Toward an Ethnoarchaeomalacology of Achatina in East Africa
Land snail shell is a material commonly identified in the Late Holocene archaeological record of eastern Africa. Typically, archaeologists designate land snail shell as a natural occurrence or as debris produced from human subsistence. Ethnographic observations in lowland northeastern Tanzania show that contemporary communities employ the soft parts and shells of land snails, particularly Achatina fulica, for a range of everyday and special purposes. The array of land snail uses by mixed subsistence farmers and agropastoralists in the area documents the significance of A. fulica and other robust land snail species. Present uses of land snails observed in Tanzania offer a set of analogies that, when critically applied, can enrich archaeologists’ interpretations of land snail debris in antiquity.
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