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Animal Economies and Islamic Conversion in Eastern Ethiopia: Zooarchaeological Analyses from Harlaa, Harar and Ganda Harla

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posted on 01.05.2020 by Jane S. Gaastra, Timothy Insoll

Excavations at three urban sites, Harlaa, Harar, and Ganda Harla, in eastern Ethiopia have recovered substantial assemblages of faunal remains. These, the first to be analysed from Islamic contexts in the country, were studied to reconstruct animal economies, and to assess if it was possible to identify Islamic conversion or the presence of Muslims in archaeological contexts through examining butchery practices and diet via the species present. Differences in animal economies between the sites in, for example, management strategies, use of animals for traction, and presence of imported marine fish, infers the development of different traditions. However, conversion to Islam was evident, and although issues of non-observance, mixed communities, and dietary eclecticism have to be acknowledged, the appearance of a similar range of butchery techniques suggests these were linked with the appearance of Muslim traders, and subsequent spread of Islam.