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.
Mothulatshipi, Dr. Sarah, U. of Botswana, Gaborone, Botswana - To aid 'Biennial Meeting of the Association of Southern African Professional Archaeologists (ASAPA): Thirty Years On,' 2013, U. of Botswana, in collaboration with Dr. Cynthia Mooketsi
'Biennial Meeting of the Association of Southern African Professional Archaeologists (ASAPA)'
July 3-7, 2013, University of Botswana, Gaborone, Botswana
Organizers: Dr. Sarah Mothulatshipi and Dr. Cynthia Mooketsi (U. Botswana)
With the theme of 'Thirty Years On: Reflections and Retrospections on Southern African Archaeology since 1983,' the conference commemorated the thirtieth anniversary of the original Gabarone meetings, when participants from Mozambique and Zimbabwe broke away from their South African counterparts for failing to support a motion condemning the South African government and its racist policies. The conference convened over 250 participants from across southern Africa, along with international scholars whose research interests are in the region and students from regional universities. With support from Wenner-Gren, for the first time in the history of the conference students outnumbered professionals, and gained representation in the ASAPA council. In the plenary session, the keynote speakers emphasized the need for the discipline to be more inclusive, to better address current problems (such as sustainable development, food security, and urbanization), and to more fully engage with the communities where archaeological research is being conducted.
Negash, Dr. Agazi, Max Planck Institute, Leipzig, Germany - To aid research on 'Early Long Distance Raw Material Transport of Obsidian in Ethiopian Prehistory'
DR. AGAZI NEGASH, Max Planck Institute, Leipzig, Germany, was awarded a grant in November 2005 to aid research on 'Early Long Distance Raw Material Transport of Obsidian in Ethiopian Prehistory.' Researchers undertook fieldwork to investigate the early utilization of obsidian in Ethiopian prehistory with particular reference to the archaeological sites and geological sources in the Rift Valley. Among others, the objective of the fieldwork was to understand what is considered to be one of the key aspects of the beginnings of modern human behavior -- long distance movement or transport of raw material -- by instrumentally characterizing obsidian artifacts from the central Rift MSA sites whose artifacts are stored at the National Museum of Ethiopia and the geological sources where the raw material for these sites are supposed to have been obtained. Research focused on obsidian because it is an ideal raw material for tracing its movement from sources to archaeological sites due to, with few exceptions, its specific chemical composition with every eruption. More than 600 samples have now been characterized, of which 170 of them are artifacts from archaeological sites. Preliminary data analysis suggests that some of the sites contain obsidian artifacts whose geologic origin is hundreds of kilometers away, suggesting that they have significance to the understanding of the emergence of modern behavior.
Engmann, Dr. Rachel Ama Asaa, Hampshire College, Amherst, MA - To aid research on ''Slavers in the Family': The Archaeology of the Slaver in Eighteenth Century Gold Coast'
Preliminary abstract: 'Slavers In the Family': The Archaeology of the Slaver in the Eighteenth Century Gold Coast is a study of Christiansborg Castle, a seventeenth century European colonial trading castle. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the castle is also a former Danish and British colonial seat of government administration, and until recently, the Office of the President of the Republic of Ghana. This research employs monuments, material culture and museum narratives to study race, ethnicity, class, gender, power and social inequality, alongside memory and amnesia, and their effects on nation building, development and heritage. In a wider context, this research addresses the visual, material and extra-discursive forms of the triple legacies of the slave trade, colonialism and independence, as a strategy for understanding the complexities of the politics of the past in the present.
Cancellieri, Dr. Emanuele, Sapienza U. of Rome, Rome, Italy - To aid research on 'Middle Stone Age Archaeology and Chronology in Tunisian Sahara'
Preliminary abstract: Successfully adapted humans equipped with sophisticated early Middle Stone Age technology dispersed from East Africa to Northern Africa ca. 200.000 years ago as a consequence of environmental fragmentation. By a cultural point of view, the MSA of north Africa is deeply rooted in sub-saharan Lupemban culture, whose spread through North Africa gave rise to regional developments like the Nubian Complex in the Nile valley and the Aterian in the Sahara and the Maghreb. Considering this framework, the multiple dispersal routes covered by 'MSA humans' starting from their area of endemism in East Africa, must have included the Sahara. This huge geographic range offered windows of opportunity at different rates, as signaled by palaeoenvironmental reconstructions, but reliable archaeological and chronometric data are very weak. The research objective wants to address this bias and contribute to the understanding of the chronological, cultural and behavioral traits of North African late Quaternary MSA humans, and is in particular focused on constraining the chronology of occupation in North West Sahara. The research will be conducted in the southern Chott el Jerid, in southern Tunisia, where recent preliminary reconnaissance surveys have identified Pleistocene open air sites with stratified sequences and archaeological material worth to be investigated. The research of other preserved stratified archives in the same general area and the excavation of test trenches at each site will provide soil samples to be dated by luminescence techniques, and archaeological material needed to define the cultural contexts.
Villa, Dr. Paola, U. of Colorado Museum, Boulder, CO - To aid research on 'Experimental Replication and Functional Analysis of Still Bay Points from Blombos Cave (South Africa)'
DR. PAOLA VILLA, University of Colorado Museum, Boulder, Colorado, received a grant in October 2008, to aid research on 'Experimental Replication and Functional Analysis of Still Bay Points from Blombos Cave (South Africa).' The main goal of the project was to understand the level of skill in manufacture and use of bifacial points recovered from the Middle Stone Age (c. 75 ka) Still Bay levels at Blombos Cave in South Africa. Experimental knapping and detailed observation of the technical features of the Blombos and experimental points and flakes, using a Leica Multifocus microscope, showed that the Blombos craftsmen used the pressure flaking technique during the final shaping of points made on heat-treated silcrete. Pressure flaking is a technique used by prehistoric knappers to shape stone artifacts by exerting a pressure with a pointed tool near the edge of a worked piece. Application of this innovative technique allowed for a high degree of control during the detachment of individual flakes resulting in thinner, narrower and sharper tips on bifacial points. The earliest previously recorded evidence of pressure flaking comes from the c. 20 ka Solutrean industry of Western Europe. The evidence from Blombos is 55 ka earlier. This is a very significant find. Bifacial technology based on intensive thinning and pressure retouch was a major innovation which allowed Still Bay craftsmen to produce thin and regular foliate points to be used as more effective spear heads for hunting. This technology may have been first invented and used sporadically in Africa before its later widespread adoption in other continents. The result of this work has been published in Science.
Mourre, Vincent, Paola Villa, Christopher S. Henshilwood, 2010. Early Use of Pressure Flaking on Lithic Artifacts at Blombos Cave, South Africa. Science 339: 659-662.
Swanepoel, Natalie J., Syracuse U., Syracuse, NY - To aid research on 'Social and Political Change on the Slave-Raiding Frontier: Nineteenth Century Sisalaland, Northern Ghana,' supervised by Dr. Christopher R. DeCorse
NATALIE J. SWANEPOEL, while a student at Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York, was awarded a grant in January 2001 to aid research on 'Social and Political Change on the Slave-Raiding Frontier: Nineteenth Century Sisalaland, Northern Ghana,' supervised by Dr. Christopher R. DeCorse. The aim of the research was to investigate the changes that occurred among the Sisala -- a 'decentralized' society during the nineteenth century as a result of increased (slave) warfare and an expanded trade network. Twelve months of archaeological, archival and oral historical research was carried out between April 2001 and August 2002. Archaeological research concentrated on the late nineteenth century site of Yalingbong, a naturally fortified hilltop that was used as a refuge during a war that took place between a local village, Kpan, and the Zaberma, a group of armed, Islamic horsemen. In addition, it was used as a base of operations by the Kpan community in their own raids against neighboring communities while also acting as a trade center in the region. Mapping, surface collections and test excavations were conducted at fourteen of a possible thirty loci. Supported by documentary and oral historical evidence the archaeological finds shed light on the complexity of the domestic slave trade in Africa, the expansion of trade networks in the African interior, the nature of warfare, the impact of colonial administration in northern Ghana and the changing political structure of 'decentralized' societies as a response to increased warfare.
Swanepoel, Natalie. 2006. 'Socio-political Change on a Slave-trading Frontier: War, Trade, and ‘Big Men’ in Nineteenth Century Sisalaland, Northern Ghana,' pp. 265-294, in Paste Tense: Studies in Conflict Archaeology (I. Banks and T. Pollard, eds.), Brill Academic Publishers: Leiden.