Mollusc Shells from Neolithic Contexts in the Lake Eyasi Basin, Northern Tanzania
Keywords:Mollusc shells, Neolithic, Lake Eyasi Basin, Northern Tanzania
The study of the Neolithic period in the Lake Eyasi Basin was dominated by attempts to formulate the area’s chronology, mobility, settlement patterns, subsistence, and cultural capabilities of Neolithic people as attested by domesticated animals, pottery, and lithic artefacts. Occasionally, studies on molluscs were mentioned, but rarely described in detail. Neolithic sites across the Lake Eyasi Basin have yielded remains of both terrestrial (gastropods) and freshwater mollusc shells (mussels). The abundance of mollusc shell remains in the archaeological records of the Lake Eyasi Basin have played a great role in chronological settings, mobility and community integrations, studies of settlement patterns, and other analyses. Mollusc remains have often been widely interpreted as a food supplement to other reliable food resources such as meat, vegetables and fish. Archaeological excavations and detailed analysis of the shells from Mumba rock shelter, Jangwani 3 and Laghangasimjega 2 have shown that molluscs played different roles. They were effectively used in tool manufacturing, as practical implements for handling objects, as scraping tools, as harpoons for fishing weapons, and sometimes for symbolism and in rituals. Terrestrial and freshwater molluscs coexisted in the Lake Eyasi Basin and were utilised equally by the Neolithic people during the Mid-Holocene period.
Keywords: Mollusc shells, Neolithic, Lake Eyasi Basin, Northern Tanzania.