Herder land use and nutrient hotspots in southern Kenya: geochemical analysis of anthropogenic soil enrichment.


Mobile herding societies are often considered to leave behind few traces in the archaeological record, however pastoral settlements may have helped shape the broader landscape. Herders relying on domesticated cattle, sheep and goat arrived in the most productive grasslands of East Africa >3600 calBP years ago. Our collaborative research investigates the legacies of their land-use through geoarchaeological analyses. We present results of analyses of five Pastoral Neolithic era archaeological sites and offsite controls from southern Kenya dating to between 3300 and 1800 BP. Particle size, loss on ignition, magnetic susceptibility and ICP-MS elemental analyses demonstrate that sediments derive from comparable lithologies. Livestock-dung-derived deposits at these archaeological sites are significantly enriched in Ca, K, Mg, Na, P, Sr, compared to controls. These are important micro-nutrients for plant growth. In some samples, these elements are elevated in archaeological layers by 10-80%, but sometimes 1000%, over background values. This research demonstrates that small scale pastoralist land-use over three millennia leaves an enduring imprint on the landscape that is inextricable from the natural history and ecology of East African savannas. This pilot study illustrates the role of mobile herders in promoting ecological resilience and biodiversity in African savannas by creating nutrient "hotspots".

Cite this Record

Herder land use and nutrient hotspots in southern Kenya: geochemical analysis of anthropogenic soil enrichment.. Steven Goldstein, Michael Storozum, Fiona Marshall, Rachel Reid, Stanley Ambrose. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 429333)

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Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: -18.809; min lat: -38.823 ; max long: 53.262; max lat: 38.823 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 16941