Manthi, Dr. Fredrick Kyalo, National Museums of Kenya, Nairobi, Kenya - To aid engaged activities on 'Public Engagement in Palaeontological Investigations of the Plio-Pleistocene Nachukui Formation, Northern Kenya,' 2013, Turkana County, Kenya
DR. FREDRICK MANTHI, National Museums of Kenya, Nairobi, Kenya, received an Engaged Anthropology Grant in August 2012 to aid 'Public Engagement in Palaeontological Investigations of the Plio-Pleistocene Nachukui Formation, Northern Kenya.' The Lake Turkana Basin in northern Kenya has contributed significantly to understanding the evolution of human and non-human species during the Plio-Pleistocene. Although prehistory research has been carried-out in the Basin for over 50 years, a large number of the local people are not aware of the scientific importance of the findings from this research. In fact, many of the local people believe that researchers make a lot of money from fossils and artifacts. In the last six years, the grantee has directed palaeontological investigations in the Lake Turkana Basin, aided in part with funding from Wenner-Gren. In the course of these expeditions, it became evident that there was need for more engagement between research groups and the local people. Funding went to organize an outreach program in February 2013 that entailed holding public meetings, visits to schools and discussions with local administrators, which were all centered on the importance of prehistory research in understanding the past and (it is hoped) helped lay the foundation for future engagements advancing research in the Turkana Basin.
Bernatchez, Jocelyn Anna, Arizona State U., Tempe, AZ - To aid research on 'The Role of Ochre in the Development of Modern Human Behavior: A Case Study from South Africa,' supervised by Dr. Curtis W. Marean
JOCELYN A. BERNATCHEZ, then a student at Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona, received a grant in October 2010 to aid research on 'The Role of Ochre in the Development of Modern Human Behavior: A Case Study from South Africa,' supervised by Dr. Curtis W. Marean. The presence of ochre in Middle Stone Age (MSA ~250-40ka) sites in southern Africa is often proposed as evidence for symbolism and early modern human behavior. However, there is significant debate about the uses of ochre in the past and whether symbolism is the most appropriate explanation for its presence in these sites. This project focused on the following research question: Within the MSA sites at Pinnacle Point, South Africa, is ochre evidence for symbolic behavior, or were more utilitarian activities involving ochre taking place? Several aspects of the record were studied to test these questions, including geological survey and sourcing attempts of archaeological samples. The acquisition of ochre is typically a highly ritualized activity for recent hunter-gatherer groups when compared to the exploitation of other non-symbolically loaded raw materials (such as stone). An exploitation pattern focusing primarily on distant sources rather than closer sources or a pattern focused on a few deposits when many are available may be suggestive of some symbolic meaning. Twenty-four ochre sources were identified. Using Particle Induced X-Ray Emission (PIXE), it was possible to identify a possible preference for the ochre at one source located approximately 19km from Pinnacle Point.
Sahnouni, Dr. Mohamed, Stone Age Institute, Gosport, IN - To aid research on 'Investigations into the Pliocene Archaeology of Ain Boucherit, Northeastern Algeria'
DR. MOHAMED SAHNOUNI, Stone Age Institute, Gosport, Indiana, received a grant in April 2008 to aid research on 'Investigations into the Pliocene Archaeology of Ain Boucherit, Northeastern Algeria.' Archaeological investigations were carried out to examine the possibility of whether early hominins inhabited North Africa prior to 2.0 million years ago. The investigations consisted of surveying the research area, studying the stratigraphy and sampling for dating, excavating the late Pliocene fossil/stone artifact bearing stratum, and analyzing the excavated archaeological materials. The excavations yielded relatively rich stone tool and faunal assemblages. The stone tools are Oldowan and include core-forms, whole flakes, and fragments. The presence of an Equus bone bearing a series of cut-marks indicates the causal link between the stone tools and the faunal remains. Paleomagnetic and cosmogenic nuclides studies are underway but faunal taxa of biochronological interest indicate a late Pliocene age that can be estimated between 1.95 and 2.32 Ma. Thus, Ain Boucherit documents the evidence of the earliest human occupation in North Africa, and can help our understanding of the larger picture of early hominin dispersal out of Africa.
Chemere, Dr. Yonatan Sahle, U. of California, Berkeley, CA - To aid research on 'A Closer Investigation of Early Complex Projectile Technologies at Porc-Epic Cave and Aduma, Ethiopia'
Preliminary abstract: Complex projectiles (i.e. those delivered using a mechanical propeller) provide broader lethal ranges than throwing spears (i.e. 'simple' projectiles). They are therefore considered decisive for the successful adaptation and dispersal of modern humans during the Upper Pleistocene. The identification of such mechanically projected weapons in deep antiquity has proven difficult, as conclusive evidence indicating the mode of weapon delivery is as yet lacking from the African Middle Stone Age (MSA). Based on indirect evidence, archaeologists suggest that complex projectiles were already used in Africa by 100-50 kya. Suggestions from the Ethiopian MSA sites of Porc-Epic Cave and Aduma particularly derive from several hundred stone points that may have been used to tip arrows and/or darts. However, these inferences rely only on shape, weight, and/or retouch attributes of the stone points, informing on potential (rather than actual) use of the points as complex projectile tips. Considering their adaptive and cognitive implications, an exhaustive investigation of the origin of complex projectiles in Africa remains crucial. With the application of multiple approaches, including the non-subjective fracture velocity method, this study seeks to assess whether some of the MSA stone points from Porc-Epic Cave and Aduma represent early complex projectiles.
Ferraro, Joseph, U. of California, Los Angeles, CA - To aid research on 'The Late Pliocene Zooarchaeology of Kanjera South, Southwestern Kenya,' supervised by Dr. Thomas W. Plummer
JOSEPH FERRARO, while a student at the University of California in Los Angeles, California, received funding in February 2002 to aid research on the late Pliocene zooarchaeology of Kanjera South, southwestern Kenya, under the supervision of Dr. Thomas W. Plummer. A consideration of sampling biases (spatial, temporal, ecological, and numeric) suggested that in the past, researchers likely underestimated the behavioral variability expressed by Oldowan hominins. To assess the full range of Oldowan hominin behaviors requires the comparative analysis of a number of excavated Oldowan assemblages distributed across time and space, representing a wide range of ecological conditions and possessing well-preserved faunas. The late Pliocene locality of Kanjera South contributes toward meeting this requirement. Its assemblages represent the only sizable, well-preserved Oldowan faunas so far recovered outside of Olduvai Gorge, and preliminary geochemical and paleontological analyses strongly suggest that the assemblages formed in an open grassland, a habitat distinct from those of other Oldowan occurrences. Ferraro conducted a zooarchaeological study of the excavated vertebrate fauna of Kanjera South, focusing especially on issues of predation pressures and foraging ecologies. His preliminary results strongly suggested that Oldowan hominins at Kanjera behaved in a way dissimilar to that frequently reported at the penecontemporaneous Oldowan locality of FLK Zinj in Olduvai Gorge.
Wilmsen, Dr. Edwin Norman, U. of Edinburgh, Scotland - To aid research on 'Precolonial Botswana Social Formations: Optical Petrography of Pottery and Clays Linking Peoples, Pots, and Places'
DR. EDWIN N. WILMSEN, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, Scotland, received funding in April 2006 to aid research on 'Precolonial Botswana Social Formations: Optical Petrography of Pottery and Clays Linking Peoples, Pots, and Places.' Clays from 66 locations in Botswana and adjacent parts of Namibia and South Africa were collected for comparison with Iron Age and Historic pottery. In addition, samples of major plant species growing in different parts of the Delta were collected in order to compare their phytoliths with biogenic silica observed in pot shards. Both clay and shard samples were prepared as thin section slides and examined with petrographic microscopes in both plain and cross polarized light. Variations in trace minerals and biosilica in both clays and shards plus the different mineralogical history of different parts of the region allow the identification of the area from which clays to make specific vessels were obtained. These mineralogical data combined with particulars of ceramic design make it clear that vessels circulated between sites in all parts of the region for as far as 400km. That this movement took place despite the fact that at most sites clays were available locally, and pots were made at the individual sites from these clays, points to the mobility of pots being a function mainly of social rather than technological considerations. Further research on contemporary potting will be undertaken; technological variables of potting will be noted, which will add insights into the present work.
Wilmsen, Edwin N., David Killick, Dana Drake Rosenstein, et al. 2009. The Social Geography of Pettery in Botswana as Reconstructed by Optical Petrography. Journal of African Archaeology 7(1):3-39.
Wilmsen, Edwin N. 2009. The Structure of San Property Relations: Constitutional Issues and
Interventionist Politics. Anthropologica 51:53-65.
Wilmsen, Edwin. 2009. Botswana Notes and Records. The Botswana Society: Gaborone.
Wilmsen, Edwin. 2010. Early Villages at Tsodilo: The Introduction of Livestock, Crops, and Metalworking. In Tsodilo Hills: Copper Bracelet of the Kalahari, eds. Alec Campbell, Larry Robbins, and Michael Taylor. Michigan State University Press: East Lansing. The Botswana Society: Gaborone.
Manthi, Dr. Fredrick Kyalo, National Museums of Kenya, Nairobi, Kenya - To aid research on 'A Further Investigation for Microfauna in the Plio-Pleistocene Hominin Sites of Northwestern Kenya'
DR. FREDRICK KYALO MANTHI, National Museums of Kenya, Nairobi, Kenya, received funding in October 2009 to aid research on 'A Further Investigation for Microfauna in the Plio-Pleistocene Hominin Sites of Northwestern Kenya.' Mammalian remains have a number of features that make them important in ecological studies. In order to recover macro- and micromammalian fauna for reconstructing the environmental contexts in which Plio-Pleistocene hominins lived and also understand the evolutionary trajectories of mammalian species during this time period, a number of hominin sites in the Nachukui Formation, northwestern Kenya, were recently investigated. These sites include those that occur along the Lomekwi, Nachukui, and Nariokotome drainage systems. Work in these sites included surface surveys, and sieving of back-dirt sediments from earlier excavations so as to recover microfaunal remains that may have passed through the course sieves that were employed during theses excavations. Although some unidentifiable bone fragments of macrofauna were recovered from the sieving of the back-dirt sediments, no microfauna were recovered. The surface surveys resulted in the recovery of 245 fossil specimens, including a maxilla fragment that has been attributed to Homo sp. Another 59 fragmentary dental elements belonging to Elephantidae, Suidae, and Equidae were also collected for isotopic studies in order to contribute towards understanding the environmental contexts during the Plio-Pleistocene. Overall, elements attributable to Bovidae, Suidae, Equidae, and Cercopithecidae exhibited a higher representation relative to those of other taxa.