The Journal of African History


a1 University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg

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As the exception on the continent, southern Africa has no Neolithic period. In the 1920s, when the term came to mean Stone Age with food production, Neolithic was dropped in South Africa for lack of evidence for farming or herding in Stone Age sites. But since the late 1960s many sheep bones have surfaced in just such sites. Now, the continued absence of a Neolithic may say more about the politics of South African archaeology than about its prehistory. This paper describes food production in the southern African late Stone Age and argues in favor of (re-)introducing the term Neolithic to the subcontinent.

Key Words: Archaeology; southern Africa; pre-colonial; environment.


1 Many people provided helpful comments on earlier drafts of this paper. In particular, I would like to thank Michael Bollig, Yvonne Brink, Tom Huffman, Peter Mitchell, Garth Sampson, Ralf Vogelsang and the anonymous reviewers. Some of the field research behind this paper was generously funded by the Anglo-American Corporation, the Swan Fund, the Kent Bequest, the University of Botswana and the University of Cologne's SFB 389-ACACIA project.