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See detailDid the savannah « flourished » 3000 years ago in the so-called Sangha River Interval of the Guineo-Congolian rainforest ? A retrospective study using stable isotopes and phytoliths
Bentaleb, Ilham; Freycon, Vincent; Gillet, Jean-François et al

Poster (2015, April)

We aim to improve our knowledge of the dynamic of the vegetation in Central Africa during the last 5 kyrs and to discuss the main hypothesis described in the literature - humans versus climatic impacts ... [more ▼]

We aim to improve our knowledge of the dynamic of the vegetation in Central Africa during the last 5 kyrs and to discuss the main hypothesis described in the literature - humans versus climatic impacts- both suggested as responsible of the Congo basin rainforest decline observed between 3 and 2.5 kyrs. We use the carbon isotopic composition of well-dated Central African soils to reconstruct the dynamic of the vegetation cover. We will discuss the carbon isotopic composition of the soil organic carbon methodology for reconstructing palaeovegetation in the light of Rayleigh distillation model. We showed that numerous sites exhibit a carbon isotopic ratios reflecting the Rayleigh distillation but few sites recorded real vegetation changes. Our study suggests that the vegetation of the Guineo-Congolian Region was disturbed between 3000 and 2000 BP (Before Present) without an extreme savannah expansion. We discussed the two hypotheses human versus climate impacts that may conduct to such new physiography of the vegetation. We suggest that the climate hypothesis is more likely than the human impact to explain the reduction of the Guineo-Congolian rainforest 3000 years ago. [less ▲]

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See detailClimatic and cultural changes in the west Congo Basin forests over the past 5000 years
Oslisly, Richard; White, Lee; Bentaleb, Ilham et al

in Philosophical Transactions. Biological Sciences (2013), 368(1625), 1-11

Central Africa includes the world's second largest rainforest block. The ecology of the region remains poorly understood, as does its vegetation and archaeological history. However, over the past 20 years ... [more ▼]

Central Africa includes the world's second largest rainforest block. The ecology of the region remains poorly understood, as does its vegetation and archaeological history. However, over the past 20 years, multidisciplinary scientific programmes have enhanced knowledge of old human presence and palaeoenvironments in the forestry block of Central Africa. This first regional synthesis documents significant cultural changes over the past five millennia and describes how they are linked to climate. It is now well documented that climatic conditions in the African tropics underwent significant changes throughout this period and here we demonstrate that corresponding shifts in human demography have had a strong influence on the forests. The most influential event was the decline of the strong African monsoon in the Late Holocene, resulting in serious disturbance of the forest block around 3500 BP. During the same period, populations from the north settled in the forest zone; they mastered new technologies such as pottery and fabrication of polished stone tools, and seem to have practised agriculture. The opening up of forests from 2500 BP favoured the arrival of metallurgist populations that impacted the forest. During this long period (2500–1400 BP), a remarkable increase of archaeological sites is an indication of a demographic explosion of metallurgist populations. Paradoxically, we have found evidence of pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum) cultivation in the forest around 2200 BP, implying a more arid context. While Early Iron Age sites (prior to 1400 BP) and recent pre-colonial sites (two to eight centuries BP) are abundant, the period between 1600 and 1000 BP is characterized by a sharp decrease in human settlements, with a population crash between 1300 and 1000 BP over a large part of Central Africa. It is only in the eleventh century that new populations of metallurgists settled into the forest block. In this paper, we analyse the spatial and temporal distribution of 328 archaeological sites that have been reliably radiocarbon dated. The results allow us to piece together changes in the relationships between human populations and the environments in which they lived. On this basis, we discuss interactions between humans, climate and vegetation during the past five millennia and the implications of the absence of people from the landscape over three centuries. We go on to discuss modern vegetation patterns and African forest conservation in the light of these events. [less ▲]

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See detailWest Central African peoples: Survey of radiocarbon dates over the past 5000 years
Oslisly, Richard; Bentaleb, Ilham; Favier, Charly et al

in Radiocarbon (2013), 55(2-3), 1377-1382

Tracing human history in west central Africa suffers from a scarcity of historical data and archaeological remains. In order to provide new insight into this problem, we reviewed 733 radiocarbon dates of ... [more ▼]

Tracing human history in west central Africa suffers from a scarcity of historical data and archaeological remains. In order to provide new insight into this problem, we reviewed 733 radiocarbon dates of archaeological sites from the end of the Late Stone Age, Neolithic Stage, and Early and Late Iron Age in Cameroon, Gabon, Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Republic of the Congo, and the western Democratic Republic of Congo. This review provides a spatiotemporal framework of human settlement in the forest biome. Beyond the well-known initial spread of Iron Age populations through central African forests from 2500 cal BP, it depicts the geographical patterns and links with the cultural evolution of the successive phases of human expansion from 5000 to 3000 cal BP and then from 3000 to 1600 cal BP, of the interland depopulation from 1350 to 850 cal BP, and of recolonization up to 500 cal BP. [less ▲]

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