Thiaw, Dr. Ibrahima, U. of Dakar, Dakar, Senegal - To aid joint conference of PAA/SAfA on 'Preserving African Cultural Heritage,' 2010, U. Cheikh Anta Diop, Dakar, in collaboration with Dr. Ndeye Sokhna Gueye
Preliminary abstract: The Pan African Archaeological Association (PAA) and Society of Africanist Archaeologists (SAfA) are the most important international platforms in the field of African archaeology. This joint meeting is unprecedented in the history of the two organizations and this is the first time SAfA will formally meet on African soil. It seeks to bring together Africanist scholars from around the world to promote research and encourage cooperation between all professionals in the field. It will gather c. 300 participants from around the world in Dakar, Senegal between November 1-7, 2010. The Congress will be structured around an overarching theme, 'The Preservation of African Cultural Heritage.' The meeting will also be a unique moment to recast and consolidate the role and place of the PAA and SAfA in the definition of a new humanism. We will look back at 50 years of archaeological practice in independent Africa but also will reflect on the prospects of African archaeology in the 21st century. More than ever, archaeologists and heritage managers who work on the continent are being asked to define the social and economic benefits of their work to the wider populace and to conduct their research so as to produce 'useable' pasts.
Haws, Dr. Jonathan Adams, U. of Louisville, Louisville, KY - To aid research on 'Middle Stone Age Archaeology and Modern Human Origins Research in Southern Mozambique'
DR. JONATHAN A. HAWS, University of Louisville, Louisville, Kentucky, was awarded funding in April 2012 to aid research on 'Middle Stone Age Archaeology and Modern Human Origins Research in Southern Mozambique.' In 2012, the project conducted a reconnaissance survey of the Maputaland region of Mozambique to investigate the origins of modern human behavior. As part of this work, the team documented new Middle Stone Age sites and collected samples to establish age control for the study of Quaternary landscapes in the region. The survey was limited due to bureaucratic constraints but yielded positive results to warrant further research. The project team explored the coastal strip south of Maputo. At Ponta Maone researchers recorded a Middle Stone Age site eroding out of the bluffs. The artifacts at this locality showed little evidence for weathering thus suggesting a stratigraphically intact occupation. Sediment samples were collected for OSL dating. Several points along the coast of Maputaland have previously documented Quaternary deposits but visibility was limited in most areas due to covering vegetation. In the area of Moamba, two new Middle Stone Age sites were recorded: one surface scatter with discoidal cores and flakes, and another in stratigraphic position exposed in a streamback cut. Between Moamba and Goba the team recorded the presence of numerous potential rockshelters.
Zipkin, Andrew Michael, George Washington U., Washington, DC - To aid research on 'Material Symbolism and Ochre Use in Middle Stone Age East-Central Africa,' supervised by Dr. Alison S. Brooks
ANDREW M. ZIPKIN, then a graduate student at George Washington University, Washington, DC, received funding in October 2012 to aid research on 'Material Symbolism and Ochre Use in Middle Stone Age East-Central Africa,' supervised by Dr. Alison S. Brooks. The discovery of ochre pigments at African Middle Stone Age (MSA) sites has been widely interpreted as relating to the onset of modern human symbolic behavior. However, an alternate hypothesis holds that ochre's first function was technological rather than symbolic. This project asked, 'When routine human acquisition of ochreous minerals began during the MSA, was this activity motivated primarily by symbolic or technological considerations?' Using ochre artifacts from the site of Twin Rivers Kopje, Zambia, as well as samples of mineral pigment deposits from Zambia, Kenya, and Malawi, this project refined geochemical methods of matching ochre artifacts to their source on the landscape. In addition, ochre streak colorimetry combined with analysis of how ochre artifacts from Twin Rivers were modified by humans determined that pigments with a saturated purple color were preferentially modified by grinding, likely to produce powdered pigment, relative to other types of ochre available near the site. Finally, an experimental archaeology study of ochre and resin adhesives determined that ochre fillers do not yield a significantly stronger adhesive than other widely available minerals like quartz, indicating that the documented use of ochre in the hafting of composite tools in the MSA was likely motivated by visual considerations.
Klehm, Dr. Carla Elizabeth, Washington U., St. Louis, MO - To aid research on 'Does Monumentality Hinge on Inequality? Mortuary Bead Analysis at Megalithic Pillar Sites in Kenya 5000bp'
Preliminary abstract: Megalithic architecture appeared suddenly in NW Kenya around 5000 BP in tandem with early herding. As Lake Turkana shrank, people built 'pillar sites' - massive feats of labor and coordination that represent an early instance of monumentality in Africa. Burials within pillar sites have thousands of beads made from stone, bone, ostrich eggshell, and shell. As the first comprehensive analysis of pillar site bead assemblages, this project can illuminate specific economic and social changes as herding began. Beads may have played a role in expressions of individual identity, social bonds within/between groups, and relationships between ancestors and living. Interpretation of beads, particularly as evidence for aggrandizement or leveling, depends on knowledge of raw materials (including stone from distant sources and teeth from dangerous animals), production methods, distribution, and display. Detailed analysis of beads from precise positions within specific burials at pillar sites will assess variation among individuals for evidence of inequality, and variation through pillar site sequences for diachronic changes in mortuary ornamentation. Data collection will focus on GeJi9 due to exceptional contextual control, but also include assemblages from GeJi10, GcJh5, GbJj1, and GaJi23. Analysis will integrate bead data with information on minerology and sourcing, and prior bioarchaeological studies of burials.
Minichillo, Thomas J., U. of Washington, Seattle, WA - To aid research on 'Middle Stone Age Lithic Study, South Africa,' supervised by Dr. Angela E. Close
THOMAS J. MINICHILLO, then a student at the University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, received funding in May 2002 to aid research on 'Middle Stone Age Lithic Study, South Africa,' supervised by Dr. Angela E. Close. The Middle Stone Age began around 300,000 years ago and continued to around 35,000 years ago in Africa. During this period anatomically modern humans emerged in Africa. Also during this period increasingly sophisticated technological innovations and the earliest evidence for symbolic thought entered into the archaeological record. All of these events are critical for our understanding of modern human origins. The research funded focused on the lithic technology of the Middle Stone Age from the Cape coast of southern Africa and presents new data from the region, helping to place this important period of our evolution in context. It was found, through the use of innovative methods and previously unreported curated assemblages that, during the Still Bay sub-stage, stylistic boundaries are apparent in the stone tools at the same time as the earliest recorded instances of worked ochre and shell beads. As this socially constructed bounding co-occurs with the earliest evidence for symbolic thought and personal adornment in the global archaeological record, it suggests that at least by this time, 74,000 BP, Homo sapiens in southern Africa were behaving in thoroughly modern ways. This overturns one of the widely held explanations for modern human origins, the Neural Advance Model.
Minichillo, Tom. 2006. Raw Material Use and Behavioral Modernity: Howiesons Poort Lithic Foraging Strategies. Journal of Human Evolution 50(3):359-364.
Minichillo, Tom. 2007. Early Marine Resources and Pigment in South Africa during the Middle Pleistocene. Nature 449:905-909
Bird, Catherine, Tom Minichillo, and Curtis W. Marean. 2007. Edge Damage Distribution at the Assemblage Level on Middle Stone Age Lithics: An Image-based GIS Approach. Journal of Archaeological Science 34:771-780.
Thompson, Erin, Hope M. Williams, and Tom Minichillo. 2010. Middle and La Pleistoncene Middle Stone Age Lithic Technology from Pinnacle Point 13B (Mossel Bay, Western Cape Province, South Africa). Journal of Human Evolution 59(3-4):358-377.
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.
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.
Semaw, Dr. Sileshi, Stone Age Institute, Gosport, IN - To aid the 'Gona Palaeoanthropological Research Project'
DR. SILESHI SEMAW, Stone Age Institute, Gosport, Indiana, was awarded a grant in June 2008 to aid the 'Gona Palaeoanthropoligcal Research Project.' The Gona Palaeoanthropological Research Project 2008 field investigations were focused primarily on expanding the excavations opened at two Early Acheulian sites located in the Ounda Gona South (OGS-12) and Busidima North (BSN-17) areas. The OGS12 and BSN17 archaeological sites are estimated between 1.6-1.5 million years (Ma), and both are among the oldest Acheulian sites in Africa (though slightly younger than Konso, from Southern Ethiopia, dated to 1.7 Ma). The archaeology team excavated both sites and retrieved a large number of crudely made handaxes and flaking debris in situ. Further, survey of DAN-5 -- a contemporary Early Acheulian site from Ounda Gona -- yielded two additional hominid molars belonging to an early Homo erectus. A cranium belonging to the same individual, and estimated to 1.6-1.5 Ma, had already been discovered earlier at the site. The geology team sampled dating materials from OGS-12 and BSN-17 and several other Early-Late Pleistocene archaeological sites. Soil carbonates were sampled for paleoenvironmental reconstructions and for V-Th geochronology, and tuffs were collected for refining the age of these archaeological sites with zircon (V-Pb) dating, a new technique promising to yield reliable age estimates for the hominids and artifacts. In addition, more paleomagnetic samples were collected to tighten up the age of several important hominid (Ar. ramidus, 4.5-4.3 Ma) and archaeological sites known at Gona.
Stout, Dietrich, Sileshi Semaw, Michael J. Rogers, Dominique Cauche. 2010. Technological Variation in the Earliest Oldowan from Gona, Afar, Ethiopia. Journal of Human Evolution 58(6):474-491.
Collins, Dr. Benjamin Robert, U. of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa - To aid research on 'Late MIS 3 Behavioral Diversity: The View from Grassridge Rockshelter, Eastern Cape, South Africa'
Preliminary abstract: Late Marine Isotope Stage 3 (MIS 3, from 45,000 to 25,000 years ago), is one of the most enigmatic and behaviorally diverse periods in southern African prehistory. During late MIS 3 we see the appearance of 'precocious' Later Stone Age technologies that coexist geographically and chronologically with Middle Stone Age (MSA) technologies for the subsequent 20,000 years. This behavioral diversity is suggested to result from a fragmented social landscape, dominated by highly localized and disconnected social groups. However, this social fragmentation hypothesis suffers from a dearth of well-described sites dating to late MIS 3, handicapping our ability to test this hypothesis, and examine the potential relationship between climatic variability and behavioral diversity observed during this period. The Grassridge Archeological and Paleoenvironmental Project (GAPP) addresses this issue with detailed archeological and paleoenvironmental research of the late MIS 3 sequence at Grassridge rockshelter, Eastern Cape, South Africa. Preliminary research of this rich MIS 3 archive has produced MSA stone tools that are typologically similar to those from other MSA sites in the region, and marine shell beads that come from at least 200km away. These two findings suggest that late MIS 3 may not have been as socially fragmented as predicted. Continued excavation and laboratory analysis of Grassridge's MSA deposits will provide significant insight into the technology, foraging patterns, mobility dynamics, and social networks being used by Grassridge's late MIS 3 occupants. Moreover, this research will produce data that can test of whether late MIS 3 was a socially fragmented landscape, and provide substantial novel insight into the behavioral diversity from this period.