Alison Melville

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Connecticut, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 9381

Approve Date

October 13, 2016

Project Title

Melville, Alison F., U. of Connecticut, Storrs, CT - To aid research on 'Structure and Variability in Lithic Technology in the East African Middle Stone Age,' supervised by Dr. Sally McBrearty

ALISON F. MELVILLE, then a graduate student at University of Connecticut, Storrs, Connecticut, received a grant in October 2016 to aid research on “Structure and Variability in Lithic Technology in the East African Middle Stone Age,” supervised by Dr. Sally McBrearty. Hominin populations during the African Middle Stone Age (MSA) exhibit an unprecedented range of technological and behavioral variability. This period also spans the origin of our species and our dispersals within and out of Africa. The MSA of East Africa, however, appears to lack the distinct, temporally constrained techno-cultural patterning present in South Africa. Spatial and temporal patterns are instead ambiguous or overly generalized, as are explanations of the mechanisms that underlie the observed variability. This dissertation quantitatively tests for patterning in the East African MSA using multivariate analyses of lithic attribute data. Data were collected from fourteen open-air assemblages in Kenya and Ethiopia representing varied raw materials and paleo-environments. Multivariate statistical analysis grounded in robust middle-range theory can identify clusters of knapping decisions that structure lithic variability in the MSA. The project also explores underlying drivers shaping this variability—cultural transmission and drift, environment, raw material, and reduction intensity. Cultural transmission of lithic behaviors can act as a proxy for the degree of social interaction between Pleistocene groups. By incorporating cultural transmission in systematic tests of lithic variability, this dissertation will result in more comprehensive understanding of technological flexibility and the evolutionary relationships of MSA hominins.