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Droughts, Food and Culture: Ecological Change and Food Security in Africa's Later Prehistory / Edition 1

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Overview

Recent droughts in Africa and elsewhere in the world, from China to Peru, have serious implications for food security and grave consequences for local and international politics. The issues do not just concern the plight of African peoples, but also our global ecological future.
Global climatic changes become manifest initially in regions that are marginal or unstable. Africa's Sahel zone is one of the most sensitive climatic regions in the world and the events that have gripped that region beginning in the 1970's were the first indicator of a significant shift in global climatic conditions.
This work aims to bring archaeology with the domain on contemporary human affairs and to forge a new methodology for coping with environmental problems from an archaeological perspective. Using the later prehistory of Africa as a comparison, the utility of this methodological strategy in interpreting culture change and assessing long-term response to current, global climatic fluctuations is examined and understood.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

From the reviews:

"This is a must reading for serious students of African prehistory as it merges into history."
(Choice, 40:4 (2002)
"The Volume's geographically based organization is advantageous. It allows the reader to pinpoint the research themes dominating the various regions. Thus, mobility strategies, population dynamics, and political upheavals account for changing land use due to desertification across Southwest and Central Asia. This book succeeds in demonstrating the range of methodological and heuristic templates currently applied to human ecological modeling in marginal environments. A corollary and sobering observation, independently noted in each study area, is that archaeology confirms and often accurately gauges historic trends."
(Journal of Anthropological Research, 59 (2003)
"This book is an important pioneering study that brings together in 17 chapters the evidence for changes in climate that occurred in Africa during the last 10,000 years or so, and the observed human responses to those changes. It is an attractive book, well-designed with numerous clear and informative illustrations. ...all archaeologists should read the first two chapters by Hassan, who sets the stage for and summarizes the most important data in the book. ...should be read not only by those interested in problems of climate change in Africa and elsewhere, but by anyone interested in the interaction between human behavior and climate change. We urge Hassan to call another conference on Holocene climate variability and human response in North Africa. He should also produce another book, because more detailed summaries like many of these in this volume will rapidly move us toward his goal "to situate archaeologuy within the domain of contemporary human affairs"."
(African Archaeological Review, 20:2 (2003)
"Implications with contemporary climate events (recurrent droughts in Africa) and their impacts on food security are evident. Interactions amongst climate changes, evolution of food producing systems, evolution of societal organization including mass movements in search of less hostile environment, evolution of culture, art and technology, are all intertwined and complicated. The chapters of this remarkable volume dispel a good deal of the myth that relates to these socio-evolutionary topics."
(The Environmentalist, 23 (2003)

"The substantive papers of this volume remain data-grounded but theoretically informed, and bring together new information on archaeology and the interlocking of subsistence activities with their environmental context." (Karl W. Butzer, Holocene, 14, 2004)

"At the very least, all archaeologists should read the first two chapters by Hassan, who sets the stage for and summarizes the most important data in the book. It is also a book that should be read not only by those interested in problems of climate change in Africa and elsewhere, but by anyone interested in the interaction between human behavior and climate change." (Fred Wendorf and Romuald Schild; African Archaeological Review, 20:2)

"The book, edited by F. Hassan, is an excellent and accomplished attempt to summarise the archaeology of North Africa as the historical relationship between the people and climatic change during the Holocene. This is also a book with wider implications. … This is a book I warmly welcomed and read with interest, as it is full of new data and ideas." (Marco Madella, Geoarchaeology, March, 2005)

Booknews
This text is intended to bring archaeology within the domain of contemporary human affairs, and to create a new methodology for addressing environmental issues from an archaeological perspective. Twenty-six international specialists contribute 20 chapters exploring climatic change in Africa, the role of local factors, and the means by which people developed subsistence and cultural strategies to maintain food security. They present the most current information on the most important climatic changes in various parts of Africa, and examine associated cultural events. The contributions focus on three major themes in later African prehistory: climatic change, the beginnings of plant cultivation, and the origins and dispersal of cattle keeping and pastoralism. For archaeologists, African historical researchers, and agencies in the global environmental and ecological fields. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781441933805
  • Publisher: Springer US
  • Publication date: 11/30/2013
  • Edition description: Softcover reprint of hardcover 1st ed. 2002
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 347
  • Product dimensions: 6.14 (w) x 9.21 (h) x 0.76 (d)

Table of Contents

List of Figures. List of Tables. Contributors. 1. Introduction; F.A. Hassan. 2. Palaeoclimate, Food and Culture Change in Africa: An Overview; F.A. Hassan. Section I: Climatic Change. 3. Rapid Holocene Climate Changes in the Eastern Mediterranean; E.J. Rohling, et al. 4. Climate During the Late Holocene in the Sahara and the Sahel: Evolution and Consequences on Human Settlement; R. Vernet. 5. Late Pleisene and Holocene Climatic Changes in the Central Sahara: The Case Study of the Southwestern Fezzan, Libya; M. Cremaschi. 6. Late Holocene Climatic Fluctuations and Historical Records of Famine in Ethiopia; M.U. Mohammed, R. Bonnefille. 7. Environmental and Human Responses to Climatic Events in West and West Central Africa During the Late Holocene; M.A. Sowunmi. Section II: Plant Cultivation. 8. Regional Pathways to Agriculture in Northeast Africa; H.N. Barakat. 9. From Hunters and Gatherers to Food Producers: New Archaeological and Archaeobotanical Evidence from the West African Sahel; P. Breunig, K. Neumann. 10. Holocene Climatic Changes in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Spread of Food Production from Southwest Asia to Egypt; M. Rossignol-Strick. 11. Sustainable Agriculture in a Harsh Environment: An Ethiopian Perspective; A. Butler. Section III: Pastoralism. 12. The Evidence for the Earliest Livesk in North Africa: Or Adventures with Large Bovids, Ovicaprids, Dogs and Pigs; A. Gautier. 13. Cultural Responses to Climatic Changes in North Africa: Beginning and Spread of Pastoralism in the Sahara; B.E. Barich. 14. Dry Climatic Events and Cultural Trajectories: Adjusting Middle Holocene Pastoral Economy of the Libyan Sahara; S. Di Lernia. 15. Food Security in Western and Central Africa During the Late Holocene: The Role of Domestic Sk Keeping, Hunting and Fishing; W. Van Neer. 16. Bovines in Egyptian Predynastic and Early Dynastic Iconography; S. Hendrickx. Conclusion. 17. Ecological Changes and Food Security in the Later Prehistory of North Africa: Looking Forward; F.A. Hassan. Index.

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 29, 2012

    A Work of Substance

    Although the editor did not do a particularly good job in finding a refuge as well as integrating and focusing the contributing authors on topic, this is a work of substance. Some of the text is redundant and entire sections seem at the fringes of the subject at hand. In scholarly clarity, it combines the evidence from various fields into a picture that allows for adaptive strategies of modernity. Everyone interested in climate change (which has miraculously morphed from global warming) finds here a good academic read that explains the causes and implications of global cooling, bringing forth conditions inhospitable to humans in the Sahara region. It also explains the few strategies that may have been used by the ancient Africans to repeatedly cope with changing weather patterns.

    Influencing the oscillations of the global climate may be out of human reach. However, the ignorance toward the risks from either rapid warming or rapid cooling to modern civilizations is staggering.

    The book goes deeper than that. In particular the section by S. Hendrickx stands out as a meticulous assessment of early Egyptian iconography that may have been the product of adaptive behaviors, possibly by African climate refugees. It may provide for a slightly open window into the beginning of human stratification, possibly induced by the necessities coming out of a climate shock. If all scholars were to apply the Hendrickx standard, new knowledge could probably be created rapidly and history would be rewritten with rational confidence.

    The book is valuable for academics who are able to focus through a generally distraught work.

    A.J. Deus, author of The Great Leap-Fraud, Social Economics of Religious Terrorism

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 13, 2003

    Excerpt from Book Reviews

    Implications with contemporary climate events (recurrent droughts in Africa) and their impacts on food security are evident. Interactions amongst climate changes, evolution of food producing systems, evolution of societal organization including mass movements in search of less hostile environment, evolution of culture, art and technology are all intertwined and complicated. The chapters of this remarkable volume dispel a good deal of the myth that relates to these socio-evolutionary topics.' M. Kassas, University of Cairo Giza 12613 Egypt

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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