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11 - Herding, Farming, and Ritual Sacrifice: The Economy from Kirikongo

Stephen A. Dueppen
Affiliation:
University of Oregon
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Summary

Like craft production, faunal and macro-botanical analyses provide critical evidence for reconstructing a community's economy, and consequently for understanding interrelated topics such as subsistence, rituals, political strategies, social roles, and internal and external commerce.

Similar to societies throughout West Africa's savanna belt, the large part of subsistence in the Voltaic region is provided by staple grains. Consequently, the vast majority of time, labor and cultural investment are put into their cultivation. As mentioned in Chapter 7, the inhabitants of Kirikongo likely consumed , a stiff thickened porridge made today from sorghum, millet, fonio, or occasionally maize. is eaten with various sauces, which often include the products of useful trees (vegetal fats and leaves), cultivated and wild herbs, vegetables and sometimes an animal protein. In addition to these daily meals, grains are used to produce beer, which is not only important in social and ritual settings, but also to caloric intake. The yearly activities of a Voltaic community, like farmers everywhere, are embedded in a complex cosmology within a highly ritualized agricultural calendar that shapes the lives of the community (see Chapter 3). Grains are also sometimes employed in ceremonies and included as components in some shrines.

In addition to their subsistence value, domestic animals play diverse roles in Voltaic social systems, including ritual sacrifice, assurance of marriages (bridewealth), social capital, food storage, and even clothing (skins). In addition, hunting and fishing can be important social processes and are often highly ritualized as well, within a general set of beliefs regarding the divinities of nature. In particular, a common activity with distinct cultural rules (by community and ethnicity) is large collective dry-season hunting expeditions involving large groups of men.

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Chapter
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Egalitarian Revolution in the Savanna
The Origins of a West African Political System
, pp. 228 - 260
Publisher: Acumen Publishing
Print publication year: 2012

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