Mercader, Dr. Julio, U. of Calgary, Calgary, Canada - To aid research on 'Environmental Primer for the Mozambican Middle Stone Age'
DR. JULIO MERCADER, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada, received funding in April 2011 to aid research on 'Environmental Primer for the Mozambican Middle Stone Age.' This project examines the impact of particular environments on prehistoric cultures as a way to disentangle the early dispersal of our species through central Mozambique. Preliminary work has established the stratigraphic sequence and a framework from which to pursue further investigation in 2012-2014. Excavation will continue at two cave sites to achieve a better understanding of the chronological, stratigraphic, and environmental context of the occupation. These caves are in a region whose palaeoanthropology is currently unknown and they will provide valuable first information on late Pleistocene adaptations in the southern end of the East African Rift System. The planned research focuses on two sites out of very few where there is direct evidence of a tropical wooded palaeoenvironment, as shown by an abundance of opal silica from arboreal plants and faunal remains from wooded-adapted mammals. Opening these field sites to summer courses for North American and Mozambican undergraduates and graduates will facilitate their experiential learning.
Pobiner, Briana L., Rutgers U., New Brunswick, NJ - To aid research on 'Oldowan Hominid Carnivory: Bone Modification Studies at Koobi Fora and Olduvai Gorge,' supervised by Dr. Robert J. Blumenschine
Pobiner, Briana L., Michael J. Rogers, Christopher M. Monahan, and John W.K. Harris. 2008. New Evidence for Hominin Carcass Processing Strategies at 1.5 Ma, Koobi Fora, Kenya. Journal of Human Evolution 55(1):103-130
Barham, Dr. Lawrence S., U. of Bristol, Bristol, United Kingdom - To aid 'Excavation and Dating of the Oldowan Industry in the Luangwa Valley, Zambia'
DR. LAWRENCE S. BARHAM, of the University of Bristol in Bristol, England, received funding in July 2003 to aid excavation and dating of the Oldowan tool industry in the Luangwa Valley, Zambia. The Luangwa rift valley in eastern Zambia is the setting for a five-year archaeological and paleoenvironmental project, the aim of which is to develop a chronology of human use of the valley from the first stone tool makers to the first farmers. Artifacts representing all the major phases of the African Stone Age have been found there, including Oldowan cores and flakes, Acheulean bifaces, Middle Stone Age points, and Late Stone Age microliths, as well as the distinctive geometric rock art of central Africa. Early and later Iron Age settlements have also been located. Archaeologists have not systematically studied the valley, but research elsewhere in Zambia points to the region as a possible refuge for humans during the prolonged arid periods that characterized Pleistocene glacial cycles. The Luangwa River, with its many tributaries, lagoons, and nearby hot springs, may have provided critical food resources for hunter-gatherers throughout the last two million years. One aim of the project is to test this hypothesis by looking for continuity in occupation during known arid phases. The valley also forms a natural corridor linking eastern and southern Africa, making it a likely route of dispersal for early hominids and later humans, including farmers. In this first season, with a team of seven students, Barham sampled six sites covering key periods in the region's prehistory. Specialists from the universities of Lancaster (V. Karloukovski, paleomagnetism) and Edinburgh (W. Phillips, cosmogenic nuclides) took samples for dating.
Soressi, Dr. Marie, U. Bordeaux, Talence, France - To aid research on 'Symbolism and the Pace of Early Behavioral Modernity Development in South Africa, 75,000 years ago'
DR. MARIE SORESSI, of the University of Bordeaux in Talence, France, was awarded a grant in February 2003 to aid research on the pace of development of early behavioral modernity in South Africa and its connection with the appearance of symbolism. Toward this end, Soressi analyzed Middle Stone Age lithic production at the site of Blombos in Western Cape Province. Blombos had earlier yielded several pieces of engraved ocher and a bone tool industry dated to 75,000 b.p. or even older. At Iziko: South Africa Museum in Cape Town in 2003, more than 30,000 artifacts from eleven major stratigraphic units of Blombos were classified, labeled, and analyzed. Some additional collections (three layers from the site of Klasies River Mouth and several open-air Still Bay sites in Western Cape Province) were analyzed to complement the results obtained on Blombos material. The goal of the analysis was to reconstruct the process of production of stone tools, from raw material procurement to last shaping, using the concept of chaîne opératoire. It was expected that when data analysis was completed, Soressi would be able to demonstrate, for the Still Bay stage, a correlation between the scheduling of knapping activities and symbolic behavior as attested by engraved ocher. Such a correlation would favor the inference of a sudden development of behavioral modernity once symbolic behavior such as engraving appeared, and a link in South Africa between full behavioral modernity and anatomically modern humans.
Chazan, Dr. Michael, U. of Toronto, Toronto, Canada - To aid '2012 Meeting of the Society of Africanist Archaeologists,' Victoria College, U. of Toronto, in collaboration with Dr. Susan Pfeiffer.
'The 2012 Meeting of the Society of Africanist Archaeologists (SAfA)'
June 20-23, 2012, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada
Organizers: Dr. Michael Chazan and Dr. Susan Pfeiffer (U. Toronto)
The theme of the SAfA meeting was 'Exploring Diversity, Discovering Connections,' which was carried through in a program featuring over 250 papers and thirty posters highlighting the diversity of African archaeology. One could walk from a discussion of glass trade beads in West Africa to presentations on the dating of Acheulean sites in southern Africa and still find time to hear about the challenges of archaeological training in resource strapped institutions in Central Africa. What was most striking was the vitality of the research described and the openness to discussion both within sessions and most importantly in informal settings. The archaeology of Africa is a vast discipline in which much remains to be learned. The political context of research is often complex and the threats to heritage very real. The 2012 meeting of SAfA helped further dialogue and forging connections among the international community of archaeologists working in Africa.
Villa, Dr. Paola, U. of Colorado Museum, Boulder, CO - To aid research on 'Experimental Replication and Functional Analysis of Still Bay Points from Blombos Cave (South Africa)'
DR. PAOLA VILLA, University of Colorado Museum, Boulder, Colorado, received a grant in October 2008, to aid research on 'Experimental Replication and Functional Analysis of Still Bay Points from Blombos Cave (South Africa).' The main goal of the project was to understand the level of skill in manufacture and use of bifacial points recovered from the Middle Stone Age (c. 75 ka) Still Bay levels at Blombos Cave in South Africa. Experimental knapping and detailed observation of the technical features of the Blombos and experimental points and flakes, using a Leica Multifocus microscope, showed that the Blombos craftsmen used the pressure flaking technique during the final shaping of points made on heat-treated silcrete. Pressure flaking is a technique used by prehistoric knappers to shape stone artifacts by exerting a pressure with a pointed tool near the edge of a worked piece. Application of this innovative technique allowed for a high degree of control during the detachment of individual flakes resulting in thinner, narrower and sharper tips on bifacial points. The earliest previously recorded evidence of pressure flaking comes from the c. 20 ka Solutrean industry of Western Europe. The evidence from Blombos is 55 ka earlier. This is a very significant find. Bifacial technology based on intensive thinning and pressure retouch was a major innovation which allowed Still Bay craftsmen to produce thin and regular foliate points to be used as more effective spear heads for hunting. This technology may have been first invented and used sporadically in Africa before its later widespread adoption in other continents. The result of this work has been published in Science.
Mourre, Vincent, Paola Villa, Christopher S. Henshilwood, 2010. Early Use of Pressure Flaking on Lithic Artifacts at Blombos Cave, South Africa. Science 339: 659-662.
Walshaw, Dr. Sarah Catherine, Simon Fraser U., Burnaby, Canada - To aid research on 'Food Production Viewed from the Fields: Contributions from Swahili Ethnoarchaeology on Pemba Island, Tanzania'
DR. SARAH C. WALSHAW, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, Canada, received a grant in May 2007 to aid research on 'Food Production Viewed from the Fields: Contributions from Swahili Ethnoarchaeology on Pemba Island, Tanzania.' Archaeological plant assemblages from several communities on Pemba Island, Tanzania, contain significant amounts of grain and chaff, suggesting that rice and pearl millet were stored in a largely unprocessed form. Ethnoarchaeological research was undertaken among farming communities on Pemba Island, where rice, sorghum, and pearl millet are farmed using non-mechanized techniques (such as hand-harvesting) to model the small-scale tropical farming systems of the Swahili. Observation of, and participation in, farming on Pemba Island helped explain several patterns seen archaeologically. First, hand harvesting eliminated weeds in the field and may be implicated in the infrequency of weed seeds in ancient houses and middens. Second, grains for food and seed were stored in the house to permit monitoring of amount and condition. Third, grains were reportedly stored in their husks to reduce loss from microbial and insect infestation, pest predation, and human over-use and theft. Labor constraints also posed significant pressures in this household-based agricultural economy, leading harvesters to spread the arduous tasks of processing throughout the year -- small amounts of grain were processed for each day's meal as required. This study demonstrates some of the agricultural and social motives for household-based agricultural practices, and provides a model for interpreting archaeobotanical patterns evident in ancient small-scale rice and millet farming systems.
Walshaw, Sarah, 2010. Converting to rice: urbanization, Islamization and crops on Pemba Island, Tanzania, AD 700-1500. World Archaeology 42:(1) 137-154.