Stewart, Dr. Brian Alfred, U. of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom - To aid research on 'The Middle Stone Age of the Lesotho Highlands'
DR. BRIAN AL. STEWART, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom, was awarded a grant in May 2010 to aid research on 'The Middle Stone Age of the Lesotho Highlands.' An understanding of the diversity of early modern human adaptations is compromised by a geographical research bias towards the southern African coasts. This project redresses this by exploring high-altitude landscape use by Middle Stone Age societies in highland Lesotho. The project's mainstays are targeted excavations at two large rockshelters: Melikane and Sehonghong. Wenner-Gren funding supported a series of key scientific analyses on aspects of the sedimentary sequence at Melikane. This helped establish the basic processes responsible for forming this sequence, when these processes occurred and the environmental conditions during these times. The results suggest that although a highly complex interplay of natural and cultural agents generated this sequence, four main depositional types can be distinguished on a sedimentological basis. Human occupation at Melikane occurred in relatively short bursts at 83,000 years ago (ka), 60ka, 50ka, 46-38ka, 24ka, 9ka, 3ka, and several hundred years ago. Wood charcoals from human fires and the isotopic signatures of the sediments show the environment was colder and typically drier than present-day, though it appears the local river was always capable of supporting water-loving trees and shrubs. One hypothesis is that the reliable freshwater provided by the mountains attracted humans to the area during especially dry periods.
Mackay, Alex, Brian A. Stewart, and Brian M. Chase. 2014. Coalescence and Fragmentation in the Late Pleistocene Archaeology of Southernmost Africa. Journal of Human Evolution 72:26-51.
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.
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.
Lyons, Dr. Diane E., U. of Calgary, Calgary, Canada - To aid research on 'Slehleka Pottery Project'
Preliminary abstract: This study investigates material signatures of caste identities of Slehleka market potters in Tigray State in northern highland Ethiopia. Artisan marginalization is found in many societies across sub-Saharan Africa but material means to investigate its history are needed. This study builds upon two previous studies of Tigray's marginalized potters in central and eastern Tigray. Importantly Slehleka potters have a caste identity, which the other two communities did not, and it is anticipated that the study will find important variability in the material and spatial expression of marginalized identities. An important aspect of the study is determining the technological style of the Slehleka potters using the chaine operatoire approach. Their technological style will be compared with those of the other two potter communities to show their relationships. Ultimately the study will provide a full regional perspective of Tigray's contemporary pottery traditions, the material means to investigate the history of marginalized craft practices in Tigray and elsewhere in Africa, and it contributes to our understanding of how marginalized identities and social inequities are materially constituted in peasant communities.
Murray, Shawn S., U. of Wisconsin, Madison, WI - To aid research on 'African-Rice Domestication and the Transition to Agriculture in the Middle Niger Delta, Mali,' supervised by Dr. T. Douglas Price
SHAWN S. MURRAY, while a student at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, Wisconsin, received a grant in June 2001 to aid research on African rice domestication and the transition to agriculture at the site of Dia in the middle Niger Delta, Mali, under the supervision of Dr. T. Douglas Price. Because African rice grains (Oryza glaberrima) had been found at Dia without their diagnostic hulls, Murray's goal was to develop new methods of identifying the naked rice grains as either wild or domestic species. Research showed that the dimensions of African rice species (length, width, thickness) overlapped extensively but that ratios of these dimensions could discriminate between species. Interestingly, ratios for the ancient grains closely resembled those for the modem domestic species, overlapping little with the wild taxa. These results suggested that domesticated rice was present from Dia's earliest occupation (800-500 B.C.E.) and that farming in this region was older than previously thought. It is possible that domesticated African rice entered the upper delta from elsewhere, perhaps farther north or west.
Blumenschine, Dr. Robert J., Rutgers U., New Brunswick, NJ; and Masao, Dr. Fidelis T., U. of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania - To aid collaborative research on 'Predation Risk And Oldowan Hominin Land Use At Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania'
Blumenschine, Robert J., Ian G. Stanistreet, Jackson K. Njau, et al. 2012. Environments and Hominin Activities across the FLK Peninsula during Zinjanthropus Times (1.84 Ma), Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania. Journal of Human Evolution 63(2)364-383.
Blumenschine, Robert J., Fidelis T. Masao, Harald Stollhofen, Ian G. Stanistreet, et al. 2012. Landscape Distribution of Oldowan Stone Artifact Assemblages across the Fault Compartments of the Eastern Olduvai Lake Basin during Early Lowermost Bed II Times. Journal of Human Evolution 63(2):384-394.
Ranhorn, Kathryn L., George Washington U., Washington, DC - To aid research on 'Late Pleistocene Lithic Technology in Eastern Africa and the Emergence of Modern Humans,' supervised by Dr. Alison S. Brooks
Preliminary abstract: The Middle Stone Age is associated with the first appearance of modern humans in Africa (McDougall et al 2005). The archaeological record of South Africa suggests the appearance of successive suites of behavior that were constrained temporally and spatially (Marean 2010; Wurz 2013). However it is unclear if these lithic trends represent social networking among MSA populations (d'Errico and Banks 2013) or could be the result of other factors like raw material or reduction intensity. Furthermore, the extent to which such patterning is unique to South Africa or is a general feature of Homo sapiens is unclear. To test whether early modern human populations were socially networked in a broader context it is necessary to consider the Late Pleistocene archaeological record from other regions in Africa in a way that directly measures temporal and spatial behavioral trends. This dissertation will test for social networking of MSA populations by quantitatively measuring patterns of lithic technological change in eastern Africa from 150-50 ka at the regional, sub-regional, and sub-basinal scale, developing innovative methods in lithic analysis and a chrono-stratigraphic framework within a single MSA paleolandscape in the Turkana Basin. Three-dimensional photogrammetric modeling and middle range experiments in information transfer afford a quantifiable investigation of lithic trends. By incorporating both open air and rock shelter localities, spanning highland escarpments (Mt. Eburru) and low elevation lake basins (East Turkana), this study will result in a comprehensive understanding of hominin behavior across multiple landscapes in the MSA and a clearer understanding of the role of cultural transmission in early modern human populations.
Stump, Dr. Daryl, U. of York, York, United Kingdom - To aid research on 'The Long-term History of Indigenous Agriculture and Conservation Practices in Konso, Ethiopia'
Preliminary abstract: The twin concepts of sustainability and conservation that are so pivotal within current debates regarding economic development and biodiversity protection both contain an inherent temporal dimension, since both refer to the need to balance short-term gains with long-term resource maintenance. This point is not lost on proponents of resilience theory or advocates of development based on â€˜indigenous knowledgeâ€™, some of whom have argued for the necessity of including an archaeological, historical or palaeoenvironmental component within development project design. Although this suggests a renewed contemporary relevance for several anthropological sub-disciplines, it also raises theoretical and methodological concerns regarding archaeological imperatives for â€˜heritageâ€™ preservation, questions of local ownership, and long-standing debates about impartiality and political engagement. Moreover, it also prompts the fundamental question as to whether anthropology can truly claim to see and translate indigenous knowledge in the recent and distant past. The project outlined here is exploring these issues through a combination of archaeological, geoarchaeological, archival and interview-based research on the complex agro-ecological system at Konso, southwest Ethiopia; a system which is thought at present to have originally developed some 500 years ago, and has been described as comprising one of a select few 'lessons from the past' by a United Nations report on land conservation and rehabilitation in Africa (FAO 1990). The study aims to place the modern Konso agricultural system within its long-term context and to highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the various ways in which anthropological research can engage with developmental and conservationist narratives.