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Welcome to African Archaeology!

The Journal of African Archaeology is an international peer-reviewed periodical appearing half-yearly since 2003. It publishes original papers addressing recent research and developments in African archaeology and related disciplines. The journal's main purpose is to provide scholars and students with a new pan-African forum for discussing relevant topics on the cultural dynamics of past African societies.

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Vol. 4 (2) 2006

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A.C. D'Andrea, A.L. Logan & D.J. Watson

Oil palm and prehistoric subsistence in tropical West Africa

Journal of African Archaeology, Vol. 4 (2), 2007, pages 195-222, DOI 10.3213/1612-1651-10072

Abstract
This study reports on the analysis of macrobotanical remains recovered at three of the B-sites rock shelters in central Ghana (B4C, B5C, B6B), which were excavated under the auspices of the Kintampo Archaeological Research Project (KARP). These rock shelters yielded large quantities of Kintampo material culture as well as pottery attributed to the Punpun. The overall aims are to further our understanding of prehistoric subsistence in tropical West Africa and to address some outstanding issues relating to the economic role of oil palm through the study of macrobotanical remains. Although palynological evidence indicates a substantial rise in oil palm pollen during the Late Holocene, various interpretations of this increase have been proposed. To date, sampling and analysis of macrobotanical remains have not been designed to investigate the nature of oil palm utilisation during this period. We argue that simple archaeobotanical quantification methods indicate that oil palm use during Kintampo occupations of sites B4C, B5C, and B6B and possibly other locales was significant. As such, humans should not be ruled out as agents having an impact on Late Holocene landscapes of West Africa. These and other archaeobotanical data from tropical Africa suggest that arboriculture was a component of prehistoric subsistence.

Résumé
Cette étude présente l'analyse de macrorestes végétaux découverts dans trois des abris sous roche des sites B, situés dans le centre du Ghana (B4C, B5C, B6B) et fouillés sous la supervision du Kintampo Archaeological Research Project (KARP). Ces abris sous roches ont livré une quantité importante de vestiges associés à la culture Kintampo, ainsi que de la poterie attribuée aux Punpun. Les principaux objectifs de cette étude sont d'améliorer notre compréhension des stratégies de subsistance préhis-toriques dans les milieux tropicaux de l'Afrique de l'Ouest et d'analyser le rôle économique de l'huile de palme, grâce à l'étude de macrorestes végétaux. Si les témoins palynologiques révèlent une hausse substantielle de la quantité de pollen de palmier à huile au cours de l'Holocène récent, diverses interprétations ont été proposées pour expliquer cette augmentation. Jusqu'à présent, les stratégies d'échantillonnage et d'analyse des macrorestes végétaux n'ont pas été élaborées dans le but d'étudier la nature de l'utilisation de l'huile de palme pendant cette période. Nous soutenons que de simples méthodes de quantification archéobotaniques indiquent une utilisation significative d'huile de palme au cours des occupations Kintampo des sites B4C, B5C et B6B, et peut-être d'autres localités. On ne peut exclure la possibilité que les êtres humains, en tant qu'agents, eurent un impact sur les paysages de l'Holocène récent en Afrique de l'Ouest. Ces données s'ajoutent à d'autres témoins archéobotaniques provenant d'Afrique tropicale, suggérant que l'arboriculture était une compo-sante des stratégies de subsistance préhistoriques.




Keywords: Kintampo, oil palm, palaeoethnobotany, subsistence, West Africa


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Shadreck Chirikure, South Africa
A. Catherine D'Andrea, Canada
Manfred K.H. Eggert, Germany
Elena Garcea, Italy
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David W. Phillipson, UK
Gilbert Pwiti, Zimbabwe
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Robert Vernet, France
Lyn Wadley, South Africa

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