Braun, David R., Rutgers U., New Brunswick, NJ - To aid research on 'Ecology of Oldowan Technology: Koobi Fora and Kanjera South,' supervised by Dr. John W.K. Harris
DAVID R. BRAUN, then a student at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey, received funding in December 2003 to aid research on 'Ecology of Oldowan Technology: Koobi Fora and Kanjera South,' supervised by Dr. John W.K. Harris. The ultimate goal of this project was to determine if the archaeological record of Oldowan tool use could be used to determine the impact of stone tool use on hominid adaptive strategies. The two sites investigated in this study (Kanjera South and two localities from the KBS member of the Koobi Fora Formation) are particularly relevant for a description of the significance of stone tool manufacture because of their varied environmental and geographic context. We examined Oldowan technology through three major avenues: 1) experimental and archaeological studies of flaking patterns used by early hominids to extend the use-life of their tools; 2) geochemical and engineering analyses to determine the effect of raw material availability and quality on artifact production and discard in the terminal Pliocene; and 3) comparison of how these factors influenced the industries found in these two different contexts in northern and western Kenya. The synthesis of these three avenues of study have shown that Pliocene hominids were possibly adept at selecting high quality raw materials and may have preferentially transported rocks that had particular physical properties that made them ideal for making stone artifacts. Furthermore, these behaviors seem to be reflected in both basins of varying ecological context, suggesting that this may be an underlying pattern found in the earliest archaeological traces.
Braun, David R., Michael J. Rogers, John W.K. Harris, Steven J. Walker. 2008. Landscape-scale Variation in Hominin Tool Use: Evidence from the Developed Oldowan. Journal of Human Evolution 55(6):1053-1063.
Semaw, Dr. Sileshi, Stone Age Institute, Gosport, IN - To aid the 'Gona Palaeoanthropological Research Project'
DR. SLESHI SEMAW, Stone Age Institute, Gosport, Indiana, was awarded funding in October 2006 to aid the 'Gona Palaeoanthropological Research Project.' The timing and context of early hominid technological leap from the Oldowan to the Acheulian Industry in Africa is among the least understood questions in paleoanthropology. The Oldowan-Acheulian transition marks the first time that our ancestors created tools (handaxes, cleavers, picks, etc.) that probably required a preconception of form before their manufacture. This transition is poorly known, though, because of the paucity of well-dated Acheulian sites that are older than 1.4 million years old (Ma). Preliminary investigations in East Africa suggest that the Acheulian appeared about 1.7 Ma, and probably coincided with the expansion of Homo erectus into areas unoccupied by earlier hominids. However, the emergence of the Acheulian at ~1.7-1.6- Ma has yet to be unambiguously demonstrated both archaeologically and geologically. Our systematic archaeological investigations at Gona are now beginning to yield important clues to answer some of these questions. The recent systematic surveys and excavations at Gona have produced fossil hominids and Early Acheulian artifacts that are ~1.6 Ma. Two Early Acheulian sites (OGS-12 and BSN-17) have been excavated yielding a high density of large flakes and crudely-made bifaces, and débitage estimated to ~1.6 Ma. The presence of a thick Plio-Pleistocene sequence at Gona has provided an opportunity to assess if any lithic assemblages existed to mark the Oldowan-Acheulian transition. There are no lithic assemblages that are attributable to the 'Developed Oldowan,' and the evidence from Gona appears to favor a rapid technological transition from the Oldowan (Mode I) to the Acheulian technology (Mode II) ~1.7-1.6 Ma. While there is some evidence of African climate change about 1.8-1.7 Ma, there is no clear link between environmental change and the origins of Homo erectus or the Acheulian.
Tsheboeng, Dr. Alfred, U. of Botswana, Gaborone, Botswana - To aid the 12th Congress of the Pan African Archaeological Association for Prehistory and Related Studies, 2005, U. of Botswana, in collaboration with Dr. Gilbert Pwiti
Kelly, Dr. Kenneth, U. of South Carolina, Columbia, SC; and Fall, Dr. Elhadj Ibrahima, University Nelson Mandala, Conakry, Guinea - To aid Landlords & Strangers: Entanglement, Archaeology & The 19th Century 'Illegal' Slave Trade On The Rio Pongo, Guinea.
Preliminary abstract: This proposal aims to conduct archaeological work at 3 19th c sites along the Rio Pongo in Guinea, to explore the cultural entanglement manifest in the interaction of European and American traders with local elites, and the impacts of the slave trade on local societies. Following the early 19th c. close of the slave trade, the 'illegal' slave trade shifted away from the long-standing entrepots of the Slave and Gold coasts to the Upper Guinea coast. Taking advantage of the traditional 'landlord/stranger' relationships of obligation, European and American traders established a series of trading 'factories' linked with local, small scale polities. These traders married into local elite families, creating trader elite lineages that controlled the trade in captives and commodities. We will: 1) document and examine discrete archaeological contexts; 2) map changes in social organization and economy through an analysis of material culture; and 3) situate these changes in light of the traditional 'landlord-stranger relationship' of elite obligation to host foreign traders (Mouser 1973). Success of this project requires collaboration which marries the methodological strengths of Kaba, trained in archaeology and a museum and heritage preservation professional and ethnographer since 1981, and Kelly, who has conducted archaeological research investigating the entanglements of the African Diaspora in Africa and Caribbean settings for over 25 years. This project has broad implications for anthropological research: 1) we document the dynamics of the 'illegal' trade for which the archival record is incomplete, and yet was an important part of the African Diaspora of the 19th c; 2) we contribute to current conversations about cultural identities, and the role material culture plays in the their expression; 3) we investigate the strategies employed in the negotiation of cultural entanglements; and 4) we contribute to a more nuanced understanding of the political economy of the slave trade and its impact on the Upper Guinea Coast.
Mercader, Dr. Julio, U. of Calgary, Calgary, Canada - To aid research on 'Environmental Primer for the Mozambican Middle Stone Age'
DR. JULIO MERCADER, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada, received funding in April 2011 to aid research on 'Environmental Primer for the Mozambican Middle Stone Age.' This project examines the impact of particular environments on prehistoric cultures as a way to disentangle the early dispersal of our species through central Mozambique. Preliminary work has established the stratigraphic sequence and a framework from which to pursue further investigation in 2012-2014. Excavation will continue at two cave sites to achieve a better understanding of the chronological, stratigraphic, and environmental context of the occupation. These caves are in a region whose palaeoanthropology is currently unknown and they will provide valuable first information on late Pleistocene adaptations in the southern end of the East African Rift System. The planned research focuses on two sites out of very few where there is direct evidence of a tropical wooded palaeoenvironment, as shown by an abundance of opal silica from arboreal plants and faunal remains from wooded-adapted mammals. Opening these field sites to summer courses for North American and Mozambican undergraduates and graduates will facilitate their experiential learning.
Patterson, David Burch, George Washington U., Washington, DC - To aid research on 'Ecological Niche Evolution in Homo and Paranthropus at East Turkana, Northern Kenya,' supervised by Dr. Rene Bobe
Preliminary abstract: The fossil record suggests that our genus, Homo, originated in eastern Africa around 2.4 million years ago (Ma), at which time our ancestors would have shared the environment with a closely related species, Paranthropus boisei. However, the record indicates that by 1.3 Ma the Paranthropus lineage went extinct and Homo had expanded outside of Africa. Although we understand they coexisted, we lack a relevant framework for testing hypotheses related to their ecologies during this period. The objective of this project is to use the quantitative methods of community ecology and stable isotope geochemistry to contrast the ecological niches of Homo and Paranthropus within a localized paleoecosystem. This study will use data collected directly from hominin localities and archaeological sites between 2 -- 1.4 Ma at East Turkana in northern Kenya to test a series of hypotheses related to the following research question: What role did ecological conditions play in the different fates of Homo and Paranthropus between 2 Ma and 1.4 Ma? This study will create the first high-resolution reconstruction of the niches of these two taxa and provide key insights into the mechanisms behind the survival of our genus on landscapes that witnessed the extinction of our close fossil relatives.
Breunig, Dr. Peter, J.W. Goethe-Universitat, Frankfurt, Germany - To aid 19th Meeting of the Society of Africanist Archaeologists (SAfA): 'Cultural Diversity of Africa's Past,' 2008, Frankfurt, in collaboration with Dr. Carlos A. Magnavita Santos
'Cultural Diversity of Africa's Past: 19th Meeting of the Society of Africanist Archaeologists (SAfA)'
September 7-12, 2008, Goethe-University, Frankfurt/Main, Germany
Organizers: Dr. Peter J.W. Breunig and Dr. Carlos A. Magnavita Santos (Geothe-University)
The Society of Africanist Archaeologists (SAfA) was founded in the United States and is today one of the largest organizations in the field of African archaeology, with members mainly from North America, Europe, and Africa. With 260 participants from 33 countries and about 200 presentations, its 2008 conference was the largest so far in the field of Africa archaeology worldwide. This important meeting was hosted by the Goethe-University (Frankfurt, Germany), and organized by Prof. Peter Breunig, in cooperation with the archaeology departments of the Universities of Cologne and Geneva. A wide range of regions, time periods, and subjects was presented and discussed. The opportunity to get together and present the latest research results is very important in a field where university departments are rare and spread worldwide. Such a meeting is thus the basis for establishing a global network of joint research projects and the discussion of important new methods and directions in African archaeology. Wenner-Gren funding helped over 30 scientists and students, mainly from Africa, with travel support. The next meeting will be in 2010 in Dakar, Senegal, in cooperation with the Pan-African Congress of Pre-and Protohistory and Related Studies.
Smith, Abigail Chipps, Washington U., St. Louis, MO - To aid research on 'Mobility and Urbanism: The Place of Mobile Pastoralists in Mali's Iron Age Cities,' supervised by Dr. Fiona B. Marshall
ABIGAIL C. SMITH, then a student at Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri, was awarded funding in October 2010 to aid research on 'Mobility and Urbanism: The Place of Mobile Pastoralists in Mali's Iron Age Cities,' supervised by Dr. Fiona B. Marshall. This project investigates the relationship between mobile pastoral groups and urban populations in the past, focusing on the site of Jenné-jeno and its surrounding landscape. The project draws on four months of extensive excavation at two archaeological sites, Tato à Sanouna and Thiel, near the modern town of Djenné in Mali's Inland Niger Delta. Multiple lines of evidence are used to identify past modes of life in these sites and at the well-known ancient city of Jenné-jeno between about 200 to 1500 CE, particularly the interrelationship between sedentary urbanism, subsistence specialization, and mobile pastoralism. As the first large-scale excavation of smaller, outlying sites in the area, this project increases our understanding of the extent and variability of local human settlement. Additionally, the project's focus on subsistence and specialization provides empirical data about the trajectories of West African pastoralism and agriculture. This information enables discussion of the role of pastoral populations in the Jenné-jeno urban system and impacts our understanding of Jenné-jeno's trade relationships and political organization. Given the unique trajectories of African food production when compared to other world areas, this project is an important contribution to our understanding of variability in global pastoral strategies and mobile-sedentary interactions.