brad brace

3/3/2006

africa note7

Filed under: kenya — admin @ 8:26 am

Created 01/31/2006 6:43 am

The adaptations which facilitated the evolution and survival of humans
in Africa also pre-adapted the species for speech and language.
The evolution of speech had important social implications for all
of humanity. The most ancient characteristics of language worldwide
are rooted in surviving African languages. — Khoisan: from the
phonetic point of view these are the world’s most complex
languages. To speak one of them fluently is to exploit human
phonetic ability to the full.

148 is the group size at which human societies appear to function
most effectively.

Hunting and gathering was the founding economy on which human
society is based, but hunters and gatherers were not “the original
affluent society” as is popularly supposed; their numbers and
distribution were determined by the “law of the minimum.” —
Nutritional Limitations kept the human population of Africa at
minimal levels for extended periods, but the population expanded
rapidly when conditions permitted. Cycles of “boom and bust” were a
commonplace factor of human experience. — Pronounced climatic
change prompted cultural responses. Evidence of hunting first
occurs in Africa from 18,000 years ago, when the last ice age
brought dry conditions to the continent, and the world’s
earliest-known evidence of organized human-on-human violence dates
from 14,000 years ago in Africa, when deteriorating conditions
provoked competition for resources among populations whose numbers
had expanded during the intervening period of benign conditions.
— Deliberate control of plant productivity dates back to 70,000
years ago in southern Africa, and the world’s’s earliest-known
centrally organized food-Production system was established along
the Nile 15,000 years ago–long before the Pharaohs–then swept away
by calamitous changes in the river’s flow-pattern. — Domestic
livestock were present in the Sahara during a wet phase 9,000-7,000
years ago, when African cereals were also domesticated in the
region. The first villages are evident from this period, indicating
the beginnings of a sedentary farming lifestyle, for which the
invention of pottery was a crucial development. In particular,
pots enable people to make substitutes for mother’s milk, thus
shortening the weaning period and birth intervals and fuelling a
growth in population. — The domestication of livestock enhanced
early food production economies, but lactose intolerance and the
tsetse fly reduced the spread of pastoralism among the people and
habitats of Africa. — In less than 3,000 years the Bantu-speaking
peoples expanded from their cradle-land that straddles the borders
of present-day Nigeria and Cameroon and colonized virtually all of
sub-Saharan Africa. The development of iron-smelting technology
played an important role in their dispersal. — While
civilizations rose and fell along the Nile, their influence on
sub-Saharan Africa was one of exploitation only– African
commodities were traded north, but nothing of the Nile’s culture
and technology moved south.

— electrum: a natural alloy of gold
containing about 20 percent silver

A mariner’s handbook from the first century AD indicates that
although trading vessels from Roman Egypt sailed to sub-Saharan
Africa, the region offed meagre profits an attracted little
interest. — The unique environmental circumstances of northern
Ethiopia combined with the trading opportunities of the Red Sea to
fuel the rise of sub-Saharn Africa’s first indigenous state. —

boustrophedon– script: as the ox turns in ploughing

While Aksum was distinguished by the conspicuous consumption of a
ruling elite and its subjects toiled under the rule of despotic
kings, the large, complex societies of the inland Niger delta
developed a more egalitarian and less coercive political system.
— If cities are founded by people from different social
and occupational backgrounds congregating to live in close
proximity of one another, is a hierarchical social system and
coercive centralized control the only way of managing the group’s
increasingly complex economic and social interactions? In the
classic definition of the urbanization process, centralized-often
despotic-control is deemed to have been the norm, with the many
ruled by the few and the ideology of the city state reinforced by
monumental architecture. Does the prevalence of one interpretation
obscure even the possibility of an alternative? Is there perhaps
an alternative management strategy, more practical than
ideological, that would direct the growth the complex societies
along routes than rendered monumental “signposts of permanence”
(totems of failure) unnecessary? The history of people exploiting
the resources of tee inland delta of the Niger River in West Africa
suggest that there is an alternative route. West Africa history was
“unshackled from the Arab stimulus paradigm” in the 1970s when
evidence of “cities without citadels” was uncovered, wherein the
transformation to a complex urban society began 1,000 years before
the arrival of Arab traders from across the Sahara, and a large
urban center, Jenne-jeno, remained active for centuries… there is
no evidence of hierarchical social system and centralized
control, no monumental architecture, no citadel.

Foolish-African-Never-Takes-Alcohol FANTA

The demand for diversification is incompatible with requirements
of specialization; yet each is fundamental to survival. Special
relationships between specialists: People know how to behave
because they know they are different and this mutual respect
allows specialization to flourish and material symbols of group
identity to develop. Together, myths and material symbols remind
all involved of the expectations that bind the regional community,
Herein lies the origin of in situ ethnic elaboration, and the
device that maintains ethnic boundaries. The counteracting forces
of ethnic identity where the demands of specialization pushed
groups apart while the requirements of a generalized economy pulled
them together– created a dynamism that ensured growth and the
establishment of urban settlements. And they were non-coercive
settlements. Groups congregated by choice. This is an instance of
transformation from a rural to an urban society that did not
establish a hierarchical society and coercive centralized control,
with the many ruled by the despotic few. The process in the delta
and at Jenne-jeno in particular, was once one of “complexification”
rather than centralization. They settled within shouting distance of
each other, but avoided assimilation into a single urban entity.
Clustering allowed a diverse population to congregate for
economies of scale and to draw upon the services of other
specialists without surrendering their independent identities,
the whose thereby functioning as a city and provide a variety of
services and products to a vast hinterland. In effect, the ‘push’
of specialization produced occupational castes and ethnic
distinction, while the ‘pull’ of economic integration produced a
web of share myth and belief that emphasized both individual ethnic
identity AND mutual interdependence. Not a whiff of disaster is
evident at Jenne-Jeno throughout its 1,600 years of occupation.

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