A question of rite—pearl millet consumption at Nok culture sites, Nigeria (second/first millennium BC) - Archive ouverte HAL Access content directly
Journal Articles Vegetation History and Archaeobotany Year : 2022

A question of rite—pearl millet consumption at Nok culture sites, Nigeria (second/first millennium BC)

Alexa Höhn
Katharina Neumann
Gabriele Franke
Peter Breunig
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Abstract

The Nok culture in central Nigeria, dated 1500-1 cal bc, is known for its famous terracotta sculptures. We here present a study on > 11,000 botanical macro-remains from 50 sites, including 343 samples from Nok contexts and 22 samples dating between cal ad 100 and 400, after the end of the Nok culture. With 9,220 remains, pearl millet (Cenchrus americanus (L.) Morrone, syn. Pennisetum glaucum (L.) R.Br.) is dominant in the Nok samples, followed by cowpea (Vigna unguiculata (L.) Walp.), Canarium schweinfurthii Engl., Nauclea latifolia Sm. (syn. Sarcocephalus latifolius (Sm.) E.A.Bruce), wild fruit trees and wild Poaceae. The pearl millet remains consist exclusively of charred caryopses; chaff remains are completely absent. Because we studied all size fractions, including the small 0.5 mm fractions usually containing the involucres, bristles and husks, the absence of pearl millet chaff is real, excluding a methodological explanation, and distinguishes Nok from contemporary other West African sites. We propose that most excavated Nok sites were consumer sites where clean grain was brought in from outside and consumed in a ritual context connected with feasting. This is in line with the archaeological evidence from the larger excavated sites with stone-pot arrangements that are interpreted as ritual places related to mortuary practices. In addition to the known southward branches of pearl millet diffusion from the Sahara we propose a new, hitherto unknown branch directly from the central Sahara to the central Nigerian savannas.
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Dates and versions

ird-03915830 , version 1 (29-12-2022)

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Louis Champion, Alexa Höhn, Katharina Neumann, Gabriele Franke, Peter Breunig. A question of rite—pearl millet consumption at Nok culture sites, Nigeria (second/first millennium BC). Vegetation History and Archaeobotany, 2022, ⟨10.1007/s00334-022-00902-0⟩. ⟨ird-03915830⟩
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