Chemical evidence of dairying by hunter-gatherers in highland Lesotho in the late first millennium AD.
Fewlass, H, Mitchell, PJ, Casanova, E, Cramp, LJE
Nature human behaviour
The recovery of Early Iron Age artefacts and domestic animal remains from hunter-gatherer contexts at Likoaeng, Lesotho, has been argued to indicate contact between highland hunter-gatherers and Early Iron Age agropastoralist communities settled in lowland areas of southeastern Africa during the second half of the first millennium AD. However, disagreement between archaeozoological studies and ancient DNA means that the possibility that those hunter-gatherers kept livestock themselves remains controversial. Here we report analyses of pottery-absorbed organic residues from two hunter-gatherer sites and one agriculturalist site in highland Lesotho to reconstruct prehistoric subsistence practices. Our results demonstrate the exploitation of secondary products from domestic livestock by hunter-gatherers in Lesotho, directly dated to the seventh century AD at Likoaeng and the tenth century AD at the nearby site of Sehonghong. The data provide compelling evidence for the keeping of livestock by hunter-gatherer groups and their probable incorporation as ancillary resources into their subsistence strategies.