African-American history of

History of Agriculture in Africa

MANNING, K; (2010) A developmental history for early West African agriculture. In: Allsworth-Jones, P, (ed.) West African archaeology. New developments, new perspectives. (pp. 43-52).

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Abstract

The origins and spread of domesticated cereals in Africa remains poorly understood despite continued efforts. This is partly due to the perennial problem of insufficient research and poor conditions of preservation for plant and animal remains. But, there are also potentially very real reasons for why early domestication continues to elude the archaeological record in West Africa. This paper provides a synthesis of recent research, including genetic, linguistic and archaeological data, to examine what is known, and perhaps what cannot be known, about agricultural development in West Africa. Particular attention is given to the initial spread of domestic pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum), which appears to have been the key, if not the only, crop being cultivated throughout the Sahelian regions of West Africa between 3000 and 1000 BC. It is argued here that the apparent monocropping of early agricultural systems reflects broad environmental circumstances and deep time cultural trajectories of the region. Furthermore, on the basis of recent evidence from the Lower Tilemsi Valley, it is argued that pearl millet cultivation originated further north in the western Sahara and likely predates the earliest presently known finds by at least 1000 years. Evidence from sub-Sahelian regions of West Africa demonstrates that a greater diversity of crops came into use during the 2nd millennium BC. The identification of pearl millet as the earliest domestic crop in this region supports prior hypotheses advocating a northern origin for the agro-pastoral occupation of sub-Sahelian West Africa, leading to a “knock-on” effect of local domestication events.

Source: discovery.ucl.ac.uk
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