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Agricultural diversification in West Africa: an archaeobotanical study of the site of Sadia (Dogon Country, Mali)

Champion, L; Fuller, DQ; Ozainne, S; Huysecom, E; Mayor, A; (2021) Agricultural diversification in West Africa: an archaeobotanical study of the site of Sadia (Dogon Country, Mali). Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences volume , 13 , Article 60. 10.1007/s12520-021-01293-5. (In press). Green open access

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Abstract

While narratives of the spread of agriculture are central to interpretation of African history, hard evidence of past crops and cultivation practices are still few. This research aims at filling this gap and better understanding the evolution of agriculture and foodways in West Africa. It reports evidence from systematic flotation samples taken at the settlement mounds of Sadia (Mali), dating from 4 phases (phase 0=before first–third century AD; phase 1=mid eighth–tenth c. AD; phase 2=tenth–eleventh c. AD; phase 3=twelfth–late thirteenth c. AD). Flotation of 2200 l of soil provided plant macro-remains from 146 archaeological samples. As on most West African sites, the most dominant plant is pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum). But from the tenth century AD, sorghum (Sorghum bicolor) and African rice (Oryza glaberrima) appear in small quantities, and fonio (Digitaria exilis) and barnyard millet/hungry rice (Echinochloa sp.), sometimes considered weeds rather than staple crops, are found in large quantities. Some samples also show remains of tree fruits from savannah parklands, such as baobab (Adansonia digitata), marula (Sclerocarya birrea), jujube (Ziziphus sp.), shea butter (Vittelaria paradoxa) and African grapes (Lannea microcarpa). Fonio and Echinochloa sp. cultivation appears here to be a later addition that helped to diversify agriculture and buffer against failures that might affect the monoculture of pearl millet. This diversification at the end of the 1st millennium AD matches with other evidence found in West Africa.

Type: Article
Title: Agricultural diversification in West Africa: an archaeobotanical study of the site of Sadia (Dogon Country, Mali)
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1007/s12520-021-01293-5
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1007/s12520-021-01293-5
Language: English
Additional information: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.
Keywords: Archaeobotany, Agriculture, Food diversification, Fonio, Rice, West Africa
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Institute of Archaeology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Institute of Archaeology > Institute of Archaeology Gordon Square
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10124799
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