Isis Isabella Mesfin
Grant TypePost PhD Research Grant
Institutional AffiliationMuseum National D'Histoire Naturelle
Grant numberGr. 10577
Approve DateSeptember 29, 2023
Project TitleMesfin, 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a century, the scientific narrative surrounding Pleistocene human cultures in the Congo Basin has been dominated by an outdated evolutionary perspective known as the “Forest Hypothesis”.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 Through an interdisciplinary approach, PRE-LUNDA aims to revise this outdated hypothesis by: – exploring the complex relationship between mining in the Congo Basin and human evolution science during colonial times, – excavating the MSA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.