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New evidence on the development of millet, rice and Fonio economies in the Niger river basin: archaeobotanical results from Mali

Start: Nov 23, 2017 06:00 PM

Location: Room 612, UCL Institute of Archaeology

New evidence on the development of millet, rice and Fonio economies in the Niger river basin: archaeobotanical results from Mali

Louis Champion (UCL, MRAC, UNIG) will give the next seminar in the African Peoples and Pasts series at the Institute on 23 November.

Louis' presentation is entitled 'New evidence on the development of millet, rice and Fonio economies in the Niger river basin: archaeobotanical results from Mali' and all are welcome to attend.

Abstract

The Niger River is second only to the Nile in length in Africa, and has hosted dense populations of agriculturalists including in historical times the kingdoms of Songhay and Mali. This is also the region to which the origins of the Niger-Congo language family, including its Bantu offshoot is attributed. Despite this archaeobotanical evidence for the development of agricultural systems based on both indigenous crops, Pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum), cow-pea (Vigna unguiculata), fonio (Digitaria exilis) and African rice (Oryza glaberrima), and introduced crops, such as sorghum (Sorghum bicolor) and cotton (Gossypium sp.) has remained limited. In particular the role of multiple crop systems, that included both the wet (rice) and the dry (millets), has not been directly documented archaeobotanically. Here I present new archaeobotanical results from 4 sites in Mali (Sorotomo, Sadia, Togo Mare Diabal,& Windé Korodji) that suggest larger populations and population centres developed only once as agriculture diversified beyond pearl millet cultivation to include multiple cereals, as well as cowpea and cotton. Flotation results indicate that sites of the First Millennium BC were dominated by pearl millet evidence, which can be related to the earlier origins of this crop to the Northern Mali. However by the early centuries AD, the additions of sorghum, fonio and rice correlate to increasing urbanism, a pattern revealed by evidence in sites from the inland Niger Delta. This highlights the role of agricultural diversification in promoting urbanisation and state formation.

Any enquiries about the event may be directed to Hannah Page.