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Early Plant Food Production in the West African Sahel

New Evidence
  • Katharina Neumann
Chapter

Abstract

This paper presents new data from the project ‘Vegetation History and Archaeobotany of the West African Savannas’ at the University of Frankfurt, Germany, provided by palynology and the investigation of charcoal, fruits and seeds from archaeological sites. Our evidence from the Sahel in Burkina Faso and from north-east Nigeria indicates that agriculture started simultaneously in both areas around 3000 BP (c. 1200 BC) and that it was probably introduced from outside. The first pastoralists arriving in the Sahel zone of north-east Nigeria around 3700 BP (c. 2000 BC), depended wholly on wild grasses as a source of carbohydrates, and it was at least some hundreds of years before they added domesticated Pennisetum to their diet. Palynological data point to a major change towards drier conditions around 3300 BP which might have stimulated the introduction of agriculture into the Sahel. However, in some areas wild grasses remained the staple food until historical times.

Keywords

Sahel West Africa Neolithic domesticated Pennisetum early agriculture. 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Katharina Neumann
    • 1
  1. 1.Seminar für Vor- und Frühgeschichte Archäologie und Archäobotanik AfrikasJ.W. Goethe UniversitätFrankfurt am MainGermany

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