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University College London (2017)

Pastoralist Settlement and the Anthropogenic Savannah : the archaeo-ecology of Mili Sita, Kenya

Boles, OJC

Titre : Pastoralist Settlement and the Anthropogenic Savannah : the archaeo-ecology of Mili Sita, Kenya

Auteur : Boles, OJC

Université de soutenance : University College London

Grade : Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) 2017

Résumé
Pastoralism has long been regarded difficult subject matter for archaeology, particularly in eastern Africa. Ephemeral settlements are presumed to leave little physical residue, such that reconstructions of pastoralist ethno-histories have relied on often-vague distributions of material culture. Cultural-stratigraphic approaches are limited in their capacity to explore the lifeways and social dynamics behind material expressions. As a consequence, our knowledge of how herding spread into the region and the historical development of the specialised stock-keeping communities seen today is hindered by a methodological incapacity to address what are arguably the fundamental drivers of pastoralist daily experience : mobility and landscape ecology. This dissertation argues that the interaction of these two elements provides the foundation for pastoralist economics, politics and culture. Movement around the savannah, ostensibly in response to the needs of livestock, not only shapes herders’ social interactions and experiences of environment, but also leaves a physical impact on those landscapes. While built structures may not survive archaeologically, this dissertation discusses how settlement, however temporary, affects local ecology in ways that endure and might be ‘read’ as a proxy record of herders’ presence and practices. With respect to the mid-second millennium site of Maili Sita, in central Kenya’s Laikipia Plateau, various data are employed to assess how settlement and particular patterns of land-use have impacted soils and vegetation. Using geoarchaeological survey and satellite imagery to assess the legacy effects of human presence, alongside isotope data derived from cattle teeth and relating to mobility and resource use, I argue that Maili Sita was part of a regional phenomenon of ethno-linguistic interaction, exchange and assimilation that precipitated the paradox of the defined-yet-entangled identities which continue to characterise the pastoralist societies of eastern Africa.

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