Prendergast, Dr. Mary E., St. Louis U. in Madrid, Madrid, Spain; and Mabulla, Dr. Audax, U .of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania - To aid collaborative research on 'Archaeological Investigation of a 'Moving Frontier' of Early Herding in Northern Tanzania'
Preliminary Abstract: This project aims to understand the spread of herding and impacts on foragers in eastern Africa ca. 3000 years ago. Sites with so-called 'Pastoral Neolithic' ceramics, often associated with remains of livestock in Kenya, are found in an area stretching from the Serengeti to the Rift Valley in northern Tanzania. This poorly documented area is usually thought to mark the southern 'boundary' of early pastoralism. The existence and implications of this boundary have not been questioned, and it might be more appropriately thought of as a 'frontier' that may shift, dissolve or solidify depending on the nature of forager-food producer relationships. Thus sites in this area are ideal testing grounds for anthropological theories regarding such contact. We explore the 'moving frontier' of herding through systematic surveys and test excavations in the Manyara and Engaruka basins of the Rift Valley. We aim to: understand how land use varied according to subsistence strategy; refine the local chronology for early herding; examine claims for contact among Rift Valley populations; and elucidate the relationship, if any, between material culture and subsistence. The team includes specialists from Tanzania, Europe and the US who will train Tanzanian students in field methods and materials analyses.
Bernatchez, Jocelyn Anna, Arizona State U., Tempe, AZ - To aid research on 'The Role of Ochre in the Development of Modern Human Behavior: A Case Study from South Africa,' supervised by Dr. Curtis W. Marean
JOCELYN A. BERNATCHEZ, then a student at Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona, received a grant in October 2010 to aid research on 'The Role of Ochre in the Development of Modern Human Behavior: A Case Study from South Africa,' supervised by Dr. Curtis W. Marean. The presence of ochre in Middle Stone Age (MSA ~250-40ka) sites in southern Africa is often proposed as evidence for symbolism and early modern human behavior. However, there is significant debate about the uses of ochre in the past and whether symbolism is the most appropriate explanation for its presence in these sites. This project focused on the following research question: Within the MSA sites at Pinnacle Point, South Africa, is ochre evidence for symbolic behavior, or were more utilitarian activities involving ochre taking place? Several aspects of the record were studied to test these questions, including geological survey and sourcing attempts of archaeological samples. The acquisition of ochre is typically a highly ritualized activity for recent hunter-gatherer groups when compared to the exploitation of other non-symbolically loaded raw materials (such as stone). An exploitation pattern focusing primarily on distant sources rather than closer sources or a pattern focused on a few deposits when many are available may be suggestive of some symbolic meaning. Twenty-four ochre sources were identified. Using Particle Induced X-Ray Emission (PIXE), it was possible to identify a possible preference for the ochre at one source located approximately 19km from Pinnacle Point.
Stewart, Dr. Brian Alfred, U. of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom - To aid research on 'The Middle Stone Age of the Lesotho Highlands'
DR. BRIAN AL. STEWART, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom, was awarded a grant in May 2010 to aid research on 'The Middle Stone Age of the Lesotho Highlands.' An understanding of the diversity of early modern human adaptations is compromised by a geographical research bias towards the southern African coasts. This project redresses this by exploring high-altitude landscape use by Middle Stone Age societies in highland Lesotho. The project's mainstays are targeted excavations at two large rockshelters: Melikane and Sehonghong. Wenner-Gren funding supported a series of key scientific analyses on aspects of the sedimentary sequence at Melikane. This helped establish the basic processes responsible for forming this sequence, when these processes occurred and the environmental conditions during these times. The results suggest that although a highly complex interplay of natural and cultural agents generated this sequence, four main depositional types can be distinguished on a sedimentological basis. Human occupation at Melikane occurred in relatively short bursts at 83,000 years ago (ka), 60ka, 50ka, 46-38ka, 24ka, 9ka, 3ka, and several hundred years ago. Wood charcoals from human fires and the isotopic signatures of the sediments show the environment was colder and typically drier than present-day, though it appears the local river was always capable of supporting water-loving trees and shrubs. One hypothesis is that the reliable freshwater provided by the mountains attracted humans to the area during especially dry periods.
Chemere, Dr. Yonatan Sahle, U. of California, Berkeley, CA - To aid research on 'A Closer Investigation of Early Complex Projectile Technologies at Porc-Epic Cave and Aduma, Ethiopia'
Preliminary abstract: Complex projectiles (i.e. those delivered using a mechanical propeller) provide broader lethal ranges than throwing spears (i.e. 'simple' projectiles). They are therefore considered decisive for the successful adaptation and dispersal of modern humans during the Upper Pleistocene. The identification of such mechanically projected weapons in deep antiquity has proven difficult, as conclusive evidence indicating the mode of weapon delivery is as yet lacking from the African Middle Stone Age (MSA). Based on indirect evidence, archaeologists suggest that complex projectiles were already used in Africa by 100-50 kya. Suggestions from the Ethiopian MSA sites of Porc-Epic Cave and Aduma particularly derive from several hundred stone points that may have been used to tip arrows and/or darts. However, these inferences rely only on shape, weight, and/or retouch attributes of the stone points, informing on potential (rather than actual) use of the points as complex projectile tips. Considering their adaptive and cognitive implications, an exhaustive investigation of the origin of complex projectiles in Africa remains crucial. With the application of multiple approaches, including the non-subjective fracture velocity method, this study seeks to assess whether some of the MSA stone points from Porc-Epic Cave and Aduma represent early complex projectiles.
Waweru, Dr. Veronica Njoki, Stony Brook U., Stony Brook, NY - To aid research on 'Chronology of Holocene Innovations and Inventions in West Turkana, Kenya'
Preliminary abstract: The Turkana Basin in northwest Kenya is a key area for important innovations and inventions in the Holocene. Here, at least a dozen excavated sites indicate that early fisher/hunters living along the shores of the large Lake used bone harpoons for fishing, made pottery and buried their dead in cemeteries. These groups, or new immigrants later adopted domestic stock and build pillars sites on the eastern, southern and western sides of Lake Turkana. The Basin also serves as a gateway through which domestic stock and intensely decorated ceramic wares are introduced to areas in the south. Research work between the 1960s and early 1980s produced modest data, including apatite and shell based dates that are today regarded as unreliable. The investigation proposed here focuses on the dating of early to mid Holocene innovations and inventions in the Kalokol-Lodwar-Lothagam triangle in west of Lake Turkana, Kenya. The proposed study area has both previously excavated and newly discovered sites with disparate functions and located in diverse paleohabitats during the early to mid Holocene. It offers an opportunity to apply newer methods of dating, assess the validity of >50 previously obtained dates and provide a timeline for Holocene innovations in an African context.
Kent, Dr. Susan, Old Dominion U., Norfolk, VA - To aid research on 'Spatial Patterning at a Middle Stone Age Site, South Africa'
DR. SUSAN KENT, of Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, received funding in April 2002 to aid research on spatial patterning at a Middle Stone Age site in South Africa. New evidence of the origins of modern human behavior and thought was gained from excavations and analyses conducted at Bethal, an open-air site in eastern Free State. The geology demonstrated that the site was a habitation rather than a special-purpose occupation and that it was spatially intact. Phytolith data indicated that the Middle Stone Age hominids occupied a grassland in what the geology suggested was a warmer and more mesic climate than today's. Judging from the stratigraphy, such climatic conditions occurred during the interglacial around 100,000 years ago. The spatial patterning of objects at the site revealed the use of multipurpose activity areas. This use of discrete activity areas contradicts research from Middle Stone Age rock-shelter sites in the same region. The Bethal activity areas, along with a storage cache of scrapers, are hallmarks of behavioral and intellectual modernity. However, the presence of a large amount of lithic shatter resulting from the breakage of raw materials inappropriate for flaking suggested that the selection of raw materials was not as sophisticated as is common for modern hominids. Although more research is needed, the site so far reveals an interesting mixture of modern and premodern human behavior and intellect.
Prendergast, Mary Elizabeth, Harvard U., Cambridge, MA - To aid research on 'Forager Variability on the Eve of Food Production: Kansyore Subsistence Strategies in Kenya and Tanzania,' supervised by Dr. Richard Henry Meadow
MARY E. PRENDERGAST, then a student at Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, was awarded a grant in April 2006 to aid research on 'Forager Variability on the Eve of Food Production: Kansyore Subsistence Strategies in Kenya and Tanzania,' supervised by Dr. Richard Henry Meadow. This research involved excavation and/or analysis of seven archaeological sites in western Kenya and northern Tanzania, dated to 8,000-1,200 years ago. The common link between these sites, despite spanning a large geographic area and nearly seven millennia, is that they contain a pottery tradition called Kansyore. Kansyore ceramics have been postulated by others to be associated with 'delayed-return' hunter-gatherers, who should have differed markedly from 'immediate-return' hunter-gatherers known from modern ethnographies. The primary research goal was to test this hypothesis by using animal bone remains to understand diet. The surprising results show that, while the occupants of Kansyore sites in western Kenya were indeed specialized (and probably moderately delayed-return) fisher-hunters, they were also the first to adopt herding in this area. This contradicts assumptions that new ceramic traditions and domestic animals entered the region together. The northern Tanzanian sites produced a more complex picture, in which hunter-gatherers and herders appear to have lived side-by-side ca. 2000-1200 BP, using the hill and lakeshore landscapes differently. At two of these sites, ceramic traditions usually linked to herders are found associated with the remains of wild animals, suggesting that we must decouple conventional associations between material culture and economy.
Beyin, Dr. Amanuel Yosief, Stony Brook U., Stony Brook, NY - To aid research on 'Archaeological Exploration of Early Holocene Sites in West Lake Turkana'
DR. AMANUEL BEYIN, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, New York, received funding in May 2010, to aid research on 'Archaeological Exploration of Early Holocene Sites in West Lake Turkana, Northern Kenya.' The fieldwork, which was carried out between October and November 2010, resulted in the discovery of ten sites on broad landscape contexts. The main cultural finds at the sites include lithic artifacts, pottery, and harpoon points. Faunal assemblages representing terrestrial and aquatic species (dominantly fish) were also found at the sites. Harpoon points and fish bones clearly suggest human consumption of aquatic resources. Out of the ten registered sites, two were test excavated. One of the excavated sites (Kokito) produced secured radiocarbon dates ranging 11,217-10,227 years before present. The discovery of sites dating to this time range from west Turkana suggests that the Turkana shorelines served as an important habitat for human survival in the early Holocene (12,000-7000 years ago). In documenting several new sites, the project has made an important contribution to the later prehistoric archaeology of the Turkana Basin, a region that had seen little prior research on this period. The Kokito date is the oldest secured radiometric date so far recorded for early Holocene sites in the entire Hasin.