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African Archaeological Review

, Volume 31, Issue 3, pp 479–512 | Cite as

Pearl Millet and Other Plant Remains from the Early Iron Age Site of Boso-Njafo (Inner Congo Basin, Democratic Republic of the Congo)

  • Stefanie Kahlheber
  • Manfred K. H. EggertEmail author
  • Dirk Seidensticker
  • Hans-Peter Wotzka
Original Article

Abstract

This article is devoted to an analysis of plant remains from the Early Iron Age site of Boso-Njafo on the Lulonga River (Democratic Republic of the Congo). They were excavated in the context of archaeological research in 1985 but—due to unfavorable circumstances—could not be analyzed at that time. The site belongs to the Imbonga group, the earliest ceramic style group to date in the Inner Congo Basin. The archaeological context of the botanical remains is dated to the first millennium cal bc. The most salient fact concerning the plant remains is the evidence of pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum). A correlation between cultivation of this crop, that is primarily adapted to semi-arid environments, with the climatic changes taking place in the second and first millennium cal bc is discussed. However, regional palaeoecological proxy data for the Inner Congo Basin are still missing. Further plant species present in Boso-Njafo include trees with edible fruits like Musanga cecropioides, Raphia, and Elaeis guineensis, Afromomum sp., and some grasses and herbs exploitable as leafy vegetables. They indicate a forest environment including swamps and secondary Guineo-Congolian forests as well as disturbed ruderal vegetation.

Keywords

Early Iron Age Democratic Republic of the Congo Rainforest Inner Congo Basin Plant remains Pearl millet Imbonga Imbonga group 

Résumé

Cet article porte sur l'analyse des restes de plantes du site de l'Âge du Fer ancien de Boso-Njafo sur la rivière Lulonga (RDC). Ces restes ont été mis au jour au cours de recherches archéologiques en 1985, mais ils n'ont pu être étudiés que très récemment. Ce matériel botanique est associé au groupe Imbonga qui actuellement représente le plus ancien style céramique du bassin intérieur du Congo. Le contexte archéologique des plantes de Boso-Njafo est daté du courant du premier millénaire cal bc. Le fait le plus frappant concernant ces plantes est la mise en évidence du mil (millet perlé, Pennisetum glaucum). Une corrélation de la culture de cette plante, principalement adaptée aux environnements semi-arides, avec les changements climatiques qui ont eu lieu dans le 2ème et 1er millénaire cal bc est discutée. Toutefois, des données paléoécologiques régionales manquent pour l'intérieur du bassin du Congo. D'autres espèces végétales présentes à Boso-Njafo comprennent des arbres à fruits comestibles comme Musanga cecropioides, les palmiers Raphia et Elaeis guineensis, Afromomum sp. et des graminées et des herbes utilisables comme herbes potagères. Ils indiquent un environnement de forêts, y compris de marécages et de forêts guinéo-congolaises secondaires ainsi qu'une végétation rudérale perturbée.

Notes

Acknowledgments

The River Reconnaissance Project, directed by M. K. H. Eggert and funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG; German Research Foundation), aimed at a systematic archaeological survey of the banks of major rivers in the Inner Congo Basin during the decade of 1977–1987 (see Eggert 1983, 1993; Wotzka 1995).

We would like to thank Ann-Kathrin Evers (Tübingen) who prepared the soil samples for analysis as well as Andreas Scharf of the Erlangen AMS Laboratory for the dating. Thanks for funding current archaeological fieldwork in Democratic Republic of the Congo (HPW) are due to the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft; research permits and assistance have kindly been provided by the Institut des Musées Nationaux du Congo (MNC), Kinshasa, and, notably, by Clément Mambu Nsangathi. Botanical reference material used for comparison was collected in West and Central Africa by one of the authors (SK) during research for the Laboratory of African Archaeobotany at the Goethe University of Frankfurt/Main. The unpublished botanical material of the Cameroonian site Mintyaminyoumin (Cameroon) has been studied within the frame of the DFG joint research project FOR 510 at the Laboratory of African Archaeobotany, Goethe University of Frankfurt/Main. SK is particularly grateful to her coauthors for cooperation and support. Last but not least, we all thank two anonymous reviewers for their comments which were of critical importance for the improvement of this paper.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stefanie Kahlheber
    • 1
  • Manfred K. H. Eggert
    • 2
    Email author
  • Dirk Seidensticker
    • 2
  • Hans-Peter Wotzka
    • 3
  1. 1.LimburgGermany
  2. 2.Institut für Ur- und Frühgeschichte und Archäologie des MittelaltersEberhard-Karls-Universität TübingenTübingenGermany
  3. 3.Institut für Ur- und Frühgeschichte, Forschungsstelle AfrikaUniversität zu KölnKölnGermany

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