Farmlands, or agricultural landscapes, captures the interest of a number of researchers based at the Department of Human Geography, Stockholm University. On this blog we share information about research findings, activities, events and comments related to our work.

Our interest in farmlands has three roots: farming, landscape and society.
Farming as a practice, including farmers knowledge and labour investments
Landscape as society-nature relations, congealed history, and as space and place
Society as a short form for institutions, gender relations, political economy and scientific relevance

Most Welcome to FarmLandS!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Archaeobotany: a crucial key to African agrarian history

Participants at the 8th International Workshop on Africa Archaeobotany in Modena June 22rd to 25th 2015

The history of farming in pre-colonial Africa is - as yet - very poorly synthesised. As Daryl Stump has highlighted this means that all kinds of arguments for future rural development can claim to have a basis in history. Either precolonial farming was ancient and backward or it was longlived and sustainable.... Read Daryls article on this from this LINK.

This is common. When the history is little researched, little known and little popularised historical arguments can be used in many ways without critical reflection. It is now high time for African agricultural history to be better researched, better syntesised and better disseminated. When it comes to basic research to uncover the history of crops and farming methods archaeobotany does really have an important role to play. I was lucky to have a presentation of my mapping project accepted at the 8th International Workshop on African Archaeobotany in Modena last week, though I did not have any new archaeobotanical research to present.  I  was impressed by the wealth of knowledge presented there. Yes, many of the presentations were very empirical and localised. This and that crop was cultivated here and at that time. But this meticulous work of identifying crops of the past from carbonised seeds, from phytoliths, from pollen and from new methods like isotope analysis, forms the absolutely necessary basis for reconstructing agrarian history in times and places where no written history exists. We were also shown how such detailed studies can be synthesised as in Chris Stevens presentation of the fascinating history of the domestication of Sorghum - one of Africas contribution to world crops. I have always admired the work of the group in Frankfurt under Katarina Neumann and they also showed at the conference the capacity to be detailed and exact and at the same time clearly relate to the research frontier in presentations by Barbara Eichhorn (millet before vegeculture in the rainforest!), Alexa Höhn and Katharina Neumann.

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