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African Archaeological Review

, Volume 23, Issue 3–4, pp 45–53 | Cite as

Goats (Capra hircus), the Khoekhoen and Pastoralism: Current Evidence from Southern Africa

  • S. Badenhorst
Original Article

Abstract

The current archaeological evidence for the presence of goats among herder societies in southern Africa is reviewed. Presumably, the Khoekhoen obtained goats from Bantu-speaking farmers, but the exact timing of diffusion is still unknown. Archaeological evidence for the presence of goats in the Western Cape remains, to date, elusive, despite historical reference to goats. It is very often impossible to distinguish sheep from goat based on fragmentary archaeological remains such as those commonly found in southern Africa. Intrinsic physiological characteristics make goats suitable farm animals, and they may commonly have acted as sheep-leaders during prehistoric times, a practice noted amongst the Khoekhoen during the early part of the 19th century. Acting as sheep-leaders might have required herders to deliberately keep goat numbers low. There are few depictions of goats in southern African rock art.

Résume La preuve archéologique actuelle pour la présence de chèvres parmi les sociétés de berger dans Afrique méridionale est réexaminée. Vraisemblablement, le Khoekhoen a obtenu des chèvres de fermiers parlant Bantu, mais le moment exact de diffusion est toujours inconnu. La preuve archéologique pour la présence de chèvres dans les restes de Cap de l’ouest, dater, insaisissable, malgré la référence historique aux chèvres. C’est très souvent impossible de distinguer le mouton de la chèvre basée sur les restes archéologiques fragmentaires tels que ces ordinairement trouvé dans Afrique méridionale. Les caractéristiques physiologiques intrinsèques font des chèvres les animaux de ferme convenables, et ils ont pu servir ordinairement des mouton-dirigeants pendant les temps préhistoriques, une pratique réputée parmi le Khoekhoen pendant la première partie du 19e siècle. Servir des mouton-dirigeants pourrait avoir exigé que les bergers aient exprès gardé le niveau bas de nombres de chèvre. Il y a peu de représentations de chèvres dans l’art de rocher Africain méridional.

Keywords

Goats Sheep Pastoralism Khoekhoen Southern Africa Later Stone Age 

Notes

Acknowledgements

I would like to thank: Dr. Ina Plug, Dr. Jan Boeyens and Ms. Maria van der Ryst (all from the University of South Africa) as well as Dr. Catherine D’Andrea (Simon Fraser University) for taking the time to make valuable suggestions on earlier drafts. Anonymous referees provided helpful comments, and editorial support was provided by Prof. Fekri Hassan and Dr. Aloisia de Trafford. Dr. Carmen Tarcan (Simon Fraser University) translated the abstract to French. Dr. L. Jacobson (McGregor Museum) and B. Woodhouse informed me of additional rock art sites with goat depictions. Shannon Wood assisted me to produce the map.

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© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of ArchaeologySimon Fraser UniversityBurnabyCanada

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