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date: 25 November 2020

Abstract and Keywords

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.

Keywords: Central Cattle Pattern, Iron Age, Southern Africa, cattle index, Bantu

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