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By Ian Shaw

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Scholars commonly place these African Iron Age remains in two main phases: Early (AD 1–1000) and 27 Late (AD 1000–1850). Some believe this new lifestyle emerged as the result of the diffusion of individual traits, but the archaeological evidence does not support this interpretation. As Robinson’s excavations at MABVENI in Zimbabwe first showed in the 1960s, the diagnostic features occur together. Although there are pitfalls, archaeologists use ceramic styles in Central and Southern Africa to trace the origins and movements of Iron Age people.

Cultivated millet is claimed at Amekni at 8050 ± 80 BP but the basis for this is slight, and its first definite reappearance is at DHAR TICHITT in Munson’s phase 6 at 2947 ± 153 BP. The earliest proven occurrence of African rice is at JENNE-JENO in phase 2 of the settlement between 50 and 400 AD. In the forest area, tubers and oilplants are particularly significant. There are many varieties of yams, of which the Guinea yam (Dioscorea rotundata) is the most important, and the many uses of the oil palm (Elaeis guineensis) are recognized world-wide.

Although there are pitfalls, archaeologists use ceramic styles in Central and Southern Africa to trace the origins and movements of Iron Age people. David Phillipson’s Chifumbadze classification, somewhat modified by Thomas Huffman, identifies three principal divisions and therefore ‘streams’ of movement: (1) the UREWE Tradition, which contains firstly a KWALE Branch, including SILVER LEAVES/MATOLA in southern Africa and secondly an Nkope Branch, including Ziwa and Gokomere in Zimbabwe, and Kamnama and Kumadzulo (or the Dambwe group) in Zambia; (2) the Kalundu Tradition, which includes Benfica in Angola, KAPWIRIMBWE and Kulundu in Zambia, Sinoia in Zimbabwe and Matakoma, BROEDERSTROOM, Lydenburg and Msuluzi in South Africa.

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