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Archaeology of the Last Two Thousand Years in Namibia  

John Kinahan

The introduction and spread of food production in Namibia during the last two thousand years was subject to patchy and unpredictable rainfall. Rainfed cultivation of millet by Bantu-speaking farming communities was limited to the far northern region, but seminomadic cattle husbandry was better adapted to this environment. Hunter-gatherer groups in Namibia seem to have been assimilated rather than displaced by farming communities, and the expansion of Khoe-speaking pastoralists into southern Namibia was accompanied by a widespread transition to food production among hunter-gatherers. In the last two millennia, hunter-gatherers, pastoralists, and farmers in Namibia have formed part of a complex precolonial economy which also incorporated locally developed techniques for the processing and storage of wild plant foods.

Article

Archaeology of the Past Two Thousand Years in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa  

Gavin Whitelaw and Aron D. Mazel

Hunter-gatherers were the sole occupants of the southern African landscape for many thousands of years. Khoe-speaking pastoralists and then Bantu-speaking farmers entered the subcontinent around two thousand years ago. They introduced different lifeways, belief systems, and technologies. Archaeological evidence from KwaZulu-Natal reveals interaction between farmers and hunter-gatherers in this region from the time of first contact to the 1800s ad. There may also have been an ephemeral pastoralist presence in western KwaZulu-Natal around two thousand years ago. During the 1st millennium ad in the Thukela basin, hunter-gatherers appear to have focused their lives on the wooded central basin that Early Iron Age farmers favored for settlement. Interaction between the two groups seems to have centered on men and been built around hunting. The Blackburn ceramic facies at the beginning of the 2nd millennium marks the first settlement of Nguni-speaking farmers in KwaZulu-Natal. The material cultural signature of Early Iron Age farmers disappeared and relations between hunter-gatherers and farmers shifted as some Blackburn farmers took hunter-gatherer women into homestead life as wives. A renewed hunter-gatherer focus on rock shelters in the Drakensberg coincided with the settling of upland grasslands by farmers in the 14th century. From the 16th century, the region slowly integrated into global networks and then experienced colonization in the 19th century. These processes had implications for both farmers and hunter-gatherers. They contributed to the emergence of large polities in the northeast of the region and, ultimately, the elimination of hunter-gatherer lifeways.

Article

Genesis of Chadic Polities  

Augustin Holl

Chadic is above all a linguistic category. It includes a number of languages belonging to the Afro-Asiatic linguistic family and located almost exclusively in the Chad basin in North central Africa. Chadic languages are distributed in in three regional clusters, each divided in to part: Western Chadic with northwest and southeast sub-clusters, Central Chadic with southern and northern sub-cluster, and finally, Eastern Chadic with southwestern and northeastern sub-clusters. The history of settlement, expansion, and socio-cultural evolution of speakers of Chadic languages is intimately the consequences of climate change on Lake Chad and the Chad basin. Converging results of genomic research point to the Eastern African origins of Ancestral Chadic. Groups of Ancestral Chadic migrated along the tributaries of the Shari River, forming the Proto-Chadic Homeland in the southeast of the Mid-Holocene Lake Chad. These Early Chadic speaking communities drifted northeastward, northward, and northwestward, initially as pastoral nomadic groups, then sedentary mixed-farmers. The socio-political systems changed radically during the first half of the second millennium CE, from 1000 to 1500 CE, presiding over the emergence hierarchical and centralized polities in Western and Central Chadic areas.

Article

Disease and Trauma in Past Southern African Communities: Archaeological Perspectives  

Susan Pfeiffer

For thousands of years, all southern African communities survived through hunting and gathering. Within the past two millennia subsistence strategies diversified to include pastoralism, farming, and most recently Eurocentric industry in a colonialist framework. Each of these strategies is distinctive with respect to the way diseases and musculoskeletal trauma affected people’s health. Using methods arising from palaeopathology, forensic anthropology, and archaeology, studies have assessed human skeletons to explore these patterns. Evidence of infectious disease is negligible among hunter-gatherers of the region, but there are examples of environmental and inherited diseases, as well as fatal and near-fatal traumatic injuries. While some trauma may be linked to environmental hazards and predation, other cases appear to reflect intergroup aggression. Non-specific stress indicators suggest possible new challenges to hunter-gatherer health around the time when pastoralism is first discerned archaeologically. Among Iron Age African farmers, who reached the region about 1,700 years ago, the evidence for infectious diseases is equivocal. Investigations are hampered by the rather small sample sizes. In some cases, reburial of excavated remains precludes research using newer methods. Evidence of infectious disease is minimal among all Indigenous groups prior to the disruptions associated with European arrival. After European arrival, there is clear evidence of various infectious diseases affecting Indigenous communities, and the patterns of traumatic damage to the skeleton are more dramatic. Among cemeteries of mine workers from colonial-era settings, the effects of occupational trauma are apparent. The evidence from archaeology is consistent with that of written documents, confirming the destructive impact of colonial practices on the Indigenous populations of southern Africa.