The Journal of African History

Research Article

A New Framework for the Study of Early Pastoral Communities in East Africa

Peter Robertshawa1 and David Colletta1

a1 British Institute of Eastern Africa

This review provides a new interpretative framework for the ‘Neolithic’ in East Africa. A seriation of pottery assemblages is used to delineate several archaeological traditions, the implications of which include rejection of the use of the terms ‘Neolithic’ and ‘Pastoral Neolithic’, and the demise of previous attempts at archaeological—linguistic correlations. Evaluation of the dating evidence brings into question the validity of early dates for domestic stock and cultivated crops in the region. A new model for the development of specialized herd management strategies in the Central Rift Valley is outlined. This model rests upon the definition of pastoralism as an ideological system rather than as a subsistence strategy. Finally, the archaeological evidence for the antecedents of the early pastoral communities of East Africa is examined and the ascription of some of these assemblages to the ‘aquatic civilization of Middle Africa’ is questioned.