The Origins of Agriculture: an introduction

Research Topic: When and where did people first start to grow plants and herd animals in Africa, and what effects did these economic changes have on their lifestyles?

Instructions: the project is organized into a number of different steps. When you are finished completing the steps which appear on your screen, hit the "continue" icon and move to the next step in the series.

What should archaeologists search for? What types of evidence could archaeologists look for to help investigate the origins of food production in Africa?

First, discuss this question with your team members, based on things we have learned in previous sections of the course. Make an initial list the types of physical evidence you think an archaeologist could look for if they wanted to find evidence of prehistoric food production. These are going to form the basis of the next step in your investigation.

HINTS: What types of food remains should archaeologists search for? What sorts of artifacts might be clues to farming or animal husbandry? What sorts of features at sites might indicate an agricultural or pastoralist economy?

Divide your team into plant specialists and animal specialists. Before we search for archaeological evidence of food production, you need to decide which particular animals and plants to be on the lookout for.

Read the descriptions of unfamiliar animals and print out a copy of the PDF version this table for your team.

Note which species live in which parts of the continent. What might explain this regional variation? Look atthe vegetation map and tsetse fly map of Africa on the Africa Info Page to help answer this question. Write a brief outline summary of your findings for your team.

Read the descriptions of unfamiliar plants and print out the a copy of the PDF version of this table for your team, so that you have a list of both the common names and botanical names of the species.

Note which species are grown in which parts of the continent. What might explain this regional variation? Look atthe vegetation maps of Africa on the Africa Info Page to help answer this question. Write a brief outline summary of your findings for your team.

Get together with your other team members to discuss how and why the modern patterns of crop plants and domestic animals vary across the African continent today. Now, think like a team of archaeologists! Look again at the list you made of the types of physical evidence for food production an archaeologist could look for. Can you suggest ways in which the physical evidence for the use of different types of crops and domestic animals be likely to vary or be preserved in different ways? Based on your understanding of the distribution of domestic animals and crops today, what geographical patterns of archaeological evidence might you expect to find? Write this up as a 1 page summary, to turn in for team credit.