African Archaeological Review

, Volume 31, Issue 4, pp 547–581 | Cite as

Indian Ocean Food Globalisation and Africa

  • Nicole BoivinEmail author
  • Alison Crowther
  • Mary Prendergast
  • Dorian Q. Fuller
Original Article


While Africa has sometimes been peripheral to accounts of the early Indian Ocean world, studies of food globalisation necessarily place it centre stage. Africa has dispatched and received an extraordinary range of plants, animals and foodstuffs through Indian Ocean trade and other avenues. Here we explore these patterns of food globalisation vis-à-vis Africa, focusing in particular on the arrival of new food crops and domesticated animals in Africa, but also touching on flows from Africa to the broader Indian Ocean world. We look at archaeological evidence, drawing in particular on new datasets emerging through the increasing application of archaeobotanical and zooarchaeological methods in African and Indian Ocean archaeology, and also draw on historical and ethnographic sources. We argue that the evidence points to a broadly Medieval and post-Medieval pattern of introduction, with little evidence for the earlier arrivals or culinary impacts argued by some. We also undertake consideration of questions about how and why new crops, animals, spices, and agricultural and culinary technologies come to be accepted by African societies, issues that are often overlooked in the literature.


Cuisine Species translocation Prehistory Medieval period Maritime trade 


Bien que l’Afrique soit parfois placée à la périphérie du monde de l’océan Indien, les études de la mondialisation alimentaire placent ce continent au centre de la scène. L’Afrique a exporté et reçu un extraordinaire éventail de plantes, d’animaux et de denrées alimentaires à travers le commerce de l’océan Indien. Ici, nous explorons ces modèles de mondialisation alimentaire. Plus particulièrement, nous nous concentrons sur l’arrivée de nouvelles cultures alimentaires et d’animaux domestiques en Afrique, et examinons les flux au départ de l’Afrique vers le reste du monde de l’océan Indien. Nous prêtons attention aux sources archéologiques, et passons notamment en revue les nouvelles données générées par l’application croissante des méthodes archéobotaniques et archéozoologiques en Afrique et dans l’océan Indien. Nous nous appuyons également sur les sources historiques et ethnographiques. Nous soutenons que ces données suggèrent que ces éléments furent introduits largement au cours des périodes médiévales et postmédiévales, et que peu de preuves pointent vers des arrivées antérieures. Nous explorons également comment et pourquoi ces nouvelles cultures, espèces animales, épices et technologies agricoles et culinaires furent acceptées par les sociétés africaines, des questions que la littérature archéologique a souvent tendance à négliger.



This paper represents the output of the Sealinks Project, funded by a European Research Council grant (Agreement No 206148) awarded to Nicole Boivin. Alison Crowther was funded by a British Academy Postdoctoral Research Fellowship. Current research by Dorian Fuller on early agricultural systems is supported by a European Research Council Grant (no. 323842) “ComPAg.” Thanks to François Richard for assistance editing the French abstract.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nicole Boivin
    • 1
    Email author
  • Alison Crowther
    • 1
    • 2
  • Mary Prendergast
    • 3
  • Dorian Q. Fuller
    • 4
  1. 1.School of ArchaeologyUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK
  2. 2.School of Social ScienceThe University of QueenslandSt. LuciaAustralia
  3. 3.Department of Sociology and AnthropologySt. Louis University in MadridMadridSpain
  4. 4.Institute of ArchaeologyUniversity College LondonLondonUK

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