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Early Holocene Mortuary Practices and Hunter-Gatherer Adaptations in Southern Somalia

Steven A. Brandt
World Archaeology
Vol. 20, No. 1, Archaeology in Africa (Jun., 1988), pp. 40-56
Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/124524
Page Count: 17
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Early Holocene Mortuary Practices and Hunter-Gatherer Adaptations in Southern Somalia
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Abstract

Recent archaeological excavations of a large rockshelter at Buur Heybe, southern Somalia, resulted in the discovery of fourteen human burials of early Holocene age. The Gogoshiis Qabe burials represent: 1) the first primary context prehistoric skeletal remains from Somalia; 2) the earliest chronometrically dated burials from the Horn of Africa (Somalia, Ethiopia and Djibouti); and 3) the earliest definitive evidence in eastern Africa for grave goods (lesser kudu horns). The mortuary data are examined in light of an ecological model of hunter/gatherer socio/territorial organization which predicts that when critical human resources are spatio/temporally unpredictable and scarce, hunter/gatherers are unlikely to bury their dead in formal burial areas or build grave monuments. Conversely, when resources are abundant and predictable across time and space, conditions will arise that favour the construction of grave monuments and/or formal burial areas, possibly as a means of ritualizing corporate lineal descent.

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