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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. 12 (1) 2014

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T. Forssman, B. Page & J. Selier

How Important was the Presence of Elephants as a Determinant of the Zhizo Settlement of the Greater Mapungubwe Landscape?

Journal of African Archaeology, Volume 12 (1), 2014, pages 75-87, DOI 10.3213/2191-5784-10250

Abstract
The initial settlement of the Greater Mapungubwe Landscape by Zhizo ceramic-producing farmers around AD 900 is said to be linked to the large elephant population that the region once supported. Elephant ivory was used in the Indian Ocean trade network to obtain exotic trade goods such as glass beads and cloth. However, there has been no attempt to determine whether the local elephant population was large enough to support such trade endeavours. In this paper, we use an inter-disciplinary approach to establish a projection of the past elephant population and demonstrate that the ivory tonnage in the region, including that which could be recovered from natural carcasses, could have supported trade demand. We also argue that at the time of settlement the same environmental productivity supporting the elephant population provided an ecological system amenable to cultivation and could support domesticated livestock. In addition, the local topography, river networks and community of large mammalian herbivores contributed to the attractiveness of the region from a settlement perspective. We believe that the elephant population was only one component present on the landscape that attracted agriculturalists to settle in the area.

Résumé
L'occupation initiale du Greater Mapungubwe Landscape par des fermiers Zhizo producteurs de céramiques autour 900 ap. J.-C. est supposément liée à la grande population d'éléphants que la région aurait alors accueillie. L'ivoire d'éléphant était utilisé dans un réseau d'échanges avec l'Océan Indien pour obtenir des marchandises exotiques comme des perles de verre et du tissu. Cependant, il n'y a eu aucune tentative pour déterminer si la population d'éléphants locale était assez importante pour soutenir de tels efforts commerciaux. Dans cet article, nous utilisons une approche interdisciplinaire pour obtenir une projection de la population d'éléphants de cette époque et démontrer que le tonnage d'ivoire dans la région, y compris celui qui pouvait être récupéré sur des carcasses naturelles, a pu être suffisant pour répondre à la demande commerciale. Nous soutenons aussi qu'au moment de l'occupation, l'environnement qui permettait la présence des éléphants, a également fourni un système écologique favorable à l'agriculture et à l'élevage. En outre, la topographie locale, les réseaux hydrographiques et la population de grands mammifères herbivores contribuaient à rendre la région attractive dans la perspective d'un établissement. Nous croyons que la population d'éléphants était seulement une composante de ce paysage qui a incité les agriculteurs à s'installer dans la région.


Keywords: elephants, Greater Mapungubwe Landscape, Indian Ocean trade network, Zhizo


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Editorial Board

Editors:
Sonja Magnavita, Peter Breunig, Sam Nixon

Book Reviews Editor:
Jonathan R. Walz, USA

Editorial Advisory Board:
Graham Connah, Australia
Shadreck Chirikure, South Africa
A. Catherine D'Andrea, Canada
Manfred K.H. Eggert, Germany
Elena Garcea, Italy
Diane Gifford-Gonzalez, USA
Timothy Insoll, UK
Tom Huffman, South Africa
Eric Huysecom, Switzerland
David Killick, USA
Savino di Lernia, Italy
Alexandre Livingstone Smith, Belgium
Scott MacEachern, USA
David Mattingly, UK
Susan Keech McIntosh, USA
David W. Phillipson, UK
Gilbert Pwiti, Zimbabwe
Peter Robertshaw, USA
Robert Vernet, France
Lyn Wadley, South Africa

Copy Editors:
Nikolas Gestrich, UK
Gaby Franke, Germany
Annabelle Gallin, France
Richard Byer, Germany

Editorial Assistance:
Anna Rybar, Germany
Carlos Magnavita, Germany


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