ETHNOBOTANY AND ETHNOZOOLOGY AS A SOURCE OF AFRICAN HISTORY
Ethnobotany is the scientific study of ancient remains of plants which are termed flora. Ethnozoology is the scientific study of animal remains from the past which are called fauna. These studies help to trace the origins of plants and the animals our ancestors fed on and exploited in the past. It is through such studies that crops are classified as indigenous and non-indigenous.
ADVANTAGES OF ETHNOBOTANY AND ETHNOZOOLOGY
- Advance in Agriculture: Through the study of ethnobotany, it has been established that, Africans were advanced in agriculture. For example ethnobotany has revealed that, the (Dahomey Gap) in modern Benin in West African coastal forest belt is the cradle of yam cultivation. Also animals like West African dwarf goat, pigs, cattle, dogs, cats and guinea fowl are all indigenous to Africa.
- Contacts of people: Ethnobotany shows the interrelationships or contacts among peoples and the presence of some crops and fruits like guava, tangerine, mango, avocado pear and pineapple are known to have European origins. It has been observed that, the Bantu had for a long time relied on banana as a food source and therefore it has been suggested that the spread of banana to other parts of Africa had depended to a large extent on the migration of the Bantu.
- Determines settlement of people: Ethnobotany and ethnozoology help to locate settlement of people. Certain plants and animals determine settlement of people since generation after generation has used them as staple foods and diets.
- Dating events: The study of ethnobotany and ethnozoology has helped in dating events in the society.
- Tree-ring dating: Ethnobotany has helped historians through the use of tree-ring dating method. It is the method used to date pieces of wood that are found in excavations to determine the ages of their use.
DEMERITS OF ETHNOBOTANY AND ETHNOZOOLOGY
- Inaccuracy in prediction: The information about crop and animals being indigenous or non-indigenous may not be accurate. This is because weather and climatic conditions as well as the duration of the crop in a particular area might be so long that there is the likelihood of inaccurate prediction.
- Generalizations: A remarkable problem associated with ethnobotany is generalization. For instance it is established that Tetteh Quarshie brought cocoa to Ghana from Fernando Po but another source have it that the Basel missionaries brought cocoa from Surinam before Tetteh Quarshie. It will be incorrect to generalize that cocoa came to Ghana from Fernando Po or Surinam because the climatic condition in these places are the same.
- Depend on the Other Sources: Ethnobotanist must work in conjunction with other sources of writing African history before they can establish the validity or otherwise of their find. Without this inter-disciplinary approach, ethnobotany will be impotent.