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Welcome to African Archaeology!

The Journal of African Archaeology is an international peer-reviewed periodical appearing half-yearly since 2003. It publishes original papers addressing recent research and developments in African archaeology and related disciplines. The journal's main purpose is to provide scholars and students with a new pan-African forum for discussing relevant topics on the cultural dynamics of past African societies.

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Journal contents:


Vol. 2 (2) 2004

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W. Van Neer

Evolution of Prehistoric Fishing in the Nile Valley

Journal of African Archaeology, Vol. 2 (2), 2004, pages 251-269, DOI 10.3213/1612-1651-10030

Abstract
The available data are reviewed on ichthyofaunas from prehistoric sites along the Nile in Egypt and Sudanese Nubia. Former fishing practices are reconstructed using information derived from species spectra, reconstructed fish sizes, growth increment analysis and fishing implements. It is demonstrated that fishing was initially practised exclusively on the floodplain and that it was limited to a small number of shallow water taxa during Late Palaeolithic times. From the Epipalaeolithic onwards (ca 10000-8000 bp), fishing was also undertaken in the main Nile whereby the number of exploited species increased. Technological innovations allowing the exploitation of the deeper parts of the main river included nets and fish-hooks as well as improved vessels, permitting the capture of larger species from the open water. It is argued that fish must always have been a staple food because the animals seasonally occurring in large numbers on the floodplain were intensively exploited and because these fish could be easily dried for future consumption. Once the fishing grounds also included the main river, fishing was no longer restricted to the flood season, but could also be carried out when the Nile levels were low. Hence the role of fish in the resource scheduling also changed at the transition of Late Palaeolithic to Epipalaeolithic times.

Résumé
La présente contribution livre une synthèse des données ichtyofauniques disponibles pour les sites préhistoriques le long du Nil égyptien et nubien. Les pratiques de pêche sont reconstituées sur base des spectres fauniques, de la taille des poissons capturés, des analyses squelettochronologiques et des engins de pêche. Il apparaît que, pendant le Paléolithique supérieur, la pêche était exclusivement pratiquée dans la plaine alluviale et qu'elle se limitait à quelques espèces, typiques d'eaux peu profondes. À partir de l'Epipaléolithique (vers 10000–8000 bp), la zone de pêche a été étendue au lit mineur du Nil, ce qui se traduit par une augmentation du nombre d'espèces exploitées. C'est grâce aux innovations technologiques, tels les filets et les hameçons, ainsi qu'à l'utilisation d'embarcations plus performantes, que la capture des grandes espèces des eaux ouvertes est devenue possible à cette période. On suppose que les poissons ont toujours fait partie de la nourriture de base. Ces animaux, très abondants dans la plaine alluviale pendant les inondations, étaient facilement exploitables et se prêtaient aussi très bien au séchage. Dès le moment où les activités de pêche se sont également exercées dans le fleuve même, la pêche n'était plus limitée à la saison des inondations, mais pouvait aussi être pratiquée pendant la période des eaux basses. De ce fait, le rôle du poisson dans l'approvisionnement à travers les saisons a également changé à la transition du Paléolithique supérieur et de l'Epipaléolithique.




Keywords: curing, Epipalaeolithic, fish, fishing techniques, Late Palaeolithic, Predynastic, seasonality


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