Tuesday, 4 July, 2006
Session: Agricultural beginnings: cultivation, domestication and early dispersal
African agricultural tools: implications of synchronic ethnography for agrarian history
download manuscript of full article: PDF 1.9MB
Although the last few years have seen considerable advances in African archaeobotany and a broader picture of the evolution of African agriculture from the point of view of crop remains is now available, our understanding of the techniques of that agriculture remains poor. Although Africa has a rich diversity of agricultural tools, these are known principally from synchronic descriptions rather than excavation. Material culture studies, at least from the point of view of classification and distribution are largely discouraged and it is no accident that the only monograph on this subject was written in German by Baumann in 1944 and remains little-known. Despite this, the majority of African farmers still use traditional tools, and have them repaired by village blacksmiths. From this, it is possible to recover evidence for their names, construction and use. This paper attempts a preliminary survey of the tools in use, their classification and the hypotheses that can be suggested concerning their evolution and development.
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