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In terms of wild foods, Samburu prohibit the consumption of fish, reptiles, birds, and many game animals, despite knowing they are potentially edible.
Their strongest prohibition, by far, is for elephants, which they regard as similar to human beings (Holtzman also bleed their cattle on occasions and consume the blood immediately or, more rarely, boil it with milk and fat.
Women might also add small amounts of blood to soups or other boiled foods, or boil blood until it congeals.
Today, though, the consumption of blood in Samburu is quite uncommon (Grillo ; 212) writes about a number of pastoralist groups in eastern Africa, including the Samburu, Maasai and Turkana, “milk is the preferred food among all pastoral groups and is the staple when available in sufficient quantity. Milk can constitute up to 90% of calories for some pastoralists during wetter parts of the year (Little ).
A vital question is whether lipid residues can reflect the relative importance of different foodstuffs in ancient communities, particularly in terms of their daily consumption?
Furthermore, can nuances in past people’s dietary habits, such as specific practices of cooking or consuming different foods relating to, for example, taboos in food consumption, daily food practices relating to age or gendered consumption, or the differential use of vessels due to cultural prohibitions, be determined?
A sample of sherds were collected from surface contexts at recently occupied open-air settlement and rockshelter sites whilst simultaneously carrying out ethnoarchaeological field research on Samburu pottery and how its production/use/discard relates to subsistence, mobility, and ideology (Grillo ).
Over the last 70 years, however, there has been a distinct shift away from a diet centred predominantly on the products of their herds, towards a diet that includes much greater reliance on foods previously associated primarily with agricultural populations (Grillo ).
On some better-watered parts of the Lorroki Plateau to the southwest and in the Mbaringon highlands to the northwest, people are almost entirely sedentary and cultivate crops such as maize and beans (see Lesorogol retreat to secluded areas such as rockshelters to roast and, later, make boiled soups from slaughtered cattle.
Surprisingly, a number of vessels from one site, Naiborkeju Hill, were used to process dairy products.
Compound-specific radiocarbon dating of lipids from these sherds suggests that this pottery originated from an earlier period, demonstrating a possible shift in ceramic use by pastoralist communities in this region over time.