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Did Specialized Pastoralism Develop Differently in Africa than in the Near East? An Example from the West African Sahel

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Journal of World Prehistory Aims and scope

Abstract

Previous studies have highlighted the differences between Africa and the Near East with regard to the earliest phases of food production. However, later innovations and changes, which constantly reshaped food production, have received much less attention. In an attempt to fill this lacuna, at least partially, this paper focuses on the emergence of specialized pastoralism. Through a diachronic overview of the appearance of the characteristics shared by most present-day specialized pastoral groups in Africa and the Near East, it is clear that only at a late date could this mode of livelihood have taken its present shape. This should serve as a warning that projections of recent pastoral lifestyles back in time should be made with caution. It appears that both Africa and the Near East went through two stages of development: a first stage with general food economies, and a second phase of specialization. Archaeo(zoo)logical evidence from the Sahel in Nigeria and Burkina Faso illustrates these developments on a more local scale.

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Acknowledgments

The study of the faunal remains from northern Burkina Faso and northern Nigeria was accomplished thanks to a grant of the Belgian Federal Science Policy Office. The material was excavated under the direction of Prof. Dr. P. Breunig from the Goethe-University at Frankfurt am Main (Germany), in the framework of the multidisciplinary research project SFB 268 ‘Cultural development and language history in the West African savannah’. I am most grateful to him and all his collaborators. Many thanks are also due to Wim Van Neer, Bea De Cupere (both Royal Belgian Institute for Natural Sciences) and Achilles Gautier (Ghent University) for their critical reading of an earlier draft of the manuscript. Two anonymous reviewers are thanked for their remarks and comments that helped to improve the manuscript. Sheila Hamilton-Dyer (Southampton) is acknowledged for linguistic corrections.

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Linseele, V. Did Specialized Pastoralism Develop Differently in Africa than in the Near East? An Example from the West African Sahel. J World Prehist 23, 43–77 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10963-010-9033-3

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