Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Spread of Domestic Cattle in Africa

Excerpt from "Domestic cattle:  Bos taurus and Bos indicus" by Juliet Clutton-Brock in The Archaeology of Africa (1993) edited by Thurston Shaw, Paul Sinclair, Bassey Andah and Alex Okpoko (Link):

"The history of cattle in Africa is better known than that of any other domestic species; it is also very complicated because for at least three thousand years the continent has been a melting-pot for unhumped cattle (Bos taurus) brought in from Eurasia and humped cattle (Bos indicus) brought in from Asia, in particular from India.  In addition, it is possible that cattle were locally domesticated in north Africa from the endemic wild aurochs (Bos primigenius).

"At present, the earliest securely dated finds of cattle in a cultural context come from Capeletti in Algeria and date from the seventh to the sixth millenium BC (Roubet 1978).  Other early finds have been recorded from sites in the Sahara and in west Africa (see Smith 1980a; Smith 1986; Clutton-Brock 1989b).  Whether these cattle originated from western Asia, through Egypt or were domesticated in Africa, cannot be determined, but the earliest records are still at least a thousand years later than the first remains of domestic cattle in western Asia.  Gautier (1984) has postulated that the remains of domestic cattle from early neolithic sites, dated to 9000 BP, in the Bir Kiseiba region of the Eastern Sahara, could be from domesticated animals derived from wild Bos primigenius in the Nile valley.  However, the bovid remains are very fragmentary and their status is questionable, as recognized by Gautier (see also Smith 1986; Clutton-Brock 1989b; Wetterstrom, Chapter 10, this volume).

N'dama cattle

"By 6000 BP it is probable that cattle pastoralism was well established throughout north Africa and that with the increasing desertification of the Sahara people began to move south with their cattle, only to meet the tsetse-fly belt (Shaw 1977).  The archaeological evidence for the presence of cattle in west Africa for a very long time and their continuity to the present day is provided by the small humpless N'Dama breed, which has evolved a natural immunity to trypanosomiasis, the disease carried by tsetse-fly (Epstein & Mason 1984, p. 21).

"In east Africa pastoralism became established late in the third millenium BC, and over the next 1000 years domestic livestock slowly moved towards Tanzania (Robertshaw 1989; Robertshaw, Chapter 19, this volume).

"These cattle were probably humpless, for the earliest evidence for humped cattle comes from ancient Egyptian paintings dated to around 1500 BC.  Epstein (1971) and Epstein & Mason (1984) separate the humped and the later thoracic humped or true zebu.  These authors believe that cattle with cervico-thoracic humps (i.e. with humps on their necks) were first introduced into the Horn of Africa. 


Zebu (Link)

"They spread west and by interbreeding with the long-horned cattle of West Africa, developed into the Fulani breed."

Red Fulani cattle and herders (Link)

Ankole cattle and herder (Link)

"In eastern and southern Africa humped cattle (at first neck humped but later replaced by thoracic humped) were crossbred with the local humpless cattle to produce the mixed breeds called 'Sanga'.  Notable amongst these are the Ankole cattle of Uganda and the Afrikander cattle of South Africa."

"Humped cattle can be distinguished in the archaeological record by the shape of the skull or by the posterior thoracic vertebrae which, in the zebu, have bifurcated neural spines."

Related Post:
Reconsidering the Spread of mtDNA T1 Cattle (link)
Ancient Crossings (link)
Early, possibly predomestication divergence of N'dama cattle (link)
The Aurochs of Qurta (link)

References (in order of citation):

Roubet, C. 1978.  Une économie pastorale, pré-agricole en Algérie orientale:  le Néolithique de tradition capsienne.  L'Anthropologie 82, 583-6.

Smith, 1980.  The environmental adaptation of nomads in the west African Sahel:  a key to understanding prehistoric pastoralists.  In The Sahara and the Nile:  quaternary environments and prehistoric occupation in norhern Africa, Williams, M. A. J. & H. Faure (eds), 467-87.  Rotterdam:  Balkema.

Smith, 1986.  Review article: cattle domestication in north Africa.  African Archaeology Review 4, 197-203.

Clutton-Brock. 1989.  Cattle in ancient north Africa.  In The Walking Larder:  patterns of domestication, pastoralism, and predation, J. Clutton-Brock (ed.), 200-6.  London:  Unwin Hyman.

Gautier, A. 1984.  Archaeozoology of the Bir Kiseiba region, eastern Sahara.  In Cattle-keepers of the Eastern Sahara:  the Neolithic of Bir Kiseiba, Wendorf, F., R. Schild & A. E. Close (eds), 163-87.  Dallas:  Southern Methodist University Press.

Shaw, T. 1977.  Hunters, gatherers and first farmers in west Africa.  In Hunters, Gatherers and First Farmers beyond Europe:  an archaeological survey, Megaw, J. V. S. (ed.) 69-125.  Leicester:  Leicester University Press.

Epstein, H. & I. L. Mason. 1984.  Cattle.  In Evolution of Domesticated Animals, Mason, I. L. (ed.), 6-27.  London:  Longman.

Robertshaw, P. 1989.  The development of pastoralism in east Africa.  The Walking Larder:  patterns of domestication, pastoralism, and predation, J. Clutton-Brock (ed.), 207-14.  London:  Unwin Hyman.

Epstein, H. 1971.  The Origin of Domestic Animals in Africa.  2 vols.  New York:  Africana Publishing Corporation.

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