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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. 7 (2) 2009

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S. Kahlheber, K. Bostoen & K. Neumann

Early plant cultivation in the Central African rain forest: first millennium BC pearl millet from South Cameroon

Journal of African Archaeology, Volume 7 (2), 2009, pages 253-272, DOI 10.3213/1612-1651-10142

Abstract
The Bantu expansion, a major topic in African archaeology and history, is widely assumed to correlate with the spread of farming, but archaeological data on the subsistence of these putative early Bantu speakers are very sparse. However, finds of domesticated pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum) in southern Cameroonian archaeological sites, dated between 400 and 200 BC, open new perspectives on the history of agriculture in the Central African rain forest.

Linguistic evidence suggests that pearl millet was part of early agricultural traditions of Bantu speakers, and has to a great extent been distributed during the course of their expansion over large parts of western Bantu-speaking Africa, possibly even originally from their homeland in the Nigerian-Cameroonian borderland.

In combining archaeobotanical, palaeoenviron-mental and linguistic data, we put forward the hypothesis that an agricultural system with pearl millet was brought into the rain forest during the first millennium BC, and that its spread across Central Africa coincided with the dispersal of certain Bantu language subgroups.


Résumé
L'expansion bantoue représente un thème majeur de l'archéologie et de l'histoire africaines, et on l'associe généralement à la diffusion de l'agriculture. Toutefois, les données archéologiques sur sur le mode de subsistance des locuteurs bantous putatifs sont très rares. La présence de mil à chandelle domestiqué (Pennisetum glaucum), découvert dans quelques sites archéologiques au sud du Cameroun datés entre 400 et 200 BC, ouvre des nouvelles perspectives sur l'histoire de l'agriculture en forêt dense d'Afrique Centrale.

Les données linguistiques suggèrent que le mil à chandelle relève d'anciennes traditions agricoles des locuteurs bantous et que c'est au cours de leur expansion qu'il s'est largement répandu en Afrique occidentale bantouphone. Il se peut même que la dispersion du mil à chandelle se soit produite à partir du berceau supposé des langues bantoues qu'on situe à la frontière du Nigeria et du Cameroun.

En combinant les données archéobotaniques, paléoenvironnementales et linguistiques, nous formulons à titre d'hypothèse qu'un système agricole, comprenant le mil à chandelle, a été introduit en forêt dense durant le premier millénaire avant JC et que sa diffusion à travers l'Afrique Centrale a coïncidé avec la dispersion de certains sous-groupes bantous.




Keywords: agriculture, Bantu expansion, climatic change, Iron Age, Pennisetum glaucum


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Shadreck Chirikure, South Africa
A. Catherine D'Andrea, Canada
Manfred K.H. Eggert, Germany
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Diane Gifford-Gonzalez, USA
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Eric Huysecom, Switzerland
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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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