Advertisement

Radiocarbon Dating and the Prehistory of Sub-Saharan Africa

  • Peter Robertshaw
Conference paper

Abstract

The invention of 14C dating was of enormous consequence for archaeology. In due course it provided an absolute chronological framework for later African prehistory that was to upset several notions about the relationship between African and European prehistory and history, which had served as ideological foundations for colonialism. I begin by reviewing some of these early developments; then I briefly examine aspects of the history of 14C dating of the Stone Age followed by a more detailed discussion of the Iron Age. Archaeologists who study the Iron Age and the interface with history are particularly concerned with the issues of precision and calibration. Other current concerns include the absence of active dating laboratories in black Africa and the requirement of many more 14C dates if progress in understanding prehistory is to go beyond the establishment of regional cultural sequences. The final section of the chapter addresses aspects of the future of 14C dating in sub-Saharan Africa.

Keywords

Radiocarbon Date Charcoal Sample Accelerator Mass Spectrometric African History Radiocarbon Chronology 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Beaumont, PB, De Villiers, H and Vogel, JC 1978 Modern man in sub-Saharan Africa prior to 49,000 years BP: A review and evaluation with particular reference to Border Cave. South African Journal of Science 74: 409–419.Google Scholar
  2. Beaumont, PB and Vogel, JC 1972 On a new radiocarbon chronology for Africa south of the Equator. African Studies 31: 65–89 and 155–182.Google Scholar
  3. Bower, J and Chadderdon, TJ 1986 Further excavations of Pastoral Neolithic sites in Serengeti. Azania 21: 129–133.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bower, JRF and Nelson, CM 1978 Early pottery and pastoral cultures of the Central Rift Valley, Kenya. Man 13: 554–566.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Butzer, KW, Beaumont, PB and Vogel, JC 1978 Lithostratigraphy of Border Cave, Kwazulu, South Africa: A Middle Stone Age sequence beginning c 195,000 BP. Journal of Archaeological Science 5: 317–341.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Cann, RL, Stoneking, M and Wilson, AC 1987 Mitochondrial DNA and human evolution. Nature 325: 31–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Carter, PL and Vogel, JC 1974 The dating of industrial assemblages from stratified sites in eastern Lesotho. Man 9: 557–570.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Clark, JD 1959 The Prehistory of Southern Africa. Harmondsworth, England, Penguin Books: 341 p.Google Scholar
  9. Clark, JD 1975 Africa in prehistory: peripheral or paramount? Man 10: 175–198.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Clark, JD 1990 A personal memoir. In Robertshaw, P, ed, A History of African Archaeology. Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Heinemann: 189–204.Google Scholar
  11. Cole, S 1954 The Prehistory of East Africa. Harmondsworth, England, Penguin Books: 301 p.Google Scholar
  12. Cole, S 1963 The Prehistory of East Africa (revised edition). New York, Macmillan: 382 p.Google Scholar
  13. Collett, D and Robertshaw, P 1983 Problems in the interpretation of radiocarbon dates: the Pastoral Neolithic of East Africa. African Archaeological Review 1: 57–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Deacon, HJ and Geleijnse, VB 1988 The stratigraphy and sedimentology of the main site sequence, Klasies River, South Africa. South African Archaeological Bulletin 43: 5–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Deacon, J 1974 Patterning in the radiocarbon dates for the Wilton/Smithfield complex in southern Africa. South African Archaeological Bulletin 29: 3–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Deacon, J 1984 Later Stone Age people and their descendants in southern Africa. In Klein, RG, ed, Southern African Prehistory and Paleoenvironments. Rotterdam, AA Balkema: 221–328.Google Scholar
  17. Deacon, J 1990 Changes in the archaeological record in South Africa at 18,000 BP. In Gamble, C and Soffer, O, eds, The World at 18, 000 BP : Volume 2: Low Latitudes. London, Unwin Hyman: 170–188.Google Scholar
  18. Fagan, BM 1961 Radiocarbon dates for sub-Saharan Africa (from c 1000 BC) — I. Journal of African History 2 (1): 137–139.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Fagan, BM 1965 Radiocarbon dates for sub-Saharan Africa (from c 1000 BC) — III. Journal of African History 6 (1): 107–116.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Flannery, KV 1967 Culture history v culture process: a debate in American archaeology. Scientific American 217: 119–122.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Flint, RF 1959 On the basis of Pleistocene correlation in East Africa. Geological Magazine 96: 265–284.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Geyh, MA and Jäkel, D 1974 Late Glacial and Holocene climatic history of the Sahara Desert derived from a statistical assay of 14C dates. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 15: 205208.Google Scholar
  23. Goodwin, AJH and Van Riet Lowe, C 1929 The Stone Age cultures of South Africa. Annals of the South African Museum 27: 1–289.Google Scholar
  24. Gowlett, JAJ, Hedges, REM, Law, IA and Perry, C 1987 Radiocarbon dates from the Oxford AMS system: Archaeometry date-list 5. Archaeometry 29 (1): 125–155.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Hall, M 1990 `Hidden history’: Iron Age archaeology in southern Africa. In Robertshaw, P, ed, A History of African Archaeology. Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Heinemann: 59–77.Google Scholar
  26. Hall, M and Vogel, JC 1980 Some recent radiocarbon dates from southern Africa. Journal of African History 21: 431–455.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Huffman, TN 1979 African origins. South African Journal of Science 75 (5): 233–237.Google Scholar
  28. Huffman, TN 1986 Iron Age settlement patterns and the origins of class distinction in Southern Africa. In Wendorf, F and Close, A, eds, Advances in World Archaeology 5. New York, Academic Press: 291–338.Google Scholar
  29. Huffman, TN and Vogel, JC 1979 The controversial lintels from Great Zimbabwe. Antiquity 53: 55–57.Google Scholar
  30. Libby, WF 1951 Radiocarbon dates, II. Science 114: 291–296.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Libby, WF 1952 Chicago radiocarbon dates, III. Science 116: 673–681.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. McIntosh, SK and McIntosh, RJ 1986 Recent archaeological research and dates from West Africa. Journal of African History 27: 413–442.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. 1988.
    From stone to metal: New perspectives on the later prehistory of West Africa. Journal of World Prehistory 2(1): 89–133.Google Scholar
  34. Nelson, CM and Kimengich, J 1984 Early phases of pastoral adaptation in the Central Highlands of Kenya. In Krzyzaniak, L and Kobusiewicz, M, eds, Origin and Early Development of Food-Producing Cultures in North-Eastern Africa. Poznan, Polish Academy of Sciences: 481–487.Google Scholar
  35. Oliver, R 1966 The problem of the Bantu expansion. Journal of African History 7: 361–376.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Ottaway, B 1973 Dispersion diagrams: a new approach to the display of carbon-14 dates. Archaeometry 15 (1): 5–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Parkington, J 1980 Time and place: some observations on spatial and temporal patterning in the Later Stone Age sequence in Southern Africa. South African Archaeological Bulletin 35: 73–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Parkington, J 1984 Changing views of the Later Stone Age of South Africa. In Wendorf, F and Close, A, eds, Advances in World Archaeology 3. New York, Academic Press: 89–142.Google Scholar
  39. Parkington, J and Hall, M 1987 Patterning in recent radiocarbon dates from Southern Africa as a reflection of prehistoric settlement and interaction. Journal of African History 28: 1–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Phillipson, DW 1975 Chronology of the Iron Age in Bantu Africa. Journal of African History 16 (3): 321–342.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Phillipson, DW 1977 The spread of the Bantu language. Scientific American 236: 106–114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Phillipson, DW and Fagan, BM 1969 The date of the Ingombe Ilede burials. Journal of African History 10 (2): 199–204.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Posnansky, M and McIntosh, RJ 1976 New radiocarbon dates for northern and western Africa. Journal of African History 17 (2): 161–195.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Schofield, JF 1948 Primitive Pottery. Cape Town, South African Archaeological Society.Google Scholar
  45. Shaw, T 1975 Those Igbo-Ukwu radiocarbon dates: facts, fictions and probabilities. Journal of African History 16(4): 503517.Google Scholar
  46. Shinnie, PL 1990 A personal memoir. In Robertshaw, P, ed, A History of African Archaeology. Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Heinemann: 221–235.Google Scholar
  47. Singer, R and Wymer, J 1982 The Middle Stone Age at Klasies River Mouth in South Africa. Chicago, University of Chicago Press: 234 p.Google Scholar
  48. Soper, R 1974 New radiocarbon dates for eastern and southern Africa. Journal of African History 15 (2): 175–192.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Stafford, TW, Jull, AJT, Brendel, K, Duhamel, RC and Donahue, D 1987 Study of bone radiocarbon dating accuracy at the University of Arizona NSF accelerator facility for radio-isotope analysis. Radiocarbon 29 (1): 24–44.Google Scholar
  50. Summers, R 1955 The dating of the Zimbabwe Ruins. Antiquity 29: 107–111.Google Scholar
  51. Sutton, JEG 1982 Archaeology in West Africa: a review of recent work and a further list of radiocarbon dates. Journal of African History 23: 291–313.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Thackeray, AI 1983 Dating the rock art of southern Africa. South African Archaeological Society Goodwin Series 4: 21–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Vogel, JC and Beaumont, PB 1972 Revised radiocarbon chronology for the Stone Age in South Africa. Nature 237: 50–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Vogel, JC, Fuls, A, Visser, E and Becker, B 1986 Radiocarbon fluctuations during the third millennium BC. In Stuiver, M and Kra, RS, eds, Proceedings of the 12th International 14C Conference. Radiocarbon 28(2B): 935–938.Google Scholar
  55. Volman, TP 1984 Early prehistory of southern Africa. In Klein, RG, ed, Southern African Prehistory and Paleoenvironments. Rotterdam, AA Balkema: 169–220.Google Scholar
  56. Wadley, L and Verhagen, B Th 1986 Filling the gap: a new Holocene chronology for the Transvaal Stone Age. South African Journal of Science 82 (5): 271.Google Scholar
  57. Wendt, WE 1976 ‘Art mobilier’ from the Apollo 11 Cave, South West Africa: Africa’s oldest dated works of art. South African Archaeological Bulletin 31: 5–11.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter Robertshaw

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations