Human and Animal Foodways on the Afar Salt Route, North Ethiopia

Author(s): Helina Woldekiros

Year: 2018


Caravans form an important component of ancient trade routes world-wide. They were lifelines to settlements and connected diverse landscapes. They also encouraged complex transport networks. Our understanding of ancient ways of life along these trade routes is, however, hampered by an incomplete picture of the participants or caravaners themselves. This study uses quantitative and qualitative data from ethnoarchaeological and archaeological research on the Afar salt caravan route in northern Ethiopia to recreate human and animal foodways on the route. The Afar trade route transverses the North Ethiopian highlands during the Aksumite period (400 BCE-900 CE) and the Afar desert. Today pack-based caravans transport c. 70,000 tons of salt annually. Archaeological data indicate that people at caravan campsites consumed more plant than animal based diets. Sheep, goats, and cattle were used to supplement caravan diets but were only found at logistical support settlement sites such as border towns. Caravan campsites were dominated by plant remains such as wheat and barley, grains used for making bread. The chaff of these plants, on the other hand, was used as animal feed. Fired bread making stones were also found at the site of Ona Adi Agway in Agula.

Cite this Record

Human and Animal Foodways on the Afar Salt Route, North Ethiopia. Helina Woldekiros. Presented at The 82nd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Washington, DC. 2018 ( tDAR id: 443172)

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Spatial Coverage

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

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 21799