Oil palm and prehistoric subsistence in tropical West Africa

A. Catherine D'Andrea, Amanda L. Logan, Derek J. Watson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


This study reports on the analysis of macrobotanical remains recovered at three of the B-sites rock shelters in central Ghana (B4C, B5C, B6B), which were excavated under the auspices of the Kintampo Archaeological Research Project (KARP). These rock shelters yielded large quantities of Kintampo material culture as well as pottery attributed to the Punpun. The overall aims are to further our understanding of prehistoric subsistence in tropical West Africa and to address some outstanding issues relating to the economic role of oil palm through the study of macrobotanical remains. Although palynological evidence indicates a substantial rise in oil palm pollen during the Late Holocene, various interpretations of this increase have been proposed. To date, sampling and analysis of macrobotanical remains have not been designed to investigate the nature of oil palm utilisation during this period. We argue that simple archaeobotanical quantification methods indicate that oil palm use during Kintampo occupations of sites B4C, B5C, and B6B and possibly other locales was significant. As such, humans should not be ruled out as agents having an impact on Late Holocene landscapes of West Africa. These and other archaeobotanical data from tropical Africa suggest that arboriculture was a component of prehistoric subsistence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)195-222
Number of pages28
JournalJournal of African Archaeology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2006


  • Kintampo
  • Oil palm
  • Palaeoethnobotany
  • Subsistence
  • West Africa

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts
  • Archaeology


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