The origins of Kenaf

Kenaf, according to Murdoc, was domesticated in 3500 B.C. in Nuclear Mande, an agricultural region of Western Africa where agriculture developed independently from Egyptian farming. Indeed, in Egypt, as of 5000 B.C., they had obtained the first domesticated species - vegetable and animal - by migration from the hilly regions of Central Iraq. While the utilization of kenaf originated in Western Africa north of the equator, it is more difficult for researchers to identify the origin of the species. There are three African areas where wild forms are found:

  • the upper valleys of the Niger and Bani: this is the area nearest the centre of domestication;
  • the Angolan territory, which has the most primitive species. From here the species is believed to have migrated eastwards to then re-enter in the west, after passing the damp tropical band, representing a natural barrier for direct north-south migrations and/or vice versa;
  • the territory of Tanzania: from here kenaf could have migrated in a south-western direction, toward Angola and in a north-western direction, toward the territory of Nuclear Mande.
Whereas there is no foundation to the hypotheses of an Asian origin of the species since there are no wild species in Asia. The migration toward Asia probably took place together with karkady (hibiscus) by sea or with caravans through the territory of Mesopotamia.
The discovery in this area, by an Italian archaeological mission, of objects made with kenaf fibre that turned out C14 datable to 2400-2800 B.C. seems to confirm this hypothesis.

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Source: "Il kenaf, non solo una nuova materia prima cellulosica" - G. Mignoni