Tag Archives: Khoisan


Of Shells and Men:

the Economy of Coastal Populations on the Bay
of Luanda (Angola) Throughout the Last Two Millenia


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In this paper, we present archaeological and ethnographic observations of several shell middens located near the Luanda lagoon in Angola, focusing on the evolution of the use of one mollusk, Arca senelis L., over the past two millennia. Known in the literature, the site of Cabolombo has been the subject of recent research (test pit 1) that supports the hypothesis that the site was first occupied by shellfish collectors, probably of the Bantu tradition. The sites of Kamabanga and Kitala suggest the existence of populations, between the 8th and 14th centuries, that were still collectors but who also took part in regional exchange networks. They may also have been specialized in the production of discs from shell test that could have been used as coins during the formative period of the Kingdom of Kongo. Test pits 4 and 14 at Cabolombo yielded indications of a colonial context (locally manufactured pipes) in an economic environment still oriented toward predatory activities. Test pit 9, on the other hand, revealed the use of mabangas as the raw material for lime production, probably under strict control by the Portuguese. Finally, though the major stages in the history of the peopling of the region can be reconstructed through archaeological research and though oral enquiries document the formation processes of the sites, the socio-economic and cultural status of the populations remains unclear.

To cite this article

Valdeyron N., da Silva Domingos S. L., 2012 – Of Shells and Men: the Economy of Coastal Populations on the Bay of Luanda (Angola) Throughout the Last Two Millenia, in F.-X. Fauvelle-Aymar, Palethnology of Africa, P@lethnology, 4, 111-140.


Khoekhoe Pastoralists at the Junction
of Historical and Archaeological Sources

Proposed Models for Settlement Pattern and Technological Signature
of a Neolithic Population in Southern Africa

François BON, Laurent BRUXELLES
François-Xavier Fauvelle-Aymar, Karim SADR

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The Khoekhoe pastoralist populations of South Africa are well documented in historical sources. Their archaeological remains nonetheless seem to differ very little from those of contemporary hunter-gatherer groups. Based on the discovery of a probable kraal at Kafferskuitje (KFS 5), on the Vredenburg peninsula, and on a geomorphologic study of the alluvial terrace system of the Berg River, we suggest that Khoekhoe groups made selective choices in their settlement on the lower terraces located inside the meanders. If we follow this predictive model, the discovery of the site of Volstruisdrif (VSD) enables us to propose the hypothesis of an archaeological signature based on the diagnostic association of ceramic remains and distinctive lithic productions

To cite this article

Bon F., Bruxelles L., Fauvelle-Aymar F.-X., Sadr K., 2012 – Khoekhoe Pastoralists at the Junction of Historical and Archaeological Sources. Proposed Models for Settlement Pattern and Technological Signature of a Neolithic Population in Southern Africa, in F.-X. Fauvelle-Aymar, Palethnology of Africa, P@lethnology, 4, 141-166.


Bushmen arrows and their recent history:

Crossed Outlooks of Historical,
Ethnological and Archaeological Sources

François BON, François-Xavier FAUVELLE-AYMAR

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Bushmen weapons were considered very early by ethnology: the vision of these nomadic hunter-gatherers walking away into the horizon of the Kalahari Desert, with their bows and arrows on their back, is one of the most iconic representations of this disappearing lifestyle.

Besides the technical values that were brought into play in the making of this equipment, their role as vector of social values has also been greatly illustrated. It has been shown, in particular, the way in which an arrow creates a link between the hunter and his prey, but also the interactions the arrow conveys between the user of the weapon and the social networks to which he belongs.

Nevertheless, most reference systems are based on the equipment of sub-contemporary and current populations, i.e. on those used by groups occupying a limited territory in the Kalahari Desert, straddling Botswana and Namibia. Yet, only a few decades ago, Bushmen occupied much vaster areas, corresponding to a large western half of Southern Africa, involving the exploitation of territories ecologically more contrasted than today. In addition, the socio-economic status of the ancestors of today’s Bushmen was, it seems, more diversified: groups of nomadic hunter-gatherers lived side by side with pastoralists (who also practiced hunting), and it is likely that both sides belonged, to a greater or lesser degree, to societies with close links between them.

Research works realised on several collections of bows and arrows kept in South African museums and compared with historical sources (travel accounts from the 16th to the 19th centuries in particular), also bring to light greater diversity: the diversity of the actual armoury (the spear, the club and the throwing stick in addition to the bows and arrows); diversity in the way the arrows are actually made; and the diversity of their supposed functions (from hunting to war). Behind such diversity, we can try to grasp the complexity of the recent history of the Bushmen populations.

To cite this article

Bosc-Zanardo B., Bon F., Fauvelle-Aymar F.-X., 2009 – Bushmen Arrows and their Recent History: Crossed Outlooks of Historical, Ethnological and Archaeological Sources, in Pétillon J.-M., Dias-Meirinho M.-H., Cattelain P., Honegger M., Normand C., Valdeyron N., Projectile Weapon Elements from the Upper Palaeolithic to the Neolithic, Proceedings of session C83, XVth UISPP World Congress, Lisbon, September 4-9, 2006, P@lethnology, 1, 341-360.