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The development of the ancient irrigation system at Engaruka, northern Tanzania: Physical and societal factors
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Physical Geography and Quaternary Geology.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Physical Geography and Quaternary Geology.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Human Geography.
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2010 (English)In: Geographical Journal, ISSN 0016-7398, E-ISSN 1475-4959, Vol. 176, no 4, 304-318 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Climate data from Empakaai Crater in northern Tanzania, covering the last 1200 years, are related to the establishment, development and decline of the ancient irrigation system at Engaruka. New dates for the system are linked to reconstructed climatic variations and historical data on long-distance and regional trade and migration patterns. A shift from a comparatively humid climate to drier conditions in the 1400s prompted the establishment of irrigated agriculture at Engaruka, and a flourishing long-distance trade increased its value as a water and food source for passing caravans. Once established, the land-use system at Engaruka was sufficiently resilient to survive and even intensify during much drier climate from c. 1500 to 1670 CE (Common Era) and during the decline of caravan trade between c. 1550 and 1750. The ancient land-use system probably reached its maximum extension during the humid conditions between 1670 and 1740, and was deserted in the early to mid 1800s, presumably as a result of the added effects of climate deterioration, the Maasai expansion, and change of livelihood strategies as agriculturalists became pastoralists. Towards the end of the 1800s irrigated agriculture was again established at Engaruka, in part driven by the transfer from pastoral to agricultural livelihoods caused by the Rinderpest.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2010. Vol. 176, no 4, 304-318 p.
Keyword [en]
Engaruka, Tanzania, pre-colonial irrigation, climate variability, incremental change, Maasai
National Category
Physical Geography Human Geography
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-24293DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4959.2010.00370.xISI: 000283727600003OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-24293DiVA: diva2:197166
Available from: 2007-05-10 Created: 2007-05-10 Last updated: 2017-12-13Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Past environmental and climate changes in northern Tanzania: Vegetation and lake level variability in Empakaai Crater
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Past environmental and climate changes in northern Tanzania: Vegetation and lake level variability in Empakaai Crater
2007 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This thesis presents palaeoenvironmental data from equatorial Africa covering two important time intervals; i) the warming period forming the Pleistocene/Holocene transition and ii) the last millennium. The Empakaai Crater, in northern Tanzania contains a lake from where sediment cores, spanning two time-slices 14.8-9.3 ka and 800-2000 AD, have been studied. Palaeoecological and palaeohydrological reconstruction is based on a multitude of proxies from the sediments, representing both catchment environment and the lakes aquatic ecosystem response. Between 14.8 and 10 ka the catchment vegetation and lake hydrology responded to both regional climate changes and local environment, but with different amplitude and frequency, reflecting temporal and spatial lags between the two systems. However, at c 10 ka both lake conditions and catchment vegetation showed drastic changes towards drier conditions. The record covering the last millennium reveals environmental changes related to climate and human activities. The catchment’s vegetation was affected by frequent fires, most probably human induced, while near shore vegetation responded to lake level fluctuation associated with rainfall variability. About 15 km from Empakaai Crater is an extensive abandoned irrigation system, the Engaruka complex, which was in active use between c 1400 AD and 1840 AD. By comparing a number of social and environmental factors potentially influencing the societal development at Engaruka it is shown that wet climate conditions have had positive effects on the societal development but also that dry climate conditions were not always disastrous to the society. The resemblance of the pollen taxa present is strong between the two time slices and pollen representing catchment conditions respond in similar manner in both records. The lake conditions are however very different between the two periods Thus the lake responds to both long and short term changes of variable amplitude, while the catchment vegetation seems to responds to high amplitude, low frequency changes.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Institutionen för naturgeografi och kvartärgeologi, 2007. 102 p.
Series
Dissertations from the Department of Physical Geography and Quaternary Geology, ISSN 1653-7211 ; 5
Keyword
palaeoecology, palaeolimnology, physical and societal factors, Holocene, Tanzania, Lake Emakat, Engaruka
National Category
Earth and Related Environmental Sciences
Research subject
Physical Geography
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-6835 (URN)978-91-7155-455-0 (ISBN)
Public defence
2007-06-01, William-Olssonsalen, Geovetenskapens hus, Svante Arrhenius väg 8 A, Stockholm, 13:00
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Available from: 2007-05-10 Created: 2007-05-10 Last updated: 2010-10-07Bibliographically approved

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