The archaeological evidence for the appearance of pastoralism and farming in southern Africa

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This paper is a response to the growing reference to archaeological evidence by linguists and geneticists interested in the spread of early farmers and pastoralists in southern Africa. It presents two databases. The first contains the archaeological evidence for pastoralism and farming in southern Africa, for the period 550 BC to AD 1050. This is the first time that the seven different types of archaeological evidence that have traditionally been used to identify both spread events are presented together at this scale. This was stimulated by our interest in investigating the antiquity of an early ‘Iron Age package’ relative to the spread of single archaeological traits. The analysis shows that the package appears approximately 700 years after sites containing pottery, cattle and sheep, without agriculture, appear in the drier parts of the sub-continent. It post-dates the appearance of earlier sites with pottery associated with farmers, metal-working and cultivation in the eastern half of the sub-continent. While poor preservation undoubtedly explains the absence of some parts of the package, the analysis suggests that other explanations should be considered. The second database is a quantitative, spatial study of archaeological publications on southern African farming and pastoralism for the period 1950 to 2016, covering the same geographical area and archaeological timeframe. This is presented as a proxy for research-intensive areas in attempt to show the gaps in archaeological fieldwork and knowledge.




Lander, F., & Russell, T. (2018). The archaeological evidence for the appearance of pastoralism and farming in southern Africa. PloS One, 13(6), e0198941.

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