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Abstract

Landscape domestication and cultural change: human ecology of the Cuvelai-Etosha region.

Abstract

The landscape of the Cuvelai-Etosha region of Namibia although changed dramatically with climate changes over the past 100 000 years, was only subtly changed by people over most of this period. About 2000 years ago, pastoralists migrated into southern Angola, possibly extending into the ancestral lands of the Hei//om and !Kung peoples who ranged over Ovamboland region for a possible 100 000 years BP. Rapid changes to the landscape started in the 17th century when Ovambo pastoralists and farmers moved southwards into this region, with livestock and agriculture aided by iron-smelting technology. What followed was a "domestication" of the landscape over a mere 300 years: selective removal of trees, cutting out Colophospermum mopane, Combretum imberbe, Terminalia sericea and Spirostachys africana hardwoods for homes and complex palisade fences and conserving major wild fruit bearing trees such as Diospyros mespiliformis and Sclerocarya birrea or Hyphaene petersiana palms. Even more rapid were changes following colonial expansion after the 1850s and particularly since 1900 with demarcation of political boundaries across ecological and cultural units of northern Ovamboland and southern Angola, road construction across drainage lines, warfare, labour migration and linkage into a wider cash economy. All of these have directly or indirectly impacted on the landscape of this region.