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Foodways in West Africa: an integrated approach on pots, animals and plants

Applicant Mayor Anne
Number 186324
Funding scheme Sinergia
Research institution Unité d'anthropologie Département de génétique et évolution Université de Genève
Institution of higher education University of Geneva - GE
Main discipline Interdisciplinary
Start/End 01.10.2019 - 30.09.2023
Approved amount 2'072'734.00
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All Disciplines (7)

Discipline
Interdisciplinary
Organic Chemistry
Ethnology
General history (without pre-and early history)
Zoology
Botany
Archaeology

Keywords (13)

nutrition; botany; history; chemistry; Foodways; residue analysis; zoology; archaeology; Senegal; pottery function; West Africa; food systems; ethnography

Lay Summary (French)

Lead
Ce projet propose une approche interdisciplinaire de l’alimentation et de son évolution au fil des deux derniers millénaires au Sénégal. La méthode vise à croiser les résultats d’analyses relevant des sciences naturelles (botanique, zoologie, chimie) et des sciences humaines et sociales (archéologie, histoire, socio-anthropologie), obtenus à partir de plantes et d’animaux consommés, de poteries ayant servi à leur préparation ou consommation, ainsi que d’archives et d’entretiens de recherche.
Lay summary

Alimentation en Afrique de l’Ouest : une approche intégrée des poteries, des animaux et des plantes 

Objectifs

L'alimentation en tant que marqueur social, économique et culturel a émergé comme un thème d'intérêt transversal à traiter dans une perspective interdisciplinaire. Ce projet, centré sur le Sénégal des deux derniers millénaires, a pour but de développer une nouvelle méthode pour approcher l’histoire de l’alimentation en combinant différentes analyses des poteries (morphométrique, tracéologique, chimique, phytolithique), ainsi que des plantes et animaux consommés. La reconnaissance des fonctions et contenus des poteries, puis la comparaison entre données ethnographiques et archéologiques permettront de documenter les changements de cuisines sur la longue durée. De plus, des études historiques et socio-anthropologiques basées sur les archives, l'histoire orale et l'observation participante visent à approfondir l'évolution des pratiques aux époques du commerce atlantique dès le XVesiècle, de la colonisation et de la mondialisation.

Contexte scientifique du projet de recherche

A l'échelle du Sénégal, cette recherche permettra de comprendre les changements alimentaires survenus au fil du temps et contribueront à la sauvegarde d'un patrimoine culinaire menacé. A l'échelle de l'Afrique, les données bio-archéologiques combleront les lacunes des données portant sur l’émergence et la circulation des plantes et animaux domestiques. Plus largement encore, la méthodologie développée pour l’identification des fonctions des céramiques et de leurs résidus d’origine animale et végétale sera utile pour tous les archéologues. Par ailleurs, le lien avec la situation actuelle fournira des informations clé sur les aspects institutionnels et politiques de la sécurité alimentaire et de la nutrition, notamment pour la compréhension des facteurs entravant la diversité alimentaire actuelle.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 16.09.2019

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Project partner

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
17ème conférence de l’Association ouest-africaine d'archéologie Talk given at a conference Histoire de la diversité agricole et culinaire au Sénégal : une approche interdisciplinaire 02.11.2021 Université Joseph Ki-Zerbo, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso Mayor Anne; Sall Moustapha;
Anthropology and Conservation Conference Talk given at a conference The impact of Ndieael Special Reserve and Senhuile agricultural investment on local food production systems, food security and resilience in Senegal 26.10.2021 University of East Anglia, Great Britain and Northern Ireland Gmür Désirée Ruth;
27th Annual Meeting of the European Association of Archaeologists - 12th Meeting on Phytolith research Talk given at a conference The use of phytoliths analysis for the interpretation of the content of pottery: an exploratory study of African ethnographic samples 06.09.2021 Kiel, Germany Drieu Léa; Regert Martine; Vieugué Julien; Mayor Anne;
Swiss Researching Africa Days, session Food changes Talk given at a conference Ethnoarchaeobotany of rice in Casamance, Senegal 23.10.2020 University of Bern, Switzerland Champion Louis;
Swiss Researching Africa Days, session Food changes Talk given at a conference Food practices at the settlement site of Djoutoubaya (eastern Senegal, 9‐14th c. AD): the contribution of archaeobotany and archeozoology 23.10.2020 University of Bern, Switzerland Champion Louis; Chiquet Patricia;
Swiss Researching Africa Days, session Food changes Talk given at a conference Apport des sources arabes à l’Histoire de l’Afrique sub‐saharienne : L’exemple des pratiques alimentaires 23.10.2020 University of Bern, Switzerland Zaugg Roberto;
Swiss Researching Africa Days, session Food changes Talk given at a conference Changes and continuities in Senegambia as revealed by European travelogues 23.10.2020 University of Berne, Switzerland Zaugg Roberto;
Swiss Researching Africa Days, session Food changes Talk given at a conference Introduction to the study of food changes in Africa 23.10.2020 Unversity of Berne, Switzerland Mayor Anne; Haller Tobias; Zaugg Roberto;
Ecole thématique du CNRS « boissons et préparations alimentaires » Talk given at a conference Poteries et bières en Afrique : cas d’études ethnographiques 06.10.2019 Saint-Romain-en-Gal, France Mayor Anne; Vieugué Julien;


Self-organised

Title Date Place
Third meeting of the Sinergia project Foodways in West Africa 22.10.2021 University of Bern, Switzerland
Second meeting of the Sinergia project Foodways in West Africa 28.10.2020 CEPAM, Nice, France
session Food changes at the Swiss research Africa Days of the Swiss society of African studies 23.10.2020 University of Bern, Switzerland
First meeting of the Sinergia project Foodways in West Africa 24.10.2019 University of Geneva, Switzerland

Communication with the public

Communication Title Media Place Year
Media relations: print media, online media Sénégal : Les universités de Genève, Berne, Dakar et Nice (France) sur les traces de nos ancêtres en Magazine Reflets n° 69 (Journal d’information bimestriel sur les relations Suisse-Afrique) International Rhaeto-Romanic Switzerland German-speaking Switzerland Western Switzerland Italian-speaking Switzerland 2021

Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
163022 Peuplement humain et paléoenvironnement en Afrique de l'Ouest - Projet Falémé 01.10.2015 Project funding (special)
169403 Tracking Humans in Pre-colonial West Africa: Bio-Archaeological Study in the Dogon Country (Mali) 01.10.2016 Project funding (Div. I-III)

Abstract

Food as social, economic and cultural marker has emerged as a topic of great scholar interest that needs to be addressed with an interdisciplinary perspective. Our project will foster innovative results on two levels. First, it will develop a new interdisciplinary method for identifying foodways by combining different types of analyses based on pottery, plants and animals. Then, based on this multi-proxy approach and on comparisons between ethnographic and archaeological evidence, it targets the reconstruction of the history of agricultural practices and foodways over two millennia in West Africa, with a special focus on Senegal, a favourable country to undertake this kind of study. Our approach consists in building present-day reference databases in the fields of ethnoarchaeology of ceramics, botany, zoology and biomolecular investigations. The acquisition of new data in various communities of Senegal will allow for the construction of interpretative keys to address food resources and consumption in the past. The identification of lipids, proteins, phytoliths and starch grains in residues of ethnographic pottery will contribute to this dataset and allow development of more effective protocols for archaeological sampling. Similarly, samples of faunal and floral components of present-day meals will be collected at various transformation stages in order to offer a comparative dataset for the identification of archaeological remains. Study of archaeological ceramics as well as plant and animal remains from different sites will draw a first sketch of the variability of food practices during pre-colonial times and allow evaluating the impact of post-depositional factors. In addition, historical and socio-anthropological studies based on manuscript archives, oral history and participant observation will show the changes in foodways under the influence of the Atlantic trade since the 15th century, and from colonial times to current globalisation. This project is highly interdisciplinary and depends on the combined expertise of researchers from disciplines specific to Humanities and Social Sciences (social anthropology, archaeology, history) and to Natural Sciences (chemistry, botany, zoology). All fields will contribute to the dialogue between the present and the past. The strength of the project lies in the close collaboration between members from complementary scientific fields: among the co-applicants, Anne Mayor’s group (Department of Genetics and Evolution, Anthropology Unit, University of Geneva) has expertise in ceramic ethnoarchaeology, African archaeology, archaeobotany and archaeozoology. Martine Regert’s group (CNRS, CEPAM, Université Côte d’Azur) is widely recognized for lipid analysis of residues, and will lead collaborations with other researchers for complementary innovative methods analysing lipidomics, proteins, starches and phytoliths in residues. Tobias Haller’s group (Institute of Social Anthropology, University of Bern) is specialized in social anthropology and food system approaches. Partners from the Botanical Gardens and Natural History Museum of Geneva, the History Department of the University of Bern, the University of Paris Nanterre, IFAN and UCAD in Dakar complete the team. The impact of this research will be significant at different scales. At the scale of Senegal, the results will allow to construct scenarios of food changes in various historical, cultural and environmental contexts. They will also contribute to the safeguarding of an endangered culinary heritage and the understanding of the institutional factors hindering current food diversity and resilience. At the scale of Africa, the bio-archaeological data will contribute to a better understanding of the circulation of knowledge about the use of domesticated plants and animals. At an even broader scale, the methodology developed for the analysis of animal and plant residues and the transcultural references will provide useful tools for all archaeologists. The link to current food diversity situations will also provide important data on institutional-political aspects of food security and nutrition.
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