Agricultural beginnings and early farming communities in West and Central Africa

Was farming introduced into Africa and, in the case of West and Central Africa, did it entail the spread of Bantu speakers as root crop agriculturalists and fishermen, later on acquiring grain, cattle and metal from sources in East Africa? Or did Bantu-speaking peoples spread through and around the forest into Eastern and Southern Africa from the very start as metal-using mixed farmers with grain and cattle? If indeed farming spread, when did it all begin (around 5,000 or just 3,000 years ago) and who were involved (Stone Age people or ironworkers)? What kind of spread actually took place and what was the role played by possession of a common language? An examination of the archaeological evidence leads the author to the conclusion that a complex dynamic of interrelationships influenced and ultimately changed the people’s linguistic and ethnic domains. The precise linguistic, cultural and/or biological configurations were dependent on several variables acting within the general community/ecological framework which prevailed at the time, including features of the physical environment, the rural economic system as constrained by climate and technology, and the interlocking social systems established in relation to these. Bantu, certainly for prehistoric times, cannot be profitably conceived of as a rigid construct – constituting a clearly demarcable demographic unit, or as a community represented by a population that is clearly demarcable through time and space, linguistically and/or biologically as well as in material cultural terms. Bibliogr.

Title: Agricultural beginnings and early farming communities in West and Central Africa
Author: Andah, Bassey W.
Year: 1987
Periodical: West African Journal of Archaeology
Volume: 17
Pages: 171-204
Language: English
Geographic terms: Central Africa
West Africa
Abstract: Was farming introduced into Africa and, in the case of West and Central Africa, did it entail the spread of Bantu speakers as root crop agriculturalists and fishermen, later on acquiring grain, cattle and metal from sources in East Africa? Or did Bantu-speaking peoples spread through and around the forest into Eastern and Southern Africa from the very start as metal-using mixed farmers with grain and cattle? If indeed farming spread, when did it all begin (around 5,000 or just 3,000 years ago) and who were involved (Stone Age people or ironworkers)? What kind of spread actually took place and what was the role played by possession of a common language? An examination of the archaeological evidence leads the author to the conclusion that a complex dynamic of interrelationships influenced and ultimately changed the people’s linguistic and ethnic domains. The precise linguistic, cultural and/or biological configurations were dependent on several variables acting within the general community/ecological framework which prevailed at the time, including features of the physical environment, the rural economic system as constrained by climate and technology, and the interlocking social systems established in relation to these. Bantu, certainly for prehistoric times, cannot be profitably conceived of as a rigid construct – constituting a clearly demarcable demographic unit, or as a community represented by a population that is clearly demarcable through time and space, linguistically and/or biologically as well as in material cultural terms. Bibliogr.