Holocene settlement and vegetation history of the Chaîne de Gobnangou, SE Burkina Faso

In SE Burkina Faso, the Chaîne de Gobnangou, a sandstone massif with a steep escarpment, rises ca. 100 m above the surrounding plains with their Sudanian savannas. In 1989 and 1990, archaeologists, archaeobotanists and archaeozoologists were searching for evidence on the beginning of food production in this area. Two rock shelter sites (Maadaga, Péntènga) and one open-air site (Kidikanbou) were excavated.

The site Péntènga yielded rich archaeological material. In the 1.9 m thick sequence, pottery, microliths, and plant and animal remains were found, dated between the 7th millennium BC and 1300 AD. In spite of some perturbation, the charcoal assemblages show that dry forests and Sudanian savannas were growing around the site during the Middle Holocene. After 800 BC, probably under decreasing rainfall, drought-resistant Sahelian trees and shrubs appeared. However, human impact cannot be excluded as the decisive factor favouring their expansion. Remains of domestic animals are absent in the site, apart from some not clearly identifiable remains of the dog.

Maadaga, another rock shelter site, yielded in situ Middle Stone Age stone artefacts. Only a few sites of this kind are known from West Africa. At the open-air site Kidikanbou, it seems that hunting equipment was produced and repaired, indicated by microliths in all stages of the production process, and arrowheads presumably damaged during hunting.

In all sites, there was no evidence for the beginning of food production, probably because rock shelters are not visited by farmers and pastoralists on a regular base. No additional sites with datable Holocene stratigraphies were found in the area. The sites testify that hunting and foraging activities continued throughout the Middle and Late Holocene in SE Burkina Faso when in other parts of West Africa sedentary food producers established.



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Frank, Th., P. Breunig, P. Müller-Haude, W. Van Neer, K. Neumann, R. Vogelsang & H.-P. Wotzka (2001): The Chaîne de Gobnangou in SE Burkina Faso: archaeological, archaeobotanical, archaeozoological and geomorphological studies. - Berichte zur Allgemeinen und Vergleichenden Archäologie 21, 127-190. pdf

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