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Trees on the March: The Dispersal of Economic Trees in the Prehistory of West-Central Africa

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Type: Working Paper
Author: Blench, Roger
Date: 2001
Agency: Overseas Development Institute, London
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/4574
Sector: Forestry
Region: Africa
Subject(s): trees--history
Abstract: "One of the unconscious biases that commonly creeps into accounts of the development and spread of food production is the emphasis on cereals, pulses and tubers. Since these are the basis of agriculture in the developed world, students of prehistory constructing narratives tend to focus on these classes of cultigen and to ignore both trees and herbs. Rich ethnobotanical accounts of cultivated and protected trees remain few and far between, reducing the potential to reconstruct their history. Evidence for arboriculture in Oceania has considerable time-depth and recent publications on biogeography and vernacular names have made possible historical sketches for many tree species. However, the situation in Africa lags far behind that in the Pacific although there is every reason to believe that trees are of similar importance. One of the reasons for the success of biogeographical studies of fruit tree distribution in the Pacific is the existence of islands with relatively discrete flora. Many trees do not have seeds that can be distributed across the ocean spontaneously. Once it is established where a tree evolved, then it can often be determined whether its present distribution is due to human influence."

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