10,000 year history of plant use at Bosumpra Cave, Ghana

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Vegetation History and Archaeobotany


Investigations of hunter-gatherer subsistence, early food production, and the development of agroforestry systems during the Later Stone Age (LSA) of West Africa have proven challenging because of limited recovery and analysis of archaeological evidence relating directly to subsistence. This paper examines changes in the use of plant resources over a 10,000 year period at Bosumpra Cave, southern Ghana. Large quantities of recovered Canarium schweinfurthii (incense tree) and Elaeis guineensis (oil palm) endocarp preserved at the site allow for the assessment of previous observations about changes in the relative importance of tree fruit resources over time. Results point to the possibility that C. schweinfurthii was a managed resource and may be useful as a marker of forager subsistence in tropical forest regions. The exploitation of C. schweinfurthii persisted in the early and middle Holocene, but was eventually overshadowed in the late Holocene by Kintampo food-producing economies based on Pennisetum glaucum (pearl millet), Vigna unguiculata (cowpea) and E. guineensis. The Bosumpra deposits also yielded domesticated pearl millet and cowpea, allowing for the comparison of LSA hunter-gatherer and early food producer subsistence practices and cultural interactions in southern Ghana.



Archaeobotany, Elaeis guineensis, Canarium schweinfurthii, Plant use, Later Stone Age, Bosumpra Cave, Ghana