phase 2 (a.d. 900–1400), forest savanna mosaic, high intensity/extensive cultivation and cattle herding. Phase 3 (a.d. 1400–1800), savanna woodland and progressive decrease in forests owing to droughts. Decline of agricultural activities and higher reliance on marine resources. Possible trade of resources with the interior. Phase 4 (a.d. 1800–1900), open savanna with few forest patches. Warfare and social unrest. Collapse of trade with the interior. Decline in marine resources and wildlife. Loss of cattle herds. Expansion of agriculture locally and introduction of New World crops and clearing of Brachystegia trees. The study shows the importance of combining different environmental resources for elucidating how land use and natural variability have changed over time.


Land use history Resource utilisation Pollen Fungal spores Wood charcoal Osteology 



The research was sponsored by SAREC (Swedish agency for research cooperation). Fieldwork was carried out as collaboration between Dept. of African and Comparative Archaeology, Uppsala University in cooperation and Dep de Anthropologia e Archeologia, Eduardo Mondlane University, Mozambique under the auspices of HRAC (Human responses and contributions to environmental change). Prof Louis Scott, Dept. of Plant Sciences, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, contributed greatly in the pollen identification process. We would also like to thank Katharina Neumann for advice on wood charcoal analyses and Manfred Ruppel for SEM technical assistance. Elisabeth Green kindly revised the language.

Supplementary material

334_2013_392_MOESM1_ESM.doc (42 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 43 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anneli Ekblom
    • 1
    Email author
  • Barbara Eichhorn
    • 2
  • Paul Sinclair
    • 1
  • Shaw Badenhorst
    • 3
    • 4
  • Amelie Berger
    • 1
  1. 1.African and Comparative Archaeology, Department of Archaeology and Ancient HistoryUppsala UniversityUppsalaSweden
  2. 2.Institut für Archäologische Wissenschaften, Archäologie und Archäobotanik Afrikas, Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität, Campus WestendFrankfurtGermany
  3. 3.Department of ArchaeozoologyTransvaal MuseumPretoriaSouth Africa
  4. 4.Department of Anthropology and ArchaeologyUniversity of South AfricaPretoriaSouth Africa

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