In PDF format.
Tracking East African Cattle Herders from Prehistory to the Present
By Kathleen Ryan, Photography by Jennifer Chiappardi
Expedition Volume 51, Number 3 Winter 2009
Cattle herding, as well as dairying, has long been a staple of the subsistence economy in those areas of sub-Saharan Africa suitable for the survival of cattle: the Sahel region and those parts of eastern and southern Africa at sufficient altitude to be free of the tsetse fly. In the semi-arid parts of this vast area, which are unsuitable for agriculture, herding became the primary food production system.
Cattle herding is attested in northern Africa as early as ca. 9000 BP. On present evidence, its earliest appearance in eastern Africa was between 5,000 and 4,000 years ago. The Laikipia Plateau, in north-central Kenya, has evidence of many early Pastoral Neolithic sites, and for this reason our project is concentrating on that area.
The goals of the Laikipia Regional Survey project are to identify Pastoral Neolithic sites, to investigate the inter-relationship between these early pastoralists and the indigenous Later Stone Age hunter-gatherer groups of the area, and to ascertain (via analysis of fat residues on the sherds) whether dairying was practiced. In addition, our earlier ethnoarchaeological research on the subsistence economy of the Maasai (1990–2002) will provide models of settlement and subsistence strategies against which to assess our archaeological findings in Laikipia.