Early Humans Massive Changes

Africa has also seen massive changes in the last 2 000 years. The southward movement of the Bantu-speaking farmers introduced the Iron Age, with domesticated plants and livestock, pottery, mining and iron-working. The pastoral revolution presented a massive change in lifestyle. There is evidence that sheep were acquired from the north and cattle from Bantu-speakers to the east, while goats and dogs were acquired later than sheep and cattle. Sheep were indigenous to the Near East and North Africa, and domesticated in the north about 8 000 years ago. These fat-tailed animals appear to have been in East Africa by 4 000 years ago, and South Africa by 2 000 years ago.

How cattle domestication occurred in Africa has been obscured by ancient migrations and trade. Scientists have long speculated that the domestication of cattle also occurred first in the Near East and that the practice of herding cattle was similarly imported.

But new evidence suggests that Africans independently domesticated cattle. Geneticist Olivier Hanotte notes that there were Near Eastern influences on African herds, but that they were incorporated after local domestication. Archaeological research has shown that the domestication of cattle unfolded differently in Africa than elsewhere in the world. It appears that people living in Central Africa developed cattle domestication’on their own, and that the techniques – or the herders themselves – gradually migrated toward the west and the south, spreading domestication across the continent. Most modern African herds represent mixtures of two breeds: Africa’s native cattle, called taurines, and a slightly larger Asian breed, known as zebu, which was domesticated before it arrived in Africa.

Long-distance trade across the Indian Ocean brought many domesticated plants and animals to Africa, including the chicken and camel. Presumably trade also brought zebu bulls that farmers interbred with domesticated taurine cows, producing the mixed herds of today.

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