James K. Munene

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Michigan, Ann Arbor, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 10137

Approve Date

April 8, 2021

Project Title

Munene, James (Michigan, Ann Arbor, U. of) "The Ecological Context of Modern Human Evolution During the Middle Stone Age in Central Rift Valley, Kenya"

Studies on the behavioral and biological evolution of modern humans in Africa are centered on the Middle Stone Age (MSA), with East Africa at center stage. However, the rarity of well-stratified, datable sites and high-resolution, site-specific paleoenvironmental reconstructions have impeded our understanding of the ecological contexts in which East African members of our species evolved. My research aims at reconstructing Late Quaternary paleoenvironments and chronologies in the Central Rift Valley, Kenya, and assessing diachronic changes in lithic chronology that suggest increasing adaptability to shifting resource availabilities locally. I will further determine whether and how ranging patterns and exchange networks differ during arid and humid periods within the MSA. This will be achieved through the excavation of two deeply stratified, datable sequences at Ilkek and Malewa River Gorge sites, north of Lake Naivasha. Lithics, fossil fauna, phytoliths, pollen grains, and stable isotopes from paleosols and soil carbonates from the sites will be analyzed, and obsidian sourcing studied using a portable XRF analyzer carried out. Data yielded from this research will contribute knowledge on whether and how environmental changes precipitated innovation and enhanced adaptive plasticity during the behavioral evolution of our species.