Archaeological, proteomic and isotopic approaches to investigating dietary change in Holocene Africa

Africa is one of the most climatically and ecologically diverse continents on the planet and provides important case studies for considering the context in which pastoralism and agriculture first emerged. Despite the importance of Africa in our global understanding of food production, for many regions, the paucity of large-scale, dated zooarchaeological and archaeobotanical evidence from the Holocene means we still have a limited understanding of how herding and farming developed. This thesis provides new dietary insights into past communities living in eastern and Central Africa: two key regions where it has been argued that changing environments played a major role in shaping agricultural and pastoral expansions. It is hypothesized that in arid northern and eastern Africa the development of pastoral lifeways, including dairying, were influenced by water availability with the desiccation of the Sahara and shifting monsoons pushing communities southwards. In contrast, the closed, humid and wet conditions of the equatorial rainforest are thought to have presented barriers for the expansion of agriculture. The three papers presented here provide new multidisciplinary evidence for milk and domesticated plant consumption in Holocene Africa and emphasise the need for a more nuanced, context-specific approach to understanding past subsistence in eastern and Central Africa rather than sweeping models based on genetics, linguistics, or environmentally determinist assumptions


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