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The Spread of Pastoralism

Archaeological data suggest that the emergence of animal husbandry in northeastern Africa took place as early as ~11 kya (Wendorf and Schild, 1998). Archaeological studies in Nabta Playa (in Egypt’s Western Desert) reveal a spectrum of artifacts consistent with pastoralism and adaptation to the desert environment, including particular pottery styles (Khartoum tradition), evidence of well technology, and cattle burials (McDonald, 1998; Wendorf and Schild, 1998). By ~8 kya, evidence is present of imported (from the Middle East) sheep or goat remains in northeastern Africa [e.g., McDonald (1998)]. Some controversy persists in the archaeological community regarding whether cattle domestication was developed in northern Africa or imported from the Middle East; however, recent DNA analysis of extant indigenous African bovine taurine and zebu cattle (Hanotte et al., 2002) supports a model in which the earliest emergence of pastoralism involving taurine cattle took place in northeastern Africa and subsequently spread westward and southward (Hanotte et al., 2002). A recent analysis of NRY variation in 13 eastern and southern African population samples suggests that the spread of pastoralism from eastern Africa to southern Africa was accompanied by migration of pastoral peoples as well as pastoral technology as evidenced by the distribution of NRY haplogroup M293 (and the subclade E3b1f-M293) (Henn et al., 2008). Furthermore, the most likely source for this migration based on the samples included in Henn et al. (2008) would have been the southern Nilotic speaking Datog (because the haplotype frequency and diversity of M293 is highest in the Datog) ~2 kya (Henn et al., 2008).

Ehret (1967) inferred the history of pastoralism in Africa from a linguistic analysis of shared cognates. His findings support a relatively ancient emergence of pastoralism in northeastern Africa corresponding to Eastern Sudanic, Central Sudanic, and possibly Southern Cushitic speakers, followed by the subsequent spread of cattle keeping to western and southern Africa (Ehret, 1967). The relatively ancient emergence of pastoralism in the archeological record is supported by the reconstruction of proto-Cushitic languages. For example, there are at least two words for cattle that are thought to be relatively old, one in Northern Cushitic and the other in Central Cushitic. In proto-Cushitic, the word “hlee,” which translates to “head of cattle,” is related to the Southern Cushitic (Mbugu) word “hline,” which translates to “heifer” (Ehret, 1967), and so on. Furthermore, estimates of linguistic diversity of vocabulary related to cattle suggest that cattle keeping arose in northeastern Africa and subsequently spread to western and southern Africa (Ehret, 1967).

Ehret (1967) also argues that the spread of cattle milking was separate and more recent than the spread of cattle keeping. He discusses the assumption that the spread of cattle milking would require some discern-

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