Inga Merkyte, Søren Albek and Klavs Randsborg
Until recently archaeological evidence predating the historically known Kingdom of Dahomey in southern Bénin has been next to non-existent. The situation changed when deep and long drainage channels were dug into the fertile soils at the modern town of Bohicon. In the sides of these channels, rich cultural remains appeared, confirming the assumption that high rates of soil accumulation have caused low archaeological visibility in the forest/former forest belt of West Africa. Geophysical mapping and extensive excavations have revealed two large settlements of 500-600 hectares each, partly overlapping but separated by 2000 years. This paper presents both sites – Sodohomé 1, the earliest site encountered so far in southern Bénin, and Sodohomé 2 (or Sodohomé-Bohicon) which dates to AD 900-1150/1220. Although the first has produced some remarkable results, for instance, an iron spearhead that is the oldest securely dated non-meteoritic iron object in Africa known so far, the focus is on the latter site where evidence demonstrates the existence of a true town with craft specialisation, industrial-scale iron production, long-distance trade and wide communication networks.
Edwin N. Wilmsen, Anne Griffiths, David Killick and Phenyo Thebe
Current potters in Manaledi village in the Tswapong Hills of Botswana aver that they and their ancestors for five generations have made pottery exclusively with clay from nearby sources. We begin with an examination of Manaledi and its clay mine to uncover current dialectics between village, landscape, clay, potters, and ancestors. Archaeological sherds found around the village and clay sources document occupation by makers of Early Iron Age (ca. AD 500-750), Middle Iron Age (ca. AD 750-1050), Late Iron Age (ca. AD 1420-1800), and 18th-20th century wares related to current Manaledi pottery. The proximity of archaeological deposits, clay sources, and village made it possible to conduct simultaneously what might otherwise be considered three separate projects. As a consequence, we are able to document that Manaledi clays have been used to make pottery for some 1500 years and to consider long-standing constraints on potting this implies.
Joshua Emmitt and Rebecca Phillipps
Rocco Rotunno, Anna Maria Mercuri, Assunta Florenzano, Andrea Zerboni and Savino di Lernia
Archaeological deposits in rock shelters have enormous informative potential, particularly in arid environments where organic materials are well preserved. In these areas, sub-fossilized coprolites and dung remains have been identified as valuable proxies for inferences about past environments, subsistence economies and cultural trajectories. Here we present a multidisciplinary analysis of bovid (ovicaprine) coprolites collected from the Early Holocene hunter-gatherer occupation at Takarkori rock shelter (SW Libya, central Sahara). Our results show that Barbary sheep (Ammotragus lervia) were managed as early as ~9500 years cal BP, mostly with the rearing of juveniles. Palynological analysis of individual pellets suggests a seasonal confinement of the animals and the selection of fodder. GIS analysis of coprolite distribution also indicates sophisticated strategies of Barbary sheep “herding” and spatial differentiation of specialized areas within the rock shelter, including the construction and use of a stone-based enclosure for corralling animals. These highly structured and organized forms of control over wild animals are interpreted as a potential co-evolutionary trigger for the subsequent rapid adoption and integration of the incoming pastoral Neolithic economy.
Different emphases on ideological, socio-economic and technological changes have been brought to bear on the cultural variability made materially manifest in pre-Iron Age Saharan pastoral societies. The models have ranged from limited or no complexity before iron production to transient mobile elites across the Sahara, to socially complex communities from the mid-Holocene onwards in the Central Libyan Sahara, and to permanent elites with complex social structures. Here, ethnographic cultural variability is stressed, previous models detailed, and data for the Eastern and Central Sahara summarised and analysed. The emerging picture is of a mosaic of population movements, clustering and experimentation resulting in transient peaks of wealth and the potential for incipient social complexity to become temporarily or permanently manifest. Saharan social diversity serves as a warning against linear models and highlights the importance of an explanatory framework for investigating the evolution of social structures outside of permanently settled communities for North Africa.
Pamela R. Willoughby, Katie M. Biittner, Pastory M. Bushozi and Jennifer M. Miller
During the 2010 excavations of Mlambalasi rockshelter, Iringa Region, Tanzania, a single rifle bullet casing was recovered. Analysis of this casing found that it was manufactured in 1877 at the munitions factory in Danzig for the German infantry’s Mauser 71 rifle. This casing is thus directly linked to the period of German colonization of Tanganyika, during which Iringa was a key centre of anti-colonial resistance. Mlambalasi was the location of the last stand of Chief Mkwawa of the Hehe people, and this bullet casing provides a tangible link to his uprising during the 1890s. In light of this colonial context and our ongoing research at Mlambalasi, this find is used to illustrate that a single artifact can reinforce multiple narratives about the past and the significance of an archaeological site.
Adil Moumane, Jonathan Delorme, Adbelhadi Ewague, Jamal Al-Karkouri, Mohamed Gaoudi, Hassan Ista, Mohamed Moumane, Hammou Mouna, Ahmed Oumouss, Abdelkhalk Lmejidi and Noreddine Zdaidat
The authors, with the help of a team of researchers, have discovered twelve rock shelters with inside paintings on the southern slopes of the Jbel Bani Mountains in southern Morocco. The paintings vary in subject and time period and span multiple rock art styles. Majestic creatures that once inhabited southern Morocco are depicted next to hunters, pastoralists, and warriors. The shelters and paintings cast upon their walls illustrate a transfer of culture, beliefs, technology, and ideas between people groups of the Meridional and Central Sahara and the Jbel Bani region. These discoveries were all made along a mountain path in the Bani Mountains known as Foum Laachar and may help trace ancient human migration routes.