Thursday, September 6, 2018
Title: Beads (glass), chickens, dogs, rats (black): a reconsideration of their introduction into southern Africa
Abstract: Beads of a type called Zhizo made of glass manufactured in present day Iran were introduced into southern Africa through Indian Ocean trade entrepôts on the East African coast. Chickens, Gallus domesticus, and black rats, Rattus rattus, were also brought to southern Africa through these east coast ports; the route of dogs, Canis familiaris, is not so clear. Chronologies for these introductions are also not clear, although conventional opinion favors dates around ±1000 CE, with some claims for beads around ±700 CE. I shall first locate the geographical distribution of Zhizo glass beads as well as of chickens, dogs, and rats in southern African archaeological sites followed by a survey of the major sites concentrating on their stratigraphy and radiocarbon dating. The stratigraphic and dating associations of the beads and fauna will then be considered with the conclusion that while mid-8th century dates appear probable at a limited number of sites in the Okavango-Tsodilo-Makgadikgadi region of northern Botswana, dates before ±900-1000 CE in the southern Shashe-Limpopo region cannot be supported. Some inferences regarding routes and means of transport are considered and implications of recent ceramic petrographic studies for routes are presented.