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Use of Shea Butter Pushed Back 1,000 Years

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Africa shea butter EUGENE, OREGON—According to researcher Daphne Gallagher of the University of Oregon, shea butter has been used in West Africa since A.D. 100. Carbonized fragments of nutshells from shea trees, found at the archaeological site at Kirikongo in western Burkina Faso, were found in multiple layers of households at the site. “Our findings demonstrate the antiquity of the use of this particular resource. It demonstrates the importance of wild foods in early agricultural diets, and that its importance has continued through time,” she said in a press release. The trees continue to grow in a narrow belt of fertile, well-drained soils in the savannah stretching from West Africa to East Africa. Millet and sorghum crops have been grown around the valuable trees. “We are seeing the continual integration of the farming system. Farmers leave the trees in place. They are respected, loved, maintained, and pruned. People have rights to particular trees, which may or may not be on the land they are farming,” she said. Shea butter is rich in antioxidants, and is used as cooking oil. It is also exported for use in making soap, moisturizers, and lotions. For more on West Africa, go to "The Nok of Nigeria."

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