Elizabeth Anne Sawchuk
Grant TypePost PhD Research Grant
Institutional AffiliationNew York, Stony Brook, State U. of
Grant numberGr. 9745
Approve DateOctober 23, 2018
Project TitleSawchuk, Dr. Elizabeth A., Stony Brook U., Stony Brook, NY - To aid research on 'Frontier Dynamics Across Turkana: Tracing the Social Lives and Deaths of Eastern Africa's First Herders'
ELIZABETH A. SAWCHUK, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, New York, was awarded funding in October 2018 to aid research on “Frontier Dynamics Across Turkana: Tracing the Social Lives and Deaths of Eastern Africa’s First Herders.” The first herders in eastern Africa constructed elaborate “pillar site” cemeteries around Lake Turkana approximately 5000 years ago as the environment transformed and the economy shifted from foraging to herding. Pillar sites represent the earliest monumental architecture in sub-Saharan Africa, and raise many questions about early herder social structure and the initial development of pastoralism in the region. The two earliest pillar sites — Jarigole and Lothagam North — are key to understanding the underlying social, cultural, and biological forces that led to their creation during this time of profound change. Previous excavations revealed these places to be communal cemeteries created by early herders, where men, women, and children were interred with elaborate ornaments, Nderit pottery, and zoomorphic artifacts. However, many questions remained about architectural, material cultural, and biological-mortuary similarities between the sites, in part because of shallow excavations at Jarigole. New excavations at the site in 2019 resolved major queries about Jarigole’s construction and use, but raised other questions about mortuary patterns and biological and cultural relationships around (or across) the lake. This research paves the way for new investigations into early mobile pastoralists in eastern Africa and the way this frontier developed and was experienced by people transitioning to food production.