Human subsistence and land use in sub-Saharan Africa, 1000 BC to AD 1500: A review, quantification, and classification

The Iron Age transition in sub-Saharan Africa represents a time when the relationship between humans and their environment was fundamentally altered at near-continental scale. 

This alteration may have had widespread consequences for regional climate, hydrology, biodiversity and ecosystem services that persist to the present. 

Quantification of these impacts and potential feedbacks is difficult, however, because the archaeological and historical record is highly fragmented in time and space. 

This paper presents a classification of human subsistence in Iron Age Africa from 1000 BC to AD 1500 that illustrates the various degrees of land use intensity employed by different groups at different times. The classification is based on a broad synthesis of archaeological, archaeobotanical, and ethnographic observations. 

The primary goal of this paper's classification is to employ it as input to quantitative models of human–environment interactions to test hypotheses on the importance of humans for the development of African environments over the late Holocene.

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