Isis Isabella Mesfin

Grant Type

Post PhD Research Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Museum National D'Histoire Naturelle

Grant number

Gr. 10577

Approve Date

September 29, 2023

Project Title

Mesfin, Isis (Museum National D'Histoire Naturelle, Paris, France) "PRE-LUNDA Project, Angola : Ecology of Middle Stone Age hunter-gatherers in the Congo Basin"

For over a century, the scientific narrative surrounding Pleistocene human cultures in the Congo Basin has been dominated by an outdated evolutionary perspective known as the “Forest Hypothesis”. This theory posits that hunter-gatherers have progressively adapted to the equatorial forests since the Middle Stone Age (MSA) Lupemban techno-culture, dating back 250,000 years. However, recent advances in our understanding of forest environments and human evolution have exposed the shortcomings of this hypothesis and points toward a necessary revision. Concurrently, the Lunda-Norte Province of Angola has played a crucial role in the development of the “Forest Hypothesis” by figures such as Breuil, Leakey, and Desmond Clark. Through an interdisciplinary approach, PRE-LUNDA aims to revise this outdated hypothesis by: – exploring the complex relationship between mining in the Congo Basin and human evolution science during colonial times, – excavating the MSA Lupemban site of Balabala, which has not been studied by archaeologists in over 60 years thanks to well-established relationships with Angolan museums, – testing the Ecological Niche Modification hypothesis for the first time in the Congo Basin.