Category Archives: domestication and agriculture

Leiterband ceramics and other stray bits of info

More archaeological work in Lower Wadi Howar

A field report I found while looking for info on Leiterband pottery. Most usable quotes for me..

Leiterbandmotifs are the predominant decorative pattern of the earliest pastoral phase of Middle Wadi Howar, but also occur further west in the Chad,

 Leiterbandmotifs, which suggest a date in the fourth or third millennium BC

From a second pdf studying the same area (more interesting than the one above):

On the basis of 15 radiocarbon samples, the Leiterband complex dates chiefly between 5200 and 4000 14C yr

And the sequence goes in Wadi Howar… dotted wavy line (Holocene hunter gatherers) Laqiya (later hunter gatherers), then Leiterband (pastoralist). The oldest Leiterband marked is just a bit younger than 6,000 BP.

The only thing that troubles me mildly is that there is no mention of ovicaprines at the Leiterband sites. Lots of cattle though, and microliths that were probably used to bleed them. However a little digging tells me that ovicaprines were present in 5,500 BP at Al Kadada (which was founded about 6,000 BP), so the animals would have been known to the Leiterband people, just not herded by them. Possibly the lack of ovicaprines was due to the lusher conditions in the Wadi at the time that favoured cattle.

 And another pdf, Aridity, Change and Conflict in Africa, has more information: it seems that small livestock were a slightly later addition (behind by a few hundred years into Northern Sudan).

A look at the geology of the area explains why the Westward migration – Wadi Howar provides a route from the Nile to the West that would still have had water in the Leiterband era.

The development of the pottery design styles in the Wadi Howar region which dates the Leiterband transition to 6,000 BP. This one has the best info on the ceramics and their manufacture .

Well, we have an earliest date of 6,000 BP for the expansion of proto Chadic speakers West along Wadi Howar. So a Neolithic culture is strongly associated with Chadic speakers, which IMO adds more weight to a neolithic date for the expansion of v88 into Africa and it’s ‘marriage’ to L3f3.


Y-chromosomal evidence of a pastoralist migration through Tanzania to southern Africa

Y-chromosomal evidence of a pastoralist migration through Tanzania to southern Africa

Although geneticists have extensively debated the mode by which agriculture diffused from the Near East to Europe, they have not directly examined similar agropastoral diffusions in Africa. It is unclear, for example, whether early instances of sheep, cows, pottery, and other traits of the pastoralist package were transmitted to southern Africa by demic or cultural diffusion. Here, we report a newly discovered Y-chromosome-specific polymorphism that defines haplogroup E3b1f-M293. This polymorphism reveals the monophyletic relationship of the majority of haplotypes of a previously paraphyletic clade, E3b1-M35*, that is widespread in Africa and southern Europe. To elucidate the history of the E3b1f  haplogroup, we analyzed this haplogroup in 13 populations from southern and eastern Africa. The geographic distribution of the E3b1f  haplogroup, in association with the microsatellite diversity estimates for populations, is consistent with an expansion through Tanzania to southern-central Africa. The data suggest this dispersal was independent of the migration of Bantu-speaking peoples along a similar route. Instead, the phylogeography and microsatellite diversity of the E3b1f lineage correlate with the arrival of the pastoralist economy in southern Africa. Our Y-chromosomal evidence supports a demic diffusion model of pastoralism from eastern to southern Africa ≈2,000 years ago



Fig. 2. Contour maps of the frequencies of E3b1-M35*(former) (A) and E3b1f-M293 (B) in Africa. Populations without M293 in B are based on unpublished data. The geographic distributions of M35*(former) and M293 frequencies across Africa were created using the Kringing method in Surfer 8 (Golden Software). Locations of populations in Table 1 are indicated by cross hatches. Because M35* is a paraphyletic haplogroup, the sharing of M35* does not indicate a close genetic relationship. Areas of high frequency are similar in the two maps as 90% of the M35*(former) samples are M293+. M293 is only found in sub-Saharan Africa, indicating a separate phylogenetic history for M35*(former) samples further north.

If I remember right, the oldestdates for cattle in Southern Africa are sbout 2,000 BP from Boteng in the Kalahari, which would suggest that  pastoralists started their move south earlier than that date.

Genomics at the Origins of Agriculture

Genomics at the Origins of Agriculture, Part One

The causes and consequences of the Neolithic revolution represent a fundamental problem for anthropological inquiry. Traditional archeological evidence, ethnobotanical remains, artifacts, and settlement patterns have been used to infer the transition from foraging to primary food production. Recent advances in genomics (the study of the sequence, structure, and function of the genome) has enhanced our understanding of the process of plant and animal domestication, revealed the impact that adaptation to agriculture has had on human biology, and provided clues to the pathogens and parasites thought to have emerged during the Neolithic. Genomic analysis provides insights into the complexity of the process of domestication that may not be apparent from the physical remains of bones and seeds, and allows us to measure the impact that the shift to primary food production had on the human genome. Questions related to the location and the process of domestication can be answered more fully by analyzing the genomes of the plants and animals brought under human control. The spread of the agriculture package (plants, animals, and technology) by cultural diffusion or demic expansion can also be investigated through this approach. Whether dissemination by farmers or the diffusion of farming knowledge and technology was the source of the Neolithic expansion, this process should be revealed by the patterh of genetic and linguistic diversity and language found from centers of agricultural Neolithic development. In addition, a number of pathogens that were previously thought to have been transmitted from domesticated species to human now appear to have been present in foragers long before the agricultural revolution took place. Furthermore, we now have evidence that humans were the source of the transmission of some parasites to domesticated animals. For all of these reasons, data from genomic studies are providing a more complete understanding of the origins of agriculture, a critical hallmark in human evolution.

Genomics at the Origins of Agriculture, Part Two

Agricultural expansion was such a momentous event that cultural or genetic evidence of its impact should be apparent. Abundant evidence indicates that agriculture was introduced into Europe at least 9,000 years ago. The primary issue remains whether agriculture spread by contact or by farmers moving into Europe. If agriculture was brought by farmers moving into foragers’ territory, then genetic evidence should be apparent in the genes of modern Europeans. If foragers were displaced, then European genetic profiles should reflect the source population from the Near East. If there was interbreeding with the foragers who had a distinct genetic profile, then the genes of the Europeans descendants should reflect this admixture, with a clinal distribution of traits radiating from the Near East. These scenarios have been the focus of decades of debates between anthropologists and geneticists. In addition, genomic studies have been applied to pathogens in order to explore the link between agriculture and infectious disease.

The most interesting of these is the second in my opinion, with a detailed section about diseases intoduced due to agriculture and domestication. It seems we can blame cows for TB. One thing I spotted was that malaria as a common human illness is dated to 6,00o BP, but the skeletons at Catal Hoyuk show anaemias associated with it, although I’m not sure at what date. Another interesting snippet was that you need a population of about 300,000 to maintain an endemic disease like measles.  You learn something everyday. Although worthy of mention is a quote from the Ramayana in the first one..

In the Golden Age, agriculture
was abomination. In the Silver
Age, impiety appeared in the
form of the agriculture. In the
Golden Age, people lived on
fruits and roots that were obtained
without any labour. For
the existence of sin in the form
of cultivation, the lifespan of
people became shortened

Which seems to be a pretty accurate description of what happened. It really makes you wonder why we swapped to agriculture when you read this..

Harlan demonstrated that in three weeks a family could hand strip enough wild einkorn grain to last them a year

The only real reason I can think of to abandon this kind of lifestyle is population pressure. I’ll have to look up the climate in the Euphrates/Zagros area about 12,000 to 11,000 years ago to get a better picture.

Tracing the Origin and Spread of Agriculture in Europe

Tracing the Origin and Spread of Agriculture in Europe
Ron Pinhasi1*, Joaquim Fort2, Albert J. Ammerman3

1 School of Human and Life Sciences, Whitelands College, Roehampton University, London, United Kingdom, 2 Departament de Fisica, E.P.S. P-II, Universitat de Girona, Campus de Montilivi, Catalonia, Spain, 3 Department of Classics, Colgate University, Hamilton, New York, United States of America

The origins of early farming and its spread to Europe have been the subject of major interest for some time. The main controversy today is over the nature of the Neolithic transition in Europe: the extent to which the spread was, for the most part, indigenous and animated by imitation (cultural diffusion) or else was driven by an influx of dispersing populations (demic diffusion). We analyze the spatiotemporal dynamics of the transition using radiocarbon dates from 735 early Neolithic sites in Europe, the Near East, and Anatolia. We compute great-circle and shortest-path distances from each site to 35 possible agricultural centers of origin—ten are based on early sites in the Middle East and 25 are hypothetical locations set at 5° latitude/longitude intervals. We perform a linear fit of distance versus age (and vice versa) for each center. For certain centers, high correlation coefficients (R > 0.8) are obtained. This implies that a steady rate or speed is a good overall approximation for this historical development. The average rate of the Neolithic spread over Europe is 0.6–1.3 km/y (95% confidence interval). This is consistent with the prediction of demic diffusion (0.6–1.1 km/y). An interpolative map of correlation coefficients, obtained by using shortest-path distances, shows that the origins of agriculture were most likely to have occurred in the northern Levantine/Mesopotamian area

Personally, I’d go for Zagros/southern Turkey, but it’s close enough. I’m okay with the ‘ time at which the spread began can be estimated, under the same hypothesis of linearity (straight fits in Figure 2), to fall within the interval of 9,000–10,500 years before present (BP; uncalibrated years) or 10,000–11,500 BP (calibrated years)’; as domesticates turn up at about 10,500 in Cyprus, which would suggest the expansion started prior to then, which would suggest domestication of animals could be as much as 11,500 years old in the Mesopotamian area. This also bring the temple at Gobekli Tepe into the very early Neolithic (11,500 BP), although the rye at Abu Hureyra is still a bit of a problem to a simple, single start to the Neolithic.

Pinhasi and Pluciennik [26], in their analysis of craniometric affinities between populations, point to the homogeneity between Çatal Höyük and early Neolithic Greek and south-eastern European groups. This homogeneity contrasts with the pronounced heterogeneity found among other Pre-Pottery Neolithic groups in the Near East. On the basis of these results, they hypothesize that a founder population from central Anatolia (represented by specimens from Çatal Höyük) spread into south-east and central Europe. The results of the shortest-path analysis of the POAs could be consistent with their position, since they suggest that Çatal Höyük falls in the region adjacent to the one with the maximum R-values

We concur with Özdoan’s assertion that “an unbiased reassessment of the evidence strongly implies that there were multiple paths in the westward movement of the Neolithic way of life” ([36], pp. 51–52). Aceramic Neolithic levels at sites on Cyprus (late ninth millennium BC [calibrated]), Crete and the Argolid (eight and early seventh millennia BC [calibrated]) are strongly suggestive of an initial population dispersal wave from one or more centers in the Near East [37]. At the present time, it is unclear whether farming reached south-east Europe by means of a secondary demic expansion from Anatolia or as a continuation of the initial dispersal involving Cyprus, Crete, and mainland south-east Greece. In any event, Figure 3B does provide, at this stage of research, spatial information regarding differing grades of likelihood for tracing the origins of agriculture.

Basenji origin and migration

Basenji origin and migration; through the African threshold

A pdf link that won’t let me copy out any text or images unfortunately. It describes the African Basenji’s path down into Africa, and has some nice rock art images of the dogs. Followed by…

Basenji Origin and Migration: Into the Heart of Africa

Delayed Use of Food Resources among Early Holocene Foragers of the Libyan Sahara

Dismantling Dung: Delayed Use of Food Resources among Early Holocene Foragers of the Libyan Sahara

At Uan Afuda, and other Early Holocene sites of the Acacus mountains, in the Libyan Sahara, dung layers and plant accumulation are a major, but repeatedly neglected, feature of hunter-gatherer communities. To understand the formation and meaning of such features, a multidimensional analysis has been undertaken, combining micromorphological, palynological, botanical, archaeozoological, and archaeological data. The hypothesis here formulated is twofold: plant accumulations are evidence of anthropic activity aimed at the storage of fodder; and dung layers are related to a forced penning of a ruminant, very likely Barbary sheep (Ammotragus lervia). The exploration of these two features has hinted at the existence of a deep reciprocal relationship, which has been interpreted as the cultural control of wild Barbary sheep, leading to a delayed use of food resources. This behavior may be considered an opportunistic strategy adopted to minimize the effects of lean periods and implicates increasing cultural complexity within Late Acacus Saharan forager societies of the 9th millennium B.P.

Studying the ‘management’ of Barbary sheep (a kind of gazelle related to sheep and goats) during the Holocene. The paper points out a few flaws with Ehrets use of the terms ‘to drive’ etc in proto Northern Sudanic…

Of interest here is the evidence that the first forms of a planned or delayed use of resources in NorthAfrica were initially directed toward animal rather than plant resources. As a matter of fact, with the Proto-Northern-Sudanic, the roots dedicated to the vegetal world are grains and grindstones, not necessarily implicating either a delayed use of resources, or a possible incipient domestication. Conversely, with regard to the animal universe, the root “to drive” may be referred to a kind of hunting or also other activities. Since examples of hunting performed by means of fences are not known in North Africa, the idea that the root may be related to the driving of animals in specific areas (corrals?) appears to be appropriate. Finally, the root “to milk” is also linked to a typical secondary exploitation, as may be seen in the case of Bos exploitation at Bir Kiseiba in the eastern Sahara.

So I’m not the only person who spotted it. The fact that captured wild animals were being ‘kept’ in the Sahara not that far away from Nabta in space and time does have a bearing on the suggested cattle domestication there. A similar scenario to the Barbary sheep would seem more likely, as physically distinguishable domesticated cattle only appear along with Neolithic Asian goats and sheep, and don’t show an closer point of origin like Nabta with dates for domesticated cattle radiating out from the area (fully domesticated cattle should have been seen from dates as old as 8,300 bp in Egypt and Nubia if that were the case- but they aren’t). It would be interesting to look at the bone isotope values of pre-domestication sites in both Asia and north Africa to see it they were using dairy from tamed animals.

Enset culture and its history in highland Ethiopia

Enset culture and its history in highland Ethiopia

Cultural and linguistic evidence concerning the origin and distribution of enset culture seem to point generally in the same direction. Enset was part of a widespread and ancient system of cultivation of vegetative crops formerly distributed much more widely through the Ethiopian highlands. The main cultivators of enset were Omotic-speakers, though it was probably adopted early by some groups of Cushitic-speakers. However, when the Ethio-Semites entered Ethiopia bringing seed agriculture and the plough, enset and other root crops such as yams (Dioscorea spp.) and the Labiates (Coleus spp.) were pushed into residual cultivation, except where the terrain was so highly dissected that ploughing was effectively impossible. In this situation, notably in the southwest, the Gurage Semitic-speakers adopted enset and it became central to their production system, permitting the expansion of population to levels such that no other crop would support comparable densities in similar terrain.

Having just blasted through some of  Blench’s work I can tell you that Cushitic speaking languages essentially date to the Neolithic as they have root words for sheep and goat, that wouldn’t have arrived until at least 7,000 BP in that area, and probably a lot later. This would suggest a later domestication date for enset, sometime around 5,000 BP.