Getting Here



 The Fifth International Workshop for African Archaeobotany will be held 2-5 July, 2006
at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London. For scheduled papers and absracts select days below.






Institute of


Getting Here




Tuesday, 4 July, 2006

Session: Agricultural beginnings: cultivation, domestication and early dispersal


Lexical evidence for the mixed subsistence economies of early Bantu speech communities

Koen Bostoen
Royal Museum for Central Africa Tervuren
Universitι Libre de Bruxelles

What caused the Bantu languages to expand over the huge area they occupy
today? This question is a major puzzle in African history and has been at
the centre of an exceptional and long-standing multidisciplinary debate. In
this debate, the Bantu language dispersal is almost spontaneously bracketed
with the spread of agriculture. The subsistence change from an exclusive
reliance on the gathering of wild plant foods to the human controlled
production of food plants and the growing sedentism linked with this change
are seen as major motors behind the expansion of Bantu speech communities.
Consequently, the genealogical trees produced by Bantu classification
studies are assumed to reflect the spread of farming across this part of
sub-Saharan Africa. Nevertheless, direct early evidence for the cultivation
of food crops in central Africa is scarce. Archaeological sites rarely
provide direct evidence for the origin and growth of farming communities,
certainly not in the rainforest. Assumptions concerning the early reliance
on plant food production are therefore generally founded upon indirect
circumstantial evidence, such as the reconstruction of early vocabulary
linked to the exploitation and cultivation of food plants. The use of
lexical data for this purpose is not unproblematic however. What is more,
lexical approaches to early food plant exploitation have until now been
very ‘crop-centred’ and have not sufficiently considered the possibility of
mixed economies. Like in related disciplines, the biased search for early
domesticates has led to a somewhat distorted picture of prehistoric
economies. This paper will assess the indirect evidence which the current
state of knowledge in Bantu lexical reconstructions provides us for the use
of wild and semi-domesticated plants in the mixed economies of early Bantu
speech communities



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Wednesday, 5 July, 2006 ....... Monday, 3 July, 2006


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Last modified: 1/06/06