Njau, Jackson K., Rutgers U., New Brunswick, NJ -
To aid research on 'Vertebrate Taphonomy and Paleoecology of Lake-Margin Wetlands during Oldowan Times in Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania,' supervised by Dr. Robert J. Blumenschine
JACKSON K. NJAU, while a student at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, received an award December 2001 to aid research on the vertebrate taphonomy and paleoecology of lake-margin wetlands during Oldowan times in Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania, under the supervision of Dr. Robert J. Blumenschine. Njau's objective was to develop ecological models of landscape facets as they pertained to early hominids and large wetland vertebrate fauna during the Plio-Pleistocene at Olduvai Gorge. The ultimate goal was to understand the ecological contexts in which the behaviors of stone-tool-using human ancestors evolved. Studying the feeding behavior of captive crocodiles and their consumption of large mammalian carcasses, Njau developed basic taphonomic guidelines for distinguishing the effects of crocodilians from those of large terrestrial carnivores in bone accumulations. He also studied large-vertebrate bone assemblages on modern wetland land surfaces in Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, and Lakes Manyara and Eyasi. Systematic and intensive bone surveys were carried out at a very fine landscape scale in order to match environmental settings that might have existed in ancient Olduvai lake deposits, where unusually rich paleontological and archaeological material has been collected. Modern analog studies provided a useful tool in developing techniques for identifying the taphonomic characteristics of landscape sub-environments for application to prehistoric landscapes.
Njau, Jackson K., and Leslea J. Hlusko. 2010. Fine-Tuning Paleoanthropological Reconnaissance with High-Resolution Satellite Imager: The Discovery of 28 New Sites in Tanzania. Journal of Human Evolution 59(6):680-684.
Njau, Jackson K., and Robert J. Blumenschine. 2006. A diagnosis of crocodile feeding traces on larger mammal bone, with fossil examples from the Plio-Pleistocene Olduvai Basin, Tanzania. Journal of Human Evolution 50 (2006): 142-162
Semaw, Dr. Sileshi, Stone Age Institute, Gosport, IN - To aid the 'Gona Palaeoanthropological Research Project'
DR. SLESHI SEMAW, Stone Age Institute, Gosport, Indiana, was awarded funding in October 2006 to aid the 'Gona Palaeoanthropological Research Project.' The timing and context of early hominid technological leap from the Oldowan to the Acheulian Industry in Africa is among the least understood questions in paleoanthropology. The Oldowan-Acheulian transition marks the first time that our ancestors created tools (handaxes, cleavers, picks, etc.) that probably required a preconception of form before their manufacture. This transition is poorly known, though, because of the paucity of well-dated Acheulian sites that are older than 1.4 million years old (Ma). Preliminary investigations in East Africa suggest that the Acheulian appeared about 1.7 Ma, and probably coincided with the expansion of Homo erectus into areas unoccupied by earlier hominids. However, the emergence of the Acheulian at ~1.7-1.6- Ma has yet to be unambiguously demonstrated both archaeologically and geologically. Our systematic archaeological investigations at Gona are now beginning to yield important clues to answer some of these questions. The recent systematic surveys and excavations at Gona have produced fossil hominids and Early Acheulian artifacts that are ~1.6 Ma. Two Early Acheulian sites (OGS-12 and BSN-17) have been excavated yielding a high density of large flakes and crudely-made bifaces, and débitage estimated to ~1.6 Ma. The presence of a thick Plio-Pleistocene sequence at Gona has provided an opportunity to assess if any lithic assemblages existed to mark the Oldowan-Acheulian transition. There are no lithic assemblages that are attributable to the 'Developed Oldowan,' and the evidence from Gona appears to favor a rapid technological transition from the Oldowan (Mode I) to the Acheulian technology (Mode II) ~1.7-1.6 Ma. While there is some evidence of African climate change about 1.8-1.7 Ma, there is no clear link between environmental change and the origins of Homo erectus or the Acheulian.
Thompson, Dr. Jessica Corrine, U. of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia - To aid research on 'Testing Models of Middle Stone Age Site Formation, Technological Change, and Response to Climatic Variability'
DR. JESSICA C. THOMPSON, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia, was awarded a grant in April 2012 to aid research on 'Testing Models of Middle Stone Age Site Formation, Technological Change, and Response to Climatic Variability.' An important issue within human origins research is how quickly modern behavioral complexity emerged within the African Middle Stone Age (MSA - ca. 465-30ka). Another question is how extreme 'megadroughts' near Lake Malawi, central Africa, affected resident MSA populations. Resolving these issues in tandem requires the development of a long archaeological sequence of MSA behavior on the landscape adjacent to the lake. This project recovered over 15,000 stone artefacts and samples from the Chaminade West (CHA-W) locality in northern Malawi. CHA-W contains both Middle and Later Stone Age deposits within a continuous sequence of alluvial sand. The site shows variability in artefact types, raw materials, and intensity of occupation over time. It also shows occupation near a stream channel that may have attracted MSA people to the spot, compared to a site one kilometer to the east where most MSA artefacts are concentrated at a single horizon and no stream activity is evident. Dating of the landscape indicates that the sediments (and archaeological materials within them) began to accumulate more than 100ka and continued into the Holocene, leaving an excellent record of human occupation, adaptation, and abandonment in this part of central Africa.
Engmann, Dr. Rachel Ama Asaa, Hampshire College, Amherst, MA - To aid research on ''Slavers in the Family': The Archaeology of the Slaver in Eighteenth Century Gold Coast'
Preliminary abstract: 'Slavers In the Family': The Archaeology of the Slaver in the Eighteenth Century Gold Coast is a study of Christiansborg Castle, a seventeenth century European colonial trading castle. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the castle is also a former Danish and British colonial seat of government administration, and until recently, the Office of the President of the Republic of Ghana. This research employs monuments, material culture and museum narratives to study race, ethnicity, class, gender, power and social inequality, alongside memory and amnesia, and their effects on nation building, development and heritage. In a wider context, this research addresses the visual, material and extra-discursive forms of the triple legacies of the slave trade, colonialism and independence, as a strategy for understanding the complexities of the politics of the past in the present.
Ferraro, Joseph, U. of California, Los Angeles, CA - To aid research on 'The Late Pliocene Zooarchaeology of Kanjera South, Southwestern Kenya,' supervised by Dr. Thomas W. Plummer
JOSEPH FERRARO, while a student at the University of California in Los Angeles, California, received funding in February 2002 to aid research on the late Pliocene zooarchaeology of Kanjera South, southwestern Kenya, under the supervision of Dr. Thomas W. Plummer. A consideration of sampling biases (spatial, temporal, ecological, and numeric) suggested that in the past, researchers likely underestimated the behavioral variability expressed by Oldowan hominins. To assess the full range of Oldowan hominin behaviors requires the comparative analysis of a number of excavated Oldowan assemblages distributed across time and space, representing a wide range of ecological conditions and possessing well-preserved faunas. The late Pliocene locality of Kanjera South contributes toward meeting this requirement. Its assemblages represent the only sizable, well-preserved Oldowan faunas so far recovered outside of Olduvai Gorge, and preliminary geochemical and paleontological analyses strongly suggest that the assemblages formed in an open grassland, a habitat distinct from those of other Oldowan occurrences. Ferraro conducted a zooarchaeological study of the excavated vertebrate fauna of Kanjera South, focusing especially on issues of predation pressures and foraging ecologies. His preliminary results strongly suggested that Oldowan hominins at Kanjera behaved in a way dissimilar to that frequently reported at the penecontemporaneous Oldowan locality of FLK Zinj in Olduvai Gorge.
Jillani, Mr. Ngalla Edward, National Museums of Kenya, Nairobi, Kenya - To aid conference on 'Towards Understanding Palaeoenvironment during the First 'Out of Africa,' ' 2006, National Museums, in collaboration with Dr. Fredrick Kyala Manthi
Geo-environmental conditions may have triggered migrations at various times in the last 3 million years ago. Physical human factors and the environment can also trigger movement both at local and continental scale. Ecology and behaviour of a dispersing species becomes more variable as novel environments are settled and no close competitors are encountered. Adaptability, key factor to an organism's ability to endure change, thrive and spread to new environments rather than climatic shift and expansion of grasslands may explain success of early Homo in its novel environments. Ubeidiya, with Mediterranean-type of environmental setting contrary to woody savannahs earlier interpreted for the initial stages of exodus, may mean that ecological success of hominins dispersing out of Africa should be sought in intrinsic characters rather than their adaptation to Savanna grasslands. Migration to another continent represents a radical departure into the unknown and usually follows easiest routes to regain known conditions. Foreign environments are colonized only if known habitats are completely destroyed till there is nothing to live on. Considerable changes in faunas during early Pleistocene in East Africa saw Primates and Carnivores experiencing increase in speciation and extinction rates. Ecosystems re-organization in the region's basins potentially encouraged dispersion through search of new resources and increased inter and intra specific population competition. Anatomical and behavioural evidences point to first migration by Homo into Eurasia from Africa about 1.7 million years ago (ma) at 3 km per generation. This quick successful dispersal and colonization possibly took place via the Levant, Sinai Peninsula, Afar triangle into the Arabian peninsular or the strait of Bab al Mandab. Brain size and specialized technology seem to have conferred less advantage despite the latter's considered significance in hominid evolution. High hominid variability evident in Dmanisi and Turkana basin imply that those penetrating new environments and colonizing new lands were experiencing ecological release, key to behavioural changes. An endemic species, Homo australis, colonized South Africa and highly probably Homo erectus/ergaster never did. To create a clearer out of Africa picture, more field research works be directed to areas not extensively worked, combining theoretical and methodological themes in the field, tease out stress driven markers in teeth to decipher environmental/ecological stresses, consider exodus as a process therefore work towards predictive models by considering short time intervals and finally encourage active collaborative data exchange among researchers in all regions.
Ogundiran, Dr. Akinwumi, Florida International U., Miami, FL - To aid research on 'The Incorporation of Yoruba Hinterland into the Atlantic Economy: Archaeology and Historical Ethnography in Upper Osun'