Modeling Human-Environment Interaction in Sub-Saharan Africa: Archaeological Data, Ecological Questions

Author(s): Andrea Kay; Jed Kaplan

Year: 2017


The African Iron Age transition is characterized by a shift from nomadic hunting and gathering societies to food-production, ferrous metallurgy, and centralized states and empires across most of the continent. Because of the magnitude and persistence of the change, understanding the African Iron Age is critical for assessing the present state and potential future of Africa’s ecosystems. Because the transition occurred episodically and at different times in different regions, and because large parts of Africa are poorly studied archaeologically, unambiguous evidence for human influence on the environment is lacking in large parts of the continent. Thus, in order to better understand the process, pattern and impact of anthropogenic activities on the environment over the African Iron Age, we are developing a continental-scale quantitative model of human-environment interactions. This model is informed by archaeological data synthesis and information on the physical environment. Here I present a new series of maps of the distribution of livelihood systems in Iron Age Africa that are used to drive our quantitative model. The maps represent a synthesis of archaeological, archaeobotanical, linguistic, and ethno-historical data. While large data gaps still exist, my maps demonstrate the potential of using archaeological information for large-scale modeling.

Cite this Record

Modeling Human-Environment Interaction in Sub-Saharan Africa: Archaeological Data, Ecological Questions. Andrea Kay, Jed Kaplan. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 431520)

Spatial Coverage

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

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 15544