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Early Agricultural Communities in Lejja Southeastern Nigeria: An Archaeobotanical Investigation



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This thesis investigates food production and subsistence practices among early iron using communities in southeastern Nigeria. Lejja is a cluster of villages in Igboland, southeastern Nigeria where iron smelting flourished on an industrial scale from around the late first millennium BC. The huge number of slag blocks on the surface reveals that ironworking here was a highly sophisticated, long lived and well developed tradition with its technique that involved large scale metal production. Despite the research conducted into iron production, little attention has been paid to domestic archaeology and archaeobotanical studies of food production in Lejja are rare. Rather, previous scholarship on food production was based on hypothetical assumptions drawing from oral history and ethnographic data. Prior to this study, there had been no previous archaeobotanical studies conducted in southeastern Nigeria. Thus, this study is the first to examine the subsistence practice and food economy in ancient Igboland to understand how these iron smelters sustained life, fed themselves and navigated the quest for food.

The thesis demonstrates that earlier inhabitants of Lejja had longstanding agricultural practices that supported the sophisticated industrial scale technology of ironworking from at least 840-2100 BP This is evidenced by archaeobotanical remains recovered from deeply stratified excavations at Amaovoko (AM) and Amaebo-Attamah (AA) Lejja. This thesis demonstrates the presence of oil palm and tubers but the absence of cereal crops such as pearl millet. These data are further used to argue that the past inhabitants of Lejja consisted of a single community engaged in both smelting and farming who were involved in local production and the exchange of materials and ideas between themselves.





Jones, Martin
Davies, Matthew


Archaeobotany, Archaeology, Food Production, Iron working, Lejja, Nigeria, Pottery Traditions


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge
Gates Cambridge Scholarship Emslie Horniman Fund British Federation of Women Graduate Dorothy Garrod Fund Department of Archaeology, University of Cambridge Kings College, Cambridge UAC Nigeria