Baobab Trees Trace African Diaspora Across the Indian Ocean

first_imgIn the French novella The Little Prince, the titular prince comes from a very small asteroid planet called B612 where soil is full of baobab seeds. He tells the author that if left to grow, the baobabs would become so numerous and huge that they could make the little planet explode.On Earth, though, baobabs are quite the opposite. Anyone living in Africa where baobabs grow to enormous sizes would be able to tell you about the numerous benefits the trees provide for humans and animals.They would probably describe the marvelous generosity of its trunk and its hospitality to many creatures, and extol the hardy and light fruit pod with its deliciously powdery pulp and nutritious seeds that remain fresh and edible over long periods of time.But there is a mystery to baobabs, as they are also found in India. How did they get there? Our new research is starting to shed light on the answer.Where baobabs are foundAfrican baobabs (Adansonia digitata) are one of nine species of the genus Adansonia. The recently identified A. kilima, which occurs in the highlands of eastern and southern Africa, is very close to A. digitata and is sometimes considered within this broad species.Outside mainland Africa, there are six baobab species belonging to Madagascar, and one species in the Kimberley region of northwest Australia (known as the boab). The African baobab, though, is most widely distributed both in its home continent and in the neo-tropics where enslaved Africans were brought to work.Baobabs are found in different parts of the Indian subcontinent, and many of them are so voluminous that they could easily be several thousand years old. No one knows how they arrived in these places. A few studies on baobabs in India have speculated that the fruit pods may have floated across from Africa on ocean currents and washed up on the shores, or that they may have been brought over by Arab traders.How did they get to India?In a recently published study, we investigated how African baobabs were introduced to the Indian subcontinent by combining genetic analysis of baobab trees from Africa, India, the Mascarenes and Malaysia with historical information about different periods of Indian Ocean trade.We looked at the genetic material to identify the population source regions in Africa and see how these were represented in the baobabs in India, the Mascarenes and Malaysia. We then compared the regional relationships revealed by the genetic analysis with historical accounts of trade and interactions between Africa and these places to infer the pathways of dispersal.The genetic analysis produced very interesting results. First of all, it showed that the Indian baobabs were the same species as the African species Adansonia digitata, and that there was less genetic diversity in the Indian baobab populations compared to the African populations. This confirmed our hunch that the baobabs had not been in the Indian subcontinent long enough for the populations to diversify, and that their dispersal by ocean currents was less likely than introduction by humans.However, it also showed some of the Indian baobabs had private alleles that were not present in the African populations. This implied that they could have been from other African baobab populations and brought by humans to the subcontinent much earlier than assumed.Our second discovery was that there were multiple introductions of baobabs to the Indian subcontinent, and that these were not from just one, but several biogeographic regions of Africa.Although many of the Indian baobabs showed close relationship with populations from coastal areas of Kenya and Tanzania, there were some that showed closer relationships with baobabs from coastal and inland Mozambique, and also, surprisingly, from West Africa.The third revelation was that baobabs populations in particular places in inland Mozambique and coastal Tanzania belonged to different genetic clusters which meant that they had been brought to these places from elsewhere.Tracing connections and pathwaysWhen we combined these findings with archaeological and historical accounts of Indian Ocean trade, we identified four major periods during which Africans from different regions of that continent would have travelled to the Indian subcontinent and beyond to Southeast Asia.The earliest interactions go back more than 4,000 years ago, when African cereal and legume crops arrived in India from Sudan, Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa.The subsequent expansion of the Indian Ocean trade between Africa and India occurred through Swahili-Arab networks. The arrival of the Portuguese and the establishment of their colonial bases in Mozambique and western and southern India contributed to new flows of Africans between these places.And finally, we found that during the 18th and 19th centuries, the English and Dutch colonial authorities recruited soldiers from West Africa for regiments in southern India and Southeast Asia.In addition to this combined genetic-historical analysis, we found that the cultural practices and beliefs associated with baobabs in particular places in India showed striking similarity with those from specific regions of eastern and southern Africa.This led us to the marvelous realization that the geographical distribution of baobabs in the Indian subcontinent are living reminders of the long history of African diaspora across the Indian Ocean.We hope that when The Little Prince comes back for a visit from asteroid B612, we’ll be there to assure him that baobabs are the most wonderful trees on Earth and, if you sit by their side and listen carefully, they’ll tell you stories of people who have been forgotten in history books.– The Conversation. 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New York New York – Reported by Elite Traveler t

first_imgNew York, New York – Reported by Elite Traveler, the private jet lifestyle magazineA watch for Gentlemen. GRAHAM’s passion for refined details usually leads to admirable creations. But the genius of watch making science lies in its ability to create simple timepieces from the most complicated mechanism. GRAHAM has developed a graceful unique chronograph which brings its fundamental watch making developments and British touch of style together. Knot your tie with a Windsor knot and let’s discover the craftsmanship of GRAHAM’s legacy.A turning point where things began to change for people. The BBC was created and the first TV broadcasts started. The use of media as entertainment became common. The Graf Zeppelin operated transatlantic passenger flights between Britain and North America. 1930s also saw the creation of the jet engine by the Englishman, Frank Whittle and tea bags! People definitely needed to have something which would help them to open up to this new world and fulfill their thirst for knowledge and beautiful machinery.GRAHAM made its new Chronofighter 1695 a timeless watch making instrument. An automatic 42 mm chronograph powered by a sophisticated Swiss movement. The minutes counter is placed at 6 o’clock and the date at 3 o’clock, a distinctive GRAHAM disposition. In keeping with Gentlemen’s taste for style, we have also chosen to crown the watch with a pink gold case (18K). The pink gold (18K) case back is elaborately hand-engraved with the Greenwich Royal Observatory as a tribute to the early life of George Graham, the official watchmaker of this important British Institution. The case back also features a sapphire aperture on the balance wheel and the escapement. An homage to “Honest George”, the father of the chronograph and creator of simplified escapements which are the ancestor of the Swiss modern escapement. Elegant and distinctive.The thirties saw a proliferation of new technologies in all domains. But the most conclusive is certainly the lever which was originally used in aviation and early car racing. The renowned GRAHAM start and stop system is naturally present on the left side of the case to be activated by the thumb. The silver-white dial is finely-worked and is domed to recall the 30s style. Minimalistic and efficient.The Chronofighter 1695 has been made for all Gentlemen adventurers with pure GRAHAM DNA. Main features also include: 42 mm pink gold (18K) case, caliber G1745, automatic chronograph, 25 jewels, 28’800 A/h (4Hz), Incabloc shock absorber, 48 hours power reserve, domed sapphire crystal with antireflective coating on both faces, pink gold (18K) case back with Greenwich Observatory hand engraved and sapphire aperture on the balance wheel, brown crocodile strap.GRAHAM traces its origins to London clockmaker George Graham (1673-1751) who is considered as the father of modern watch making. He is known as the father of the chronograph as he invented the start and stop device of the chronograph. The dead-beat and cylinder escapement, the mercury pendulum to compensate the influence of temperature on pendulums, to name a few. He also built the master clock for Greenwich Royal Observatory which timed most of the 18th century and lots of science instruments for astronomers and physicists. GRAHAM was revived in 1995 and is today a privately owned Swiss watch company. GRAHAM SA creates and manufactures its watches in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland.www.graham-london.comlast_img read more