Presentation by Professor Christopher Ehret, University of California, Los Angeles
Much farther back in time than is often realized, the sealanes of the Indian Ocean have been highways for the dispersal of crops between Africa and southern Asia. As early as the second millennium BCE, African food plants, such as sorghum, finger millet, pearl millet, and the tamarind traveled along these routes to India. Not quite so anciently in time, the banana spread in the opposite direction, from southern Asia to Africa. The study of the names given the banana in Africa is a particular fascinating source of information on the history of this crop. From terms used in languages at the East African coast we can identify which peoples brought the banana to the continent and how long ago they did so. As the crop spread inland, new names were innovated for the banana, and these names then spread with the crop across the continent, revealing the further pathways by which the plant spread westward.
Christopher Ehret is a distinguished research professor of the History Department of the University of California at Los Angeles. His primary teaching and research interest has been early African history, with a secondary concentration in African historical linguistics. His particular interests are in deepening our knowledge of early African and human history and in refining and expanding the set of methods used in that endeavor. He is an author of eight books and the co-editor of two additional volumes; has served on the editorial boards of two encyclopedias; and is an author of around 75 research articles. The second edition of his book for general readership, The Civilizations of Africa: A History to 1800, will be published in 2013.
Cost: Free and open to the public; pay-by-space all-day parking ($11) available in lot 3.
Sponsor(s): African Studies Center
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