Zooarchaeological comparisons of Roman and Islamic North Africa indicate changes in animal use largely resultant from shifting parameters of urban and economic expansion and development, presence and involvement of the military, cultural preferences, and restrictions in dietary resources. ‘Urbanized’ and ‘militarized’ zones, such as Carthage, and the Egyptian delta and eastern desert, typically display increases in pork consumption during Roman times; others areas, such as Morocco and inland Tunisia and Libya, regions arguably less affected by, or exposed to, Roman dietary and cultural customs or demands, maintain greater temporal consistency. Islamic patterns display regional diversity, with sheep/goat pastoralism predominating, integrated husbandry schemes and animal breed manipulation generally diminishing, and cultural taboos against pork consumption registering in many areas.
Cattle were an essential element of the economy of the kingdom of Kerma, located between the first and fourth cataract in Egypt, which flourished between 2600 and 1500 bc. They are an important source of protein and labour, as well as secondary products (milk, hides, tools, etc.). The role of cattle in funerary rituals is attested by the presence of bucrania, which were placed facing the deceased in the burial mounds, sometimes in large numbers. Some burials contained bucrania with parallel horns, whereas others had a deliberately misshapen horn. In the Classic Kerma phase, cattle become less important, and the bucrania around the burials rarer. This may be linked to a worsening of the climate and a rapidly growing human population. The significance of cattle in the Kerma culture is evidenced by baked clay figurines, by paintings visible in the excavated funerary ‘chapels’, and by the presence of engraved ostrich eggs.
In sub-Saharan West Africa, substantial archaeological evidence only appears from about 2000 bc. From that time onwards, sites with large proportions of fish-bones and large numbers of fish taxa, including open-water fish, are known. Deep-water fishing requires a well-developed fishing technology. Links have been made between the sites and modern, specialized fishers. However, because of the high component of crops in the diets of modern fishers, the recent levels of specialization were probably only possible with the appearance of fully fledged farming around the beginning of the current era. The exploitation of aquatic resources in Holocene West Africa is discussed, mainly based on archaeozoological evidence from the Lake Chad area. The methodology used, especially regarding quantification, is also presented.
Historical zooarchaeology of colonialism, mercantilism, and indigenous dispossession: the Dutch East India Company’s meat industry at the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa
Adam R. Heinrich
The investigation of the Dutch East India Company’s (VOC) meat industry that was emplaced at the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa reveals information about livestock production, slaughter, and consumption at the colonial entrepot in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The investigation consisted of five faunal samples including three sites from the Castle of Good Hope; the Moat, the Granary (F2), and Donkergat (DKG); Elsenburg; and the Dump (DP) from Oudespost I. The archaeological faunal remains speak to transplanted and hybridized European husbandry practices as the VOC struggled to overcome initial hardships of meeting high meat demands to become the dominant power across the landscape while dispossessing the indigenous Khoekhoe peoples of their livestock, land, and identity.
Identifications of animal remains from southern African Stone Age sites are complicated by the abundancy of taxa, skeletal differences, a wide variety of habitats, and the fragmented condition of most of the bone samples. Studies in osteomorphology and osteometry are essential. There are regional variations in species sizes combined with changes in bone sizes within and between taxa. Seasonality and animal migrations are demonstrated in the highlands of Lesotho and the semi-arid Karoo. Faunal studies of Sibudu and Bushman Rock Shelter show the contrast between two rock shelters that are geographically separated but overlap in occupation periods.
African pastoralism is distinctive from that of Southwest Asia, focusing on dairy production with cattle, sheep, and goats. The latter were domesticated in Southwest Asia and introduced, but debate continues on whether indigenous African aurochs contributed genes to African domestic cattle. Pastoralism emerged in what was then a grassy Sahara and shifted south with the mid-Holocene aridification. Zooarchaeology and genetics show the donkey is a mid-Holocene African domesticate, emerging as an aid to pastoral mobility during increasing aridity. Pastoralism is the earliest form of domesticate-based food production in sub-Saharan Africa, with farming emerging millennia later. Human genetics and lipid analysis of Saharan ceramics shows an early reliance on dairying. With the emergence of pastoralism, new economies and social relations emerged that were carried by pastoralists across the whole of Africa.
The Iron Age of southern Africa covers the spread and occupation of Bantu-speaking farmers during the last 1,500 years. Archaeological research of these farmers was heavily influenced by the Central Cattle Pattern, a settlement model which, as one of its main concepts, argued that cattle were the most important domestic animal since the first farmers settled in southern Africa during the first millennium ad. Various arguments have been presented to support this view, including the presence of cattle dung, cattle herd sizes, informants and ethnography, and weights of livestock, as well as ageing and skeletal part data. These arguments have been challenged recently, and new interpretations offered. New interpretations unrestricted by the Central Cattle Pattern have focused on descent patterns of farmers. Changes in identification methodology and measures of changes of livestock over time have played a major role in these new interpretations.