1-6 of 6 Results

  • Keywords: farming x
Clear all

Article

The Nyanga district of eastern Zimbabwe shows a cultural history that is similar to the rest of Zimbabwe and the southern African region. Although largely undated, the Stone Age—from the Early Stone Age, the Middle Stone Age, through to the Later Stone Age hunter-gatherers—is represented at a number of open sites and rock shelters. Later Stone Age rock art, some of which exhibits rather unique artistic attributes and characteristics such as the stripped images, has been recorded in this area. The advent of settled iron-using farming communities is also evident, as elsewhere in southern Africa dating from the 2nd to the 3rd century ce. The well-known Early Farming Communities Ziwa ceramic tradition of southern Africa is in fact named after the type site in this district. The Nyanga district is however particularly famous for its stone constructions that come in a variety of forms, consisting of stone terraced hillsides, which extend for almost sixty-five miles from north to south and cover some twenty-three hundred square miles, as well as stone-lined pit structures, hilltop forts, stone-walled enclosures, and trackways. Dating from the 14th to the early 19th century, the culture is one of the Later Farming Community cultures of Zimbabwe. The stone architecture and several other cultural aspects differ from those of the more famous Zimbabwe Culture, such that, although the two entities partly overlapped chronologically, Nyanga represents a separate cultural development in Zimbabwe’s history. The purpose of the stone structures has been a subject of archaeological debate for some time. The majority of scholars generally agree that the terracing and pit structures were constructed for agricultural and animal herding practices. However, since the early 2010s, some scholars have somewhat unconvincingly argued that gold-mining and processing were the primary motivation for the Nyanga architectural remains. The traditional view of the communities associated with the Nyanga stone architecture has largely seen them as representing basic peasant agricultural people lacking complex sociopolitical organization. However, examination of the scale and extent of the architecture, including consideration of the size of the enclosures and their spatial distribution, strongly suggests that the Nyanga people were organized as fairly complex sociopolitical formations that are archaeologically consistent with the chiefdom level, at the very least.

Article

The meaning and context of gender is contested even in the 21st century. No generalizations about gender are applicable through time or across space. Even where gender roles are defined by particular cultural norms, they are not static, and an individual may pass through several gendered social transformations in a lifetime. Sub-Saharan African rites of passage into adulthood are sometimes marked by gender-specific physical mutilations such as circumcision, dental modification or scarification, together with other forms of symbolic marking that invariably adopt a binary gender system as the norm. The initiations are largely designed to instruct initiates about behavior appropriate for men and women of reproductive age belonging to a specific community. Some aspects of initiation rites may be detected archaeologically through skeletal alterations, rock art motifs, and props such as scarified dolls. Concepts of gender are also connected to the last rite of passage: burial. Through this, people gain access to the ancestral world. In some parts of Africa such as Mali, men and women are buried with the artifacts they owned in life, while in Ethiopia, stelae mark the gender of the deceased. Elsewhere, as in the Stone Age of southern Africa, gender-undifferentiated grave goods are placed with men, women, and children, suggesting a genderless ancestral world. Gender roles can be identified in some archaeological sites in parts of Africa, and these roles sometimes appear to have altered through time. Gender roles changed with environmental shifts, and certain tasks such as big-game hunting disappeared as a result. In other cases, gender roles were revised because of social pressures imposed on specific communities.

Article

Agricultural practices on the African continent are exceptionally diverse and have deep histories spanning at least eight millennia. Over time, farmers and herders have independently domesticated different food crops and a more limited range of animals, and have effectively modified numerous ecological niches to better suit their needs. They have also adopted “exotic” species from other parts of the globe, nurturing these to produce new cross-breeds and varieties better adapted to African conditions. Evidence for the origins of these different approaches to food production and their subsequent entanglement is attested by diverse sources. These include archaeological remains, bio- and geo-archaeological signatures, genetic data, historical linguistics, and processes of landscape domestication.

Article

Farming Communities have lived in northeastern South Africa since the 4th century ad. Archaeologists use pottery style and radiocarbon dates in their reconstructions of the temporal and spatial distribution of these farming community settlements in the Lowveld, on the Great Escarpment and on the Central Plateau. Early Farming Community sites tend to be restricted to the Lowveld and river valleys, while Middle and Late Farming Community sites are distributed more widely. Early Farming Communities lived in scattered homesteads until the development of chiefdoms toward the end of the first millennium. Chiefly settlements comprised larger, aggregated sites. After the 16th century, larger-scale aggregation started, resulting in extensive, dense settlements such as the stonewalled Bokoni towns. Food production and procurement ranged from small household-scale practices to specialized hunting and intensive farming. Salt and metal extraction and production also were important components in the regional economy. The initial production of salt was household based, but Middle Farming Communities developed this into a specialized industry. Metal production was not industrialized and, while the scale of metal production increased through time, production took place at a household level. Since the early 10th century ad, these local enterprises intersected with international trade systems, thereby linking the interior of South Africa into international trade networks. These indigenous networks, however, were disrupted and at times intentionally disarticulated when European colonial powers extended their control over southern Africa.

Article

The Highveld covers a quarter of South Africa’s central plateau and is one of the most extensively investigated archaeological landscapes in Africa. Cattle-herding, farming communities first occupied these grasslands sometime between the 15th and the 17th centuries. A surge in the importance of cattle pastoralism among the so-called Late Iron Age populations of southern Africa seems to have caused this “grassland rush.” With it came a boom in the construction of dry-laid, stone-walled structures, an innovation the success of which is evidenced by the tens of thousands of ruins visible on aerial imagery of the Highveld. In places their agglomeration reaches urban proportions. Sotho-Tswana culture dominated this grassland rush by assimilating the many Nguni- as well as Khoesan-speaking communities that had also moved into the Highveld. The Highveld’s cultural landscape was rearranged by the southern African civil wars of the 1820s—the Difeqane, as it is known in the Tswana language. Shortly thereafter, the arrival of white settlers in the late 1830s heralded the beginning of the colonial period. Archaeologists in the Highveld have largely aimed to illustrate the historical record and oral traditions pertaining to the Sotho and Tswana communities. More usefully they can focus on questions that these records cannot answer. For example, archaeology can help to fill the many gaps in the records; it can investigate the history of things—such as the changing regional settlement patterns and the diffusion of technological innovations—about which the records are silent, and it can test hypotheses to explain the evolution of social and political complexity in the precolonial Highveld. In this way archaeology can help to balance the mostly “top-down” political view provided by the oral traditions and historical records with a “bottom-up” view of social, technological, and architectural developments among the precolonial farming communities of the Highveld.

Article

Any account of women and food history in sub-Saharan Africa must be complicated by two main factors: first, the multitude and complexity of African societies and their interactions with the different colonial powers over five centuries, and, second, by an underestimation of the importance of women’s activities by researchers imbued with colonial patriarchal ideologies. In prehistoric and precolonial times, only glimpses of women’s roles in food production and gathering can be seen, drawing on evidence from historical linguistics, ethnography, anthropology, and archaeology. What evidence there is suggests that women’s participation in these tasks was important. The written account of Ibn Battutah and the oral epic of Sundiata provide some information about what was eaten and Sundiata does point to women’s major role in growing food and in cooking. During the colonial period, from about 1500 to the 1960s, many accounts from different parts of sub-Saharan Africa stress how women played a dominant part in the farming, processing, preparation, and cooking of food. There was a varied and often complex division of labor between men and women. Instead of the more rigid gendered private/public divide often seen in the West, women in Africa have engaged in wider roles in the public sphere, for example, in the processing of food for sale. There are some indications that women’s work was changed by the introduction of new crops from Asia and the Americas. Colonial governments favored men working on cash crops so that women focused even more on the provision of food for the family. Women also showed great adaptability in assessing and using new technologies such as peanut processing machines. Cooking has remained predominantly a woman’s occupation in sub-Saharan Africa and a divide between a “high” cuisine, mainly in the hands of men outside Africa, and a “low” or humble cuisine, has not developed. Cookery books are very useful sources for evidence of the history of women’s domestic role. Those published for European settler wives in the colonial period were focused on the housewife rooted in the home and this ideology of domesticity can be found in the cookery books of postcolonial Africa. After independence, the ruling elites of African nations set about constructing discourses of national identity, flags and anthems particular to each nation, and women have contributed to this nation-building by assembling national cuisines. Since the 1980s, an epidemic of obesity has occurred in many African urban areas, with associated chronic disease, which women have suffered more than men. An ideal image of a plumper body, along with the introduction of “fast food,” has contributed to this situation. Women have also been disadvantaged by cultural food taboos in which certain foods are prohibited to them.