Semaw, Dr. Sileshi, Stone Age Institute, Gosport, IN - To aid the 'Gona Palaeoanthropological Research Project'
DR. SILESHI SEMAW, Stone Age Institute, Gosport, Indiana, was awarded funding in November 2009, to aid the 'Gona Palaeoanthropological Research Project.' The Gona Palaeoanthropological Research Project, Afar, Ethiopia, is known for yielding a large number of stone artifacts and associated fragmentary fossil bones dated to 2.6 Ma, which are the oldest well documented archaeological materials in the world. In part funded by the Wenner-Gren Foundation, the Gona archaeology team continued fieldwork in 2010 and discovered stone artifacts with extraordinary information from newly opened excavations at the site of OGS-7 (in the Ounda Gona South area). The newly excavated stone artifacts include the first hammerstone to ever be found with the earliest archaeological materials dated to 2.6 Ma, more than a dozen cores (some radially-worked), a pick-like core, a large number of débitage (including whole flakes and angular fragments) and associated fragmentary fossil bones. The stone artifacts were recovered within fine-grained sediments and their condition was very fresh. Further, the Gona archaeology team conducted extended systematic surveys in the older deposits dated between 2.6-3.0 Ma to document the presence of any stones/bones modified as a result of hominid activities. The team collected several fossil fauna, but no modified stones/bones were encountered in these deposits. Based on the abundance of archaeological sites documented at 2.6 Ma at Gona and the superior knapping skills shown on the techniques of the manufacture of these artifacts, it is possible that the beginnings of the use of flaked stones may go back further in time, probably as early as 2.9 Ma. The last fossil evidence for Australopithecus afarensis is dated to 2.9 Ma, and it is likely that a new hominid species that evolved after the demise of A. afarensis could have begun manipulating stones, eventually discovering sharp cutting tools from stones probably used for activities related to animal butchery. Recently the Dikika Project (located south of the Gona study area) announced 3.4 Ma fossil bones that the team claims to have been intentionally modified by A. afarensis. However, this claim cannot be scientifically substantiated because it was based on two surface collected bones with no geological context, and with no evidence of a single stone artifact to back it up. In addition, the cutmark evidence from Dikika was challenged, and a number of experts in taphonomy believe that the modifications exhibited on the bones represent evidence that is typical of trampling. Therefore, currently Gona is the only site that has yielded scientifically proven stone artifacts and fossil bones that are the oldest documented in the world.
Tryon, Christian A., U. of Connecticut, Storrs, CT - To aid research on 'The Acheulian to Middle Stone Age Transition in the Southern Kapthurin Formation, Kenya,' supervised by Dr. Sally McBrearty
CHRISTIAN A. TRYON, while a student at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, Connecticut, was awarded a grant in June 2001 to aid research on the Acheulean to Middle Stone Age transition in the southern Kapthurin Formation, Baringo, Kenya, under the supervision of Dr. Sally McBrearty. Excavations at Koimilot (GnJh-74) have revealed two stratified, in situ, early Middle Stone Age (MSA) archaeological assemblages in the southern Kapthurin Formation. Tephrostratigraphic correlation has shown that these assemblages are the youngest known from the formation and overlie a sequence of interstratified Acheulean, Sangoan, and MSA sites dated by 4OArp/39Ar to more than 284,000 years ago. The Kapthurin Formation preserves one of the few well-dated, continuous sedimentary and archaeological sequences appropriate for assessing the nature of the Acheulean-MSA transition, a technological shift reflecting profound behavioral changes in the later middle Pleistocene, the likely time and place of the appearance of modern humans. Preliminary sedimentological data from Koimilot, artifact size and distribution studies, and analysis of refitted flakes suggested an intact flaking floor at Koimilot Locus 1, with hominid activities directed toward raw material acquisition and the production of typically oval flakes by Levallois methods. The stratigraphically younger Koimilot Locus 2 showed a technology that targeted the production of large Levallois points or elongated flakes. These data suggested a diversification during the early MSA of methods initially developed within the local Acheulean. Additional landscape-scale studies of sites and paleoenvironmental features linked through tephrostratigraphic studies were expected to contribute to an understanding of this variability and to facilitate extraregional comparisons of the end of the Acheulean.
Frey, Carol J., U. of Washington, Seattle, WA - To aid research on 'Pastoralism's Ecological Legacy: Zooarchaeological Investigation in the Southwest Cape, South Africa,' supervised by Dr. Donald K. Grayson
CAROL J. FREY, then a student at the University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, was awarded a grant in October 2003 to aid research on 'Pastoralism's Ecological Legacy: Zooarchaeological Investigation in the Southwest Cape, South Africa,' supervised by Dr. Donald K. Grayson. This research used archaeofaunal remains to examine the prehistoric ecological impacts of the introduction of herding in the winter rainfall region of South Africa. Ecologists and conservationists recognize that the shapes and courses of modern ecosystems are plotted by the legacy of prior human land use and by long-term ecological community dynamics. In the Western Cape, already occupied by hunter-gatherers and native wild fauna, sheep (Ovis aries) and cattle (Bos taurus) were introduced between c. 2000 and 1300 years ago. In order to address how this prehistoric introduction of herd animals and herding economies may have affected the landscape, archaeofaunal remains were examined from three well-stratified sites that span the preceding period, as well as the local introduction and the development of pastoralism: Die Kelders, Kasteelberg and Paternoster. Factors relevant to addressing changes in human use of the landscape and changes in the Landscape itself include the types and range of prey taken by humans before and after the arrival of domestic animals, transport decisions, prey demographics, and live condition. Taxon, skeletal element, age-at-death, butchery and taphonomic data were collected for more than 30,000 reptile and mammal remains. Conical bone thickness, a potential indicator of animals' live condition, was recorded using X-ray photography of complete long bones and bone portions. Preliminary results suggest that the introduced domesticates did not directly impact wild populations, but shifts in human landscape use, consequent to the introduction of herding, did have effects on certain native taxa.
Mehari, Asmeret Ghebreigziabiher, U. of Florida, Gainesville, FL - To aid research on 'Decolonizing the Pedagogy of Archaeology in East Africa,' supervised by Dr. Peter R. Schmidt
ASMERET G. MEHARI, then a student at University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, received funding in October 2009 to aid research on 'Decolonizing the Pedagogy of Archaeology in East Africa,' supervised by Dr. Peter R. Schmidt. This dissertation research explores the nature of archaeology in postcolonial East Africa using Tanzania and Uganda as case studies. Its main focus is analyzing the history and development of practicing and teaching archaeology by African scholars. Particularly, it examines what constitutes local archaeological research and how emerging local professionals contribute towards decolonizing archaeology in the region, meaning creating archaeological practices and pedagogies that are liberated and locally relevant. The methods for collecting relevant information include in-depth interviews with archaeologists, students, local communities, and antiquities and museum officials; archival research at university libraries, museums, and national research clearance institutions; participant observation -attending field schools and class-room based lectures, occasionally delivering lectures to undergraduate students, and living with local communities who reside around archaeological sites. Research findings show that most archaeological research is performed under collaborative projects that are mainly run by European-descendant Africanist scholars. Local Ugandan and Tanzanian scholars are most likely to have a profound influence on decolonizing archaeology through their own self-initiated and administrated projects. The contributions of local scholars vary but predominantly their efforts have been directed to the final product of archaeological research - primarily in the rewritings of African history.
Pante, Michael Christopher, Rutgers U., New Brunswick, NJ - To aid 'A Taphonomic Investigation of Vertebrate Fossil Assemblages from Beds III and IV, Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania,' supervised by Dr. Robert J. Blumenschine
MICHAEL C. PANTE, then a student at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey, was awarded funding in May 2007 to aid research on 'A Tophanomic Investigation of Vertebrate Fossil Assemblages from Beds III and IV, Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania,' supervised by Dr. Robert J. Blumenschine. This doctoral project is a comparative and experimental study of fossils from Beds III and IV (1.15-.6 ma), Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania. The goals met were: 1) to carry out experiments designed to address the hydraulic transport of bone fragments created by hominins and carnivores during carcass consumption; and 2) to curate and conduct the first analysis of the Bed III and IV fossil assemblages. Flume experimentation was used to produce a database of over 1800 observations aimed at identifying variables that are associated with the hydraulic transport of individual bone fragments. Initial analyses show that animal size and the dimensions of bone fragments affect the hydraulic potential of specimens. In addition to flume experiments over 100,000 fossils and artifacts stored since the 1960s and 70s were curated and organized. Vertebrate fossils from two sites WK and JK 2 were studied in detail to determine the processes responsible for the modification, transport and deposition of the assemblages. Preliminary analyses based on the incidences of butchery marks and tooth marks indicate both hominins and carnivores contributed to the accumulation of the assemblages. This data will be used to assess the evolution of human carnivory through comparisons with the older FLK 22 site.
Pante, Michael C. 2013. The Larger Mammal Fossil Assemblage from JK2, Bed III, Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania: Implications for the Feeding Behavior of Homo erectus. Journal of Humanj Evolution 64(1):68-82.
Semaw, Dr. Sileshi, Stone Age Institute, Gosport, IN - To aid the 'Gona Palaeoanthropological Research Project'
DR. SILESHI SEMAW, Stone Age Institute, Gosport, Indiana, was awarded a grant in June 2008 to aid the 'Gona Palaeoanthropoligcal Research Project.' The Gona Palaeoanthropological Research Project 2008 field investigations were focused primarily on expanding the excavations opened at two Early Acheulian sites located in the Ounda Gona South (OGS-12) and Busidima North (BSN-17) areas. The OGS12 and BSN17 archaeological sites are estimated between 1.6-1.5 million years (Ma), and both are among the oldest Acheulian sites in Africa (though slightly younger than Konso, from Southern Ethiopia, dated to 1.7 Ma). The archaeology team excavated both sites and retrieved a large number of crudely made handaxes and flaking debris in situ. Further, survey of DAN-5 -- a contemporary Early Acheulian site from Ounda Gona -- yielded two additional hominid molars belonging to an early Homo erectus. A cranium belonging to the same individual, and estimated to 1.6-1.5 Ma, had already been discovered earlier at the site. The geology team sampled dating materials from OGS-12 and BSN-17 and several other Early-Late Pleistocene archaeological sites. Soil carbonates were sampled for paleoenvironmental reconstructions and for V-Th geochronology, and tuffs were collected for refining the age of these archaeological sites with zircon (V-Pb) dating, a new technique promising to yield reliable age estimates for the hominids and artifacts. In addition, more paleomagnetic samples were collected to tighten up the age of several important hominid (Ar. ramidus, 4.5-4.3 Ma) and archaeological sites known at Gona.
Stout, Dietrich, Sileshi Semaw, Michael J. Rogers, Dominique Cauche. 2010. Technological Variation in the Earliest Oldowan from Gona, Afar, Ethiopia. Journal of Human Evolution 58(6):474-491.