Jan Vansina

Communication between Angola and East Central Africa before c. 1700

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It is well known that sheep and cattle herding as well as cereal agriculture, followed by a number of minor crops as well as chicken from beyond the Indian Ocean were brought into Angola through eastern central Africa. It is less well known that this did not occur all along the boundary between the two areas but along three well defined routes of entry. A set of barriers west of the Upper Zambezi and west of the Upper Kasai to which linguistics testifies ("Mann's barriers") was responsible for this situation. The southernmost one (two variants) is the oldest and best attested by archaeological finds. The early variant linked what is now Zimbabwe to southernmost Angola via a route south of the then much larger Okavango from before AD 1 to AD 1100; the later variant went from the Zambezi end of the Namibian panhandle more or less straight to the Okavango and beyond and would last until recent times. The middle route went from the copperbelt area to the uppermost Zambezi and then further westwards through a corridor along the upper Lwena/Lunge-bungu. This can be dated as early as 700/900 AD. But at a not yet known time (perhaps c. 1500) the link between the upper Zambezi copperbelt became a barrier and the eastward connection now seems to have gone northwards to Luba Katanga lands. The northern route linked the lands beyond the Lubilash (probably the Upemba depression foremostů) with the Kasai north of c. 6-8 S. lat. to the middle Kwilu and then in a great arc to the Kwango river in the same latitudes. — The paper discusses which innovations came when following which routes (in both directions!) and their considerable effects on Angolan history.

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