Kent, Dr. Susan, Old Dominion U., Norfolk, VA - To aid research on 'Spatial Patterning at a Middle Stone Age Site, South Africa'
DR. SUSAN KENT, of Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, received funding in April 2002 to aid research on spatial patterning at a Middle Stone Age site in South Africa. New evidence of the origins of modern human behavior and thought was gained from excavations and analyses conducted at Bethal, an open-air site in eastern Free State. The geology demonstrated that the site was a habitation rather than a special-purpose occupation and that it was spatially intact. Phytolith data indicated that the Middle Stone Age hominids occupied a grassland in what the geology suggested was a warmer and more mesic climate than today's. Judging from the stratigraphy, such climatic conditions occurred during the interglacial around 100,000 years ago. The spatial patterning of objects at the site revealed the use of multipurpose activity areas. This use of discrete activity areas contradicts research from Middle Stone Age rock-shelter sites in the same region. The Bethal activity areas, along with a storage cache of scrapers, are hallmarks of behavioral and intellectual modernity. However, the presence of a large amount of lithic shatter resulting from the breakage of raw materials inappropriate for flaking suggested that the selection of raw materials was not as sophisticated as is common for modern hominids. Although more research is needed, the site so far reveals an interesting mixture of modern and premodern human behavior and intellect.
Minichillo, Thomas J., U. of Washington, Seattle, WA - To aid research on 'Middle Stone Age Lithic Study, South Africa,' supervised by Dr. Angela E. Close
THOMAS J. MINICHILLO, then a student at the University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, received funding in May 2002 to aid research on 'Middle Stone Age Lithic Study, South Africa,' supervised by Dr. Angela E. Close. The Middle Stone Age began around 300,000 years ago and continued to around 35,000 years ago in Africa. During this period anatomically modern humans emerged in Africa. Also during this period increasingly sophisticated technological innovations and the earliest evidence for symbolic thought entered into the archaeological record. All of these events are critical for our understanding of modern human origins. The research funded focused on the lithic technology of the Middle Stone Age from the Cape coast of southern Africa and presents new data from the region, helping to place this important period of our evolution in context. It was found, through the use of innovative methods and previously unreported curated assemblages that, during the Still Bay sub-stage, stylistic boundaries are apparent in the stone tools at the same time as the earliest recorded instances of worked ochre and shell beads. As this socially constructed bounding co-occurs with the earliest evidence for symbolic thought and personal adornment in the global archaeological record, it suggests that at least by this time, 74,000 BP, Homo sapiens in southern Africa were behaving in thoroughly modern ways. This overturns one of the widely held explanations for modern human origins, the Neural Advance Model.
Minichillo, Tom. 2006. Raw Material Use and Behavioral Modernity: Howiesons Poort Lithic Foraging Strategies. Journal of Human Evolution 50(3):359-364.
Minichillo, Tom. 2007. Early Marine Resources and Pigment in South Africa during the Middle Pleistocene. Nature 449:905-909
Bird, Catherine, Tom Minichillo, and Curtis W. Marean. 2007. Edge Damage Distribution at the Assemblage Level on Middle Stone Age Lithics: An Image-based GIS Approach. Journal of Archaeological Science 34:771-780.
Thompson, Erin, Hope M. Williams, and Tom Minichillo. 2010. Middle and La Pleistoncene Middle Stone Age Lithic Technology from Pinnacle Point 13B (Mossel Bay, Western Cape Province, South Africa). Journal of Human Evolution 59(3-4):358-377.
Apoh, Ray W., State U. of New York, Binghamton, NY - To aid 'The Akpinis and the Echoes of German and British Colonial Overrule: An Archaeological Investigation of Kpando, Ghana,' supervised by Dr. Ann Stahl
RAY WAZI APOH, then a student at Binghamton University, Binghamton, New York, received funding in April 2005 to research on 'The Akpinis and the Echoes of German and British Colonial Overrule: An Archaeological Investigation of Kpando, Ghana' under the supervision of Professor Ann Stahl. Multiple evidential sources were explored between June and December 2005 to document how practices of Kpando people (Akpinis), were impacted by precolonial and colonial political economic pressures as well as how colonial officials negotiated their daily living arrangements in district centers far from their colonial capital. The oral history, archival documents and ethnographic information revealed more about how Kpando-Abanu was first settled by two Akan-speaking groups in about the 16th century after which they were joined by the Ewe-speaking Akpini group, who migrated from Notsie in Togo to their present locality in the 17th century. In addition, the impact of slave raids at Kpando and their socio-economic relations with neighbors and the Asantes were also made evident in the accounts. Historical/archival data, corroborated by Akpini oral history, also revealed how the German (1886-1914) and later British (1914-1957) colonial regimes established a settlement at Kpando Todzi and worked to cultivate new markets for their European products (ceramics, textile, new world crops, alcohol, Christianity, education etc). They also diverted local labor and local production toward commodities (palm oil, cotton, rubber, animal skin etc) deemed important by the metropolis. The reverberations of these varied encounters in Kpando led to the monetization and restructuring of the local economy, which impacted gendered divisions of labor, led to new forms of specialization and indigenous reactions to new products. Complementary data from archaeological test excavations at Kpando-Todzi site (colonial quarters and native support staff quarters) provides insights into the materiality of these political economic encounters. Ongoing comparative analysis of imported and local ceramics, faunal and botanical remains from the two quarters reveals continuing use of locally-produced domestic wares (pottery) and food sources (palm fruit, wild and domesticated fauna) amidst the incorporation of imported vessels and crops ( i.e. maize and cassava) in native cuisine. It also provides preliminary insights into how the colonizers simultaneously maintained and blurred their social boundaries through conformance on the one hand to the 'cult of domesticity' (suggested by use of imported vessels and tinned/canned food) at the same time as they relied on indigenous foods. The findings from this investigation will enhance a proposed museum project at Kpando and also contribute to a growing body of case studies aimed at assessing commonalities and variations in intercultural entanglements and agency in colonized hinterland regions of the world.
Pobiner, Briana L., Rutgers U., New Brunswick, NJ - To aid research on 'Oldowan Hominid Carnivory: Bone Modification Studies at Koobi Fora and Olduvai Gorge,' supervised by Dr. Robert J. Blumenschine
Pobiner, Briana L., Michael J. Rogers, Christopher M. Monahan, and John W.K. Harris. 2008. New Evidence for Hominin Carcass Processing Strategies at 1.5 Ma, Koobi Fora, Kenya. Journal of Human Evolution 55(1):103-130
Brooks, Dr. Alison S., George Washington U., Washington, DC - To aid conference on 'The Middle Stone Age of East Africa and Modern Human Origins,' National Museums of Kenya (Nairobi) and Ethiopia (Addis Ababa), 2005
'The Middle Stone Age of East Africa and Modern Human Origins'
July 17-24, 2005, National Museums of Kenya (Nairobi) and Ethiopia (Addis Ababa)
Organizer: Dr. Alison S. Brooks (George Washington University, Washington, DC)
With funding from the National Science Foundation, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Wenner-Gren Foundation, a week-long conference on 'The Middle Stone Age of East Africa and Modern Human Origins,' was held in Nairobi and Addis Ababa, July 17-24, 2005. The goals of the conference were: to discuss the evolution of Homo sapiens from a behavioral perspective in locations where participants would examine and discuss the actual evidence of stone tools, faunal remains and fossils; to visit a representative sample of Middle Stone Age archaeological sites to explore some of the issues of geological context, dating and preservation that are particular to this region; to create a regional network of scholars working on these problems in eastern Africa; to raise awareness of the importance of the study of modern human origins among officials and museum personnel in regions where the earliest human ancestors have received most of the attention and funding; and to promote the development of African scientists and African scientific organizations by holding the meeting in two African countries. The conference realized these goals through participant interaction over eight days of discussions, papers, field trips and examination of museum collections of both fossils and artifacts that had been laid out for exhibit in the two museums. In addition to meetings between East African scholars and museum officials, an African-led regional scientific organization, the East African Association for Prehistory and Palaeoanthropology, was launched at the meeting. The Wenner-Gren financing was especially important in supporting the participation of African scholars.
Soressi, Dr. Marie, U. Bordeaux, Talence, France - To aid research on 'Symbolism and the Pace of Early Behavioral Modernity Development in South Africa, 75,000 years ago'
DR. MARIE SORESSI, of the University of Bordeaux in Talence, France, was awarded a grant in February 2003 to aid research on the pace of development of early behavioral modernity in South Africa and its connection with the appearance of symbolism. Toward this end, Soressi analyzed Middle Stone Age lithic production at the site of Blombos in Western Cape Province. Blombos had earlier yielded several pieces of engraved ocher and a bone tool industry dated to 75,000 b.p. or even older. At Iziko: South Africa Museum in Cape Town in 2003, more than 30,000 artifacts from eleven major stratigraphic units of Blombos were classified, labeled, and analyzed. Some additional collections (three layers from the site of Klasies River Mouth and several open-air Still Bay sites in Western Cape Province) were analyzed to complement the results obtained on Blombos material. The goal of the analysis was to reconstruct the process of production of stone tools, from raw material procurement to last shaping, using the concept of chaîne opératoire. It was expected that when data analysis was completed, Soressi would be able to demonstrate, for the Still Bay stage, a correlation between the scheduling of knapping activities and symbolic behavior as attested by engraved ocher. Such a correlation would favor the inference of a sudden development of behavioral modernity once symbolic behavior such as engraving appeared, and a link in South Africa between full behavioral modernity and anatomically modern humans.
Usman, Dr. Aribidesi A., Arizona State U., Tempe, AZ - To aid research on 'Regional Interaction and Ceramic Distribution in Northern Yorubaland, Nigeria (14th-19th Centuries A.D.)'
DR. ARIBIDESI A. USMAN, of Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona, received funding in June 2002 to aid research on 'Regional Interaction and Ceramic Distribution in Northern Yorubaland, Nigeria (14th-19th Centuries AD).' The project was carried out between December 2002 and June 2003. Ten sites from four districts of Igbomina -Erese, Ila, Ilere, and Esisa were examined by survey and excavation to understand how production and distribution of crafts such as ceramics took place in Igbomina. Petrographic, instrumental neutron activation, and ceramic stylistic attributes analyses were employed to identify temper types and size, clay groups, and areas of ceramic concentration. For chronology, charcoal samples provided radiometric dates. From the result, spatially discrete pattern of ceramic temper could be associated with village-to-village variation in ceramic production.. Variation in pottery decoration was observed between the northern and western Igbomina, with striation technique common or restricted to the north, and twisted string roulette as well as varieties of Oyo-Ire diagnostic types to western Igbomina. Instrumental neutron activation analysis identified ceramic reference groups (Ilorin, Ilere, Esisa, and Erese) that can be attributed to specific geographic areas and villages and trade between groups. There appear to be significant differences in trade patterns. In each of the geographic areas of the reference groups, between 72% and 87% of pottery were local. The rest were either local imports (from other geographic areas), or long-distance imports from centers outside Igbomina. Some pottery samples were unassigned to any of the groups, while there are questions as to whether lla-Yara pottery (western Igbomina) and Agunjin pottery (northern Igbomina) were imported or simply made use of clay with chemical similarities with pottery produced elsewhere.
Haradon, Catherine Marie, George Washington U., Washington, DC - To aid research on 'Environmental and Faunal Context of the Acheulean to MSA Transition in Africa,' supervised by Dr. Richard Potts
CATHERINE HARADON, then a student at George Washington University, Washington, DC, received funding in April 2008 to aid research on 'Environmental and Faunal Context of the Acheulean to MSA Transition in Africa,' supervised by Dr. Richard Potts. This research examines environmental change as a factor in the transition between the Acheulean and Middle Stone Age (MSA) archaeological industries of Africa during the Middle Pleistocene (780-130 ka). Faunal assemblages from two late Acheulean and transitional/early MSA sites (Olorgesailie, Kenya, and Cave of Hearths, South Africa) are used as proxies for environmental change. Species identifications provide broad ecological indicators, and measurements of teeth and bones contribute information on the diet of the animals and the type of vegetation they inhabited. Preliminary results suggest that the Acheuelan fauna at the Cave of Hearths was dominated by large-bodied, grassland-adapted taxa. The MSA fauna consists of smaller-bodied taxa that were adapted to a wider range of environments. This resembles the East African pattern of turnover from large-bodied grazers replaced by smaller-bodied, more variably adapted taxa around the time that modern human behaviors began to emerge on the African continent. Continuing research will investigate paleo-ecological similarities between East and South Africa at this time through additional analyses of the Cave of Hearths fauna; analysis and comparison of the Olorgesailie faunal assemblages; and analysis of metric data from both sites, including feeding types, body sizes, and habitat indicators.
Klehm, Dr. Carla Elizabeth, Washington U., St. Louis, MO - To aid research on 'Does Monumentality Hinge on Inequality? Mortuary Bead Analysis at Megalithic Pillar Sites in Kenya 5000bp'
Preliminary abstract: Megalithic architecture appeared suddenly in NW Kenya around 5000 BP in tandem with early herding. As Lake Turkana shrank, people built 'pillar sites' - massive feats of labor and coordination that represent an early instance of monumentality in Africa. Burials within pillar sites have thousands of beads made from stone, bone, ostrich eggshell, and shell. As the first comprehensive analysis of pillar site bead assemblages, this project can illuminate specific economic and social changes as herding began. Beads may have played a role in expressions of individual identity, social bonds within/between groups, and relationships between ancestors and living. Interpretation of beads, particularly as evidence for aggrandizement or leveling, depends on knowledge of raw materials (including stone from distant sources and teeth from dangerous animals), production methods, distribution, and display. Detailed analysis of beads from precise positions within specific burials at pillar sites will assess variation among individuals for evidence of inequality, and variation through pillar site sequences for diachronic changes in mortuary ornamentation. Data collection will focus on GeJi9 due to exceptional contextual control, but also include assemblages from GeJi10, GcJh5, GbJj1, and GaJi23. Analysis will integrate bead data with information on minerology and sourcing, and prior bioarchaeological studies of burials.