fish and snakes

Veerle has done a first assessment of the bones from Birnin Lafiya and Pekinga, which together with the initial notes on the plant evidence starts to tell us a little more about how people at the sites lived. Detailed study will be done later, but here are some preliminary comments from her.

Generally, the fauna from trenches V and VI at Birnin Lafiya is very similar, throughout all layers and contexts. The large majority is fish, with species mainly from shallow water and marshes, but also a few Nile perch which normally are found in deeper water. In addition, turtle remains and snake vertebrae are frequent – the snakes presumably food refuse. Bird bones are very rare and may contain 1-2 chicken bones. Mammal bones are rare. There are a few small rodent remains (intrusive?), a few bones of small carnivores, a few small antelope bones. There were no domestic mammals, except for a second phalanx of cattle in the top of SVI, a piece of horse mandible halfway down SV, and a sheep/goat upper third molar in SIII. Trench VII had very little remains, mainly catfish and tilapia.

Pekinga does not have a lot of fauna. There is fish (clariid catfish, Nile perch, tilapia,..) and two or three sheep/goat bones.

The overall conclusion is a heavy use of aquatic and semi-aquatic resources, among which we should probably also count the snakes. The fauna profile is quite unusual.

“I was especially struck by the lack of domesticated animals. It is not the first site of a broadly similar age I see in West Africa with a lot of fish, but usually there are some cattle, sheep and goat to go with it. I have found the presence of turtles before – they are presumably caught with the fish, but snakes in this quantity are a first”,

writes Veerle.

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We are a team of archaeologists, historians and anthropologists studying the Niger Valley where it borders Niger and Bénin (West Africa). We are carrying out new excavations and research to shed more light on the people that inhabited the area in the past 1500 years.

This blog will tell you all about it.

This investigation is funded by the European Research Council as part of the Starting Independent Researcher Programme (Seventh Framework Programme – FP7); it is led by Dr Anne Haour of the University of East Anglia, UK. The opinions posted here are however her own!

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