Preliminary abstract: Hominin populations during the Middle Stone Age (MSA) exhibit a previously unprecedented range of behavioral innovation and variability. The MSA of East Africa, however, stands in contrast to the techno-typologically distinct and temporally constrained cultural phasing present in South Africa. For East Africa, evidence for spatial or temporal patterns is ambiguous or overly generalized, as are explanations of the mechanisms that underlie the observed variability. New approaches are necessary if we are to improve understanding of the structure of MSA variability and the extent of shared material culture between assemblages. This project provides one such approach, founded in robust middle-range theory that connects knapping behaviors with the social transmission of technical knowledge. It uses multivariate statistical methods to identify clusters of similar knapping decisions in 15 assemblages from Ethiopia and Kenya and to explore the relative (or interacting) roles of cultural transmission, environment, raw material, reduction intensity, or cultural drift in structuring the distribution of lithic behaviors. The cultural transmission of technological behaviors can be used as a generalized proxy for the degree of social interaction between Pleistocene groups. Systematic tests that can demonstrate this are important prerequisites for assessing hypotheses about the evolutionary relationships of MSA hominins and their inferred dispersals and contractions.
Preliminary abstract: This research project examines the relationship between interregional maritime exchange, socio-political change, and the organization of daily life in pre-modern coastal Nakhon Si Thammarat province, Thailand. It combines archaeological research methods and statistical analysis to first define and then interpret the significance of local ceramic and other material production and consumption patterns present along coastal Nakhon Si Thammarat between AD 100 and 1500 in relation to regional trajectories of socio-political and economic development, and integration with wider maritime Asia. Conclusions drawn from this process are used to evaluate if and how shifts in the organization and relations of daily life contributed to the ability of the emergent coastal trading societies of pre-modern Peninsular Thailand, and pre-modern maritime Southeast Asia more broadly, to successfully mobilize international connections and exchanges toward their own development. In doing so, it contributes to understanding of the ways local societies approach global engagement, and modelling of the link between interaction and societal change.