African Archaeological Review

, Volume 23, Issue 3–4, pp 55–84 | Cite as

Ancient Humped Cattle in Africa: A View from the Chad Basin

  • Carlos MagnavitaEmail author
Original Article


The origins of ancient and modern African cattle are still a matter of much debate among researchers. Part of the dispute involves the question of the appearance in Africa, from the second millennium BC onwards, of cattle carrying a distinguishing morphological feature present in most of the modern sub-Saharan breeds: The hump. This paper addresses the issue of the origins of the African humped cattle. After reviewing the current hypothesis on their origins, the status and significance of old and new archaeological and osteological evidence from the Chad Basin are presented and critically discussed. Mainly based on the cultural context of the archaeological figurative evidence available in the remaining continent, a case for the foreign ancestry of the ancient African humped cattle is made, and a perspective for future research in the topic is provided.


Humped cattle Zebu Bos indicus Clay figurines Osteomorphology 


Les origines des bœufs africains antiques et modernes sont toujours le motif de vives discussions entre les chercheurs. Une part des discussions concerne la question de l’apparition en Afrique, dès le second millénaire BC, de boeufs portant un certain trait morphologique bien visible sur la plupart des bœufs africains sub-sahariens modernes: la bosse. Le présent manuscrit traite des racines du bœuf africain à bosse. Après avoir examiné les hypothèses courantes de leurs origines, le caractère et la pertinence des trouvailles archéologiques et ostéologiques du Bassin du Lac Tchad sont présentés de façon critique. Se basant sur le contexte culturel de l’art figuratif ancien présent dans le reste du continent, l’hypothèse d’une origine à l’étranger du bœuf africain à bosse est envisagée et une perspective est présentée pour des investigations futures sur le sujet.



I thank the German Research Council (DFG) for the funds that made possible the collection of data used in the present paper. Especial thanks go to Prof. Peter Breunig for the supervision and encouragement of the archaeological research carried out in the Chad Basin by myself and colleagues. I’m indebted to Dr. Veerle Linseele for the critical commentaries and suggestions on the manuscript, as well as to Mr. Richard Byer for the corrections of the syntax and to Dr. Aloisia de Trafford for useful editorial changes. Thanks also go to the then Director of Research and Training of the National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Dr. L.I. Izuakor, for granting the necessary research permits in Nigeria, and to Julius Berger Nigeria PLC for logistical support. I’m grateful to Mrs. Monika Heckner for her assistance in preparing some of the illustrations. Last but not least I thank all colleagues and institutions for sharing their knowledge or permitting the reproduction of illustrations and finds in their property: Dr. R. Blench, Dr. G. Connah, Dr. A.F.C. Holl, Dr. D. Gronenborn, Dr. F. Treinen-Claustre, the Akademische Druck- und Verlagsanstalt, Graz, Austria and the Istituto per l'Oriente C.A. Nallino, Rome, Italy.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.J.W. Goethe-Universität Frankfurt, Institut für archäologische WissenschaftenArchäologie und Archäobotanik AfrikasFrankfurt/MGermany

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