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African Archaeological Review

, Volume 13, Issue 4, pp 247–254 | Cite as

The east African Neolithic: An alternative view

  • Karega-Munene
Articles

Abstract

The East African Neolithic has been attributed to the migration of food- producing populations from the Sudan and Ethiopia. The migrants are thought to have entered the region via northern Kenya. Attempts have been made not only to reconstruct the routes taken by those migrants, but also to establish their linguistic and/or ethnic identity. These attempts have treated Neolithic pottery “wares” as discrete cultural entities and correlated them with specific linguistic and/or ethnic groups. The main problem with this approach is that it minimizes the contribution that contact and exchange or trade may have made to culture change. It also denies the groups concerned the dynamism that appears to have characterized their relationships with each other and with their environment. The present paper offers an alternative interpretation of the Neolithic phenomenon. The similarities and differences in material culture, like the ones that have been used to define the pottery “wares” in question, are reflections of the dynamic relationships that existed between the people responsible for its production and consumption. Production and consumption of the “wares” could have taken place among individuals living in a given area or among different villages or communities living as far apart as the Central Rift and the Lake Victoria basin.

Key words

Neolithic pottery food-producing populations East Africa 

Résumé

Le néolithique de l'Est de l'Afrique a été attribué à des migrations de populations productrices de nourriture en provenance du Soudan et d'Ethiopie. On pense que ces migrations ont pénétré dans la région via le Nord du Kenya. Des tentatives ont été faites, non seulement pour reconstruire les routes empruntées par ces migrants, mais aussi pour établier leur identité linguistique et/ou ethnique. Ces tentatives ont utilisé les différents groupes de poterie néolithiques comme autant d'entités culturelles discrètes et les ont mises en relation avec des groupes linguistiques ou ethniques spécifiques. Le problème principal avec cette approche est qu'elle minimise la contribution que les contacts, les échanges ou le commerce ont pu avoid sur le changement culturel. Elle ne prend pas non plus en compte le dynamisme qui semble avoir caractérisé leurs relations entre elles et avec leur environnement. Le présent article tente d'offrir une interprétation alternative au phénomène néolithique. Ceci est réalisé en utilisant un modèle interprétatif que reconnaît que les humains ont des capacitiés intellectuelles et technologiques multiples et que les décisions et actions individuelles sont reflétées par les restes matériels des sociétés auxquels appartiennent les individus. Par conséquent, les similarités et les différences dans la culture matérielle comme celles qui ont été utilisées pour définir les groupes de poterie dont il est question sont le reflect de relations dynamiques qui existaient entre les peuples responsables de sa production et de sa consommation. La production et la consommation de ces groupes peuvent s'êtres produites parmi des individus vivant dans une région donnée ou parmi différents villages ou communautés vivant aussi éloignées l'une de l'autre que le Rift Central et le bassin du Lac Victoria.

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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Karega-Munene
    • 1
  1. 1.National Museums of KenyaNairobiKenya

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