The Bantu expansion, a major topic in African archaeology and history, is widely assumed to correlate with the spread of farming, but archaeological data on the subsistence of these putative early Bantu speakers are very sparse. However, finds of domesticated pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum) in southern Cameroonian archaeological sites, dated between 400 and 200 BC, open new perspectives on the history of agriculture in the Central African rain forest.
Linguistic evidence suggests that pearl millet was part of early agricultural traditions of Bantu speakers, and has to a great extent been distributed during the course of their expansion over large parts of western Bantu-speaking Africa, possibly even originally from their homeland in the Nigerian-Cameroonian borderland.
In combining archaeobotanical, palaeoenvironmental and linguistic data, we put forward the hypothesis that an agricultural system with pearl millet was brought into the rain forest during the first millennium BC, and that its spread across Central Africa coincided with the dispersal of certain Bantu language subgroups.
The emergence of pottery is a compelling issue for archaeologists. In Africa, pottery appeared in what is now the southern part of the Sahara and the Sahel at different localities and in different contexts in the 10th millennium bp. This paper aims to give an overview of the available data concerning early pottery in Northern Africa. The radiocarbon evidence is considered as well as technological features of the pottery, the decoration and the site context. The areas of the earliest appearance of pottery in Northern Africa were uninhabited during the hyperarid phase at the end of the Pleistocene. Intriguing questions are therefore the origin of the Early Holocene occupants and of their knowledge of potting and of course the role of early pottery in the prehistoric groups.
Fragmentary glass-working crucibles, drawn glass beads and ritual glass objects (aje ileke) from Ile-Ife, southwestern Nigeria, were analysed using scanning electron microscopy (SEM-EDS), electron probe microanalysis (EPMA) and X-ray fluorescence (XRF). The very unusual high-lime, high-alumina glass lining the crucibles matched the composition of the dark blue drawn beads and some of the blue and green glass fragments in the aje ileke. Similar crucible fragments, glass cullet and drawn glass beads were recovered during Frank Willett's excavations (1956-63) of two sites in Ile-Ife, and Claire Davison's unpublished chemical analyses from 1972 show the same high-lime, highalumina glass from Ita Yemoo, with radiocarbon dates from the eleventh to thirteenth century CE, and Orun Oba Ado, with radiocarbon dates from the eighth to twelfth century. Such high-lime, high-alumina glass has been found only in West Africa, including Igbo-Ukwu in southern Nigeria, and is not known from Europe, the Middle East or Asia, ruling out the possibility that the glass was imported. We interpret these findings to propose the primary manufacture of high-lime, high-alumina glass in sub-Saharan Africa in the early second millennium CE, with production centred in southern Nigeria, and quite possibly in or near Ile-Ife. The results of our study, combined with those of Davison, provide the first strong evidence for early primary glass production in sub-Saharan Africa.