Prassack, Kari Alyssa, Rutgers U., New Brunswick, NJ - To aid research on 'Paleoecological Significance of Fossil Birds at Olduvai: An Ecologically-Based Neotaphonomic Approach,' supervised by Dr. Robert John Blumenschine
KAN ALYSSA PRASSACK, then a student at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey, was awarded funding in October 2006 to aid research on 'Paleo-Ecological Significance of Fossil Birds at Olduvai: An Ecologically Based Neotaphonomic Approach,' supervised by Dr. Robert J. Blumenschine. This dissertation research addressed bird bone survivorship across modern landscapes to determine the paleo-environmental utility of fossil avifaunal accumulations for understanding early hominin habitats. Field research occurred in a range of environments in northern Tanzania. Surveys were conducted to determine where bird bone is most likely to be deposited and become fossilized and bones were collected and analyzed for taphonomic marks produced by feeding carnivores, microbial bio-erosion, weathering, and other bone-modifying processes. Controlled studies involved submersion and burial of bones in water and sediments taken from many of the surveyed field sites and exposure to sub-aerial processes in the southern Serengeti region of Tanzania. Carnivore feeding observations were also conducted, using several carnivore taxa, including smaller carnivores never before studied in this manner. The culmination of these data is now being utilized in the taphonomic analysis of Olduvai fossil birds recovered during excavations by the Olduvai Landscape Paleoanthropology Project.
Prassack, Kari A. 2014. Landscape Distribution and Ecology of Plio-Pleistocene Avifaunal Communities from Lowermost Bed II, Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania. Journal of Human Evolution 70(1):1-15.
Bugarin, Dr. Flordeliz T., George Washington U., Washington, D.C. - To aid research and writing on 'The Archaeology of Trade: Economic and Cultural Changes on the South African Xhosa Frontier' - Richard Carley Hunt Fellowship
Spiers, Samuel R., Syracuse U., Syracuse, NY - To aid research on 'The Historical Archaeology of the Eguafo Polity: Landscapes of Production and Consumption AD 1000-1900,' supervised by Dr. Christopher R. DeCorse
SAMUEL R. SPIERS, while a student at Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York, received a grant in January 2001 to aid research on the historical archaeology of the Eguafo polity of coastal Ghana, under the supervision of Dr. Christopher R. DeCorse. The goal of Spiers's twenty months of fieldwork was to document changes in settlement patterns and artifact inventories at the site of Eguafo, capital of the kingdom of Eguafo, 1000-1900 C.E. The work including survey, excavation, cataloguing, and archival research and spanned the thousand years of the site's continuous occupation. Preliminary results suggested two main occupation phases: an early phase marked by small, defensive settlements, limited long-distance trade, and limited differentiation in the artifact inventory and a second phase, from roughly the seventeenth century onward, when settlement size increased, long-distance trade goods became more plentiful, and artifact types became increasingly varied. Such transformations in the settlement pattern seemed to have occurred at the height of Eguafo's involvement in the trans-Atlantic slave trade. It was intended that the completed research would add to the understanding of the archaeological record of coastal Ghana and of African sociopolitical complexity. Further, the findings were to be made available to the people of Eguafo to assist them in tourism development projects.
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.
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.
Kyriacou, Dr. Katharine, U. of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa - To aid research on 'Gathered Foods as a Source of Brain-specific Nutrients for MSA Hunter-Gatherers in the Southwestern Cape'
Preliminary abstract: The aim of this research is to analyze the fatty acid, micronutrient and energy content of some easily collected food resources available to Middle Stone Age hunter-gatherers in the southwestern Cape, South Africa, and assess the role of these foods in the evolution of large-brained, anatomically and cognitively modern humans in this region. Particular emphasis will be placed on intertidal shellfish, terrestrial invertebrates and indigenous plants. Previous research suggests that simple marine molluscs represent one of the best and most accessible sources of longer-chain omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, as well as brain-specific micronutrients such as iron and iodine. Edible insects appear to be an excellent source of polyunsaturated fatty acids. Two South African species are particularly rich in shorter-chain omega-3 α-linolenic acid. Indigenous plants are also a likely source of essential fatty acids, as well as being the only significant source of energy in the form of carbohydrates available to prehistoric people in the coastal regions of southern Africa. The nutritional content and value of large samples of marine molluscs and terrestrial insects and plants will be determined by means of gas chromatography and inductively couple plasma mass spectronomy. New quantitative and qualitative information on the nutrient content of these foods will be integrated into the existing archaeological, anthropological and ecological framework for the southwestern Cape. This will allow for the evaluation of competing and/or complementary scenarios for Middle Stone Age diet and subsistence strategies, the interpretation of patterns in the archaeological record, and testing of hypotheses on the emergence of modern Homo sapiens in a key region within southern Africa.
Monroe, Dr. James Cameron, U. of California, Santa Cruz, CA - To aid 'The Cana Archaeological Survey'
DR. J. CAMERON MONROE, University of California, Santa Cruz, California, was awarded funding in October 2012 to aid research on 'The Cana Archaeological Survey.' Urbanism has been a central focus of archaeological research for more than a century. Although archaeologists have long focused on the earliest cities, a variety of urban contexts that thrived in contact settings have emerged as ideal contexts in which to explore urbanism from a broader anthropological vantage point. The Cana Archaeological Survey examines the origins of Cana, a city on the Slave Coast of West Africa during the era of the slave trade (16th through 19th centuries AD). The project sought to understand the changing relationship between Cana, a major precolonial city of the kingdom of Dahomey, located in the modern Republic of Bénin, and its broader hinterlands over the course of the second millennium AD. The project employed systematic regional archaeological survey and test excavation around Cana to provide initial inferences into whether urbanism in Dahomey was: 1) a deeply rooted precontact phenomenon resulting from the close articulation of towns and their respective countrysides; or rather 2) a state-driven process driven by long-distance forces of the Atlantic Era. Collectively, archaeological and ethnohistorical evidence collected suggests that the latter was the case, providing a valuable window onto the political and economic forces shaping urban life in the tumultuous Atlantic Era.
Assefa, Dr. Zelalem, Smithsonian Inst., WDC; Pleurdeau, Dr. David, Institut de Paleontologie Humaine, Paris, France - To aid research on
'Archaeological Investigations of the Middle/Later Stone Age Occupation at Goda-Buticha, Southeastern Ethiopia'
DR. ZELALEM ASSEFA, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, and DR. DAVID PLEURDEAU, Institut de Paleontologie Humaine, Paris, France, were awarded an International Collaborative Research Grant in November 2010, to aid collaborative research on 'Archaeological Investiations of the Middle/Later Stone Age Occupation at Goda-Buticha, Southeastern Ethiopia.' This ICRG-funded project was the systematic excavation of Goda Buticha, a cave site in southeastern Ethiopia discovered during an archaeological survey in 2007. A test excavation conducted in 2008 at this site revealed well-stratified deposits containing a diversity of Later Stone Age (LSA) and Middle Stone Age (MSA) material. A series of AMS and U-Th dates obtained in 2008 from charcoal and speleothem samples, respectively, provided dates ranging from mid-Holocene to 46 ka, but also indicated some complexities in the sedimentary and cultural sequence. The 2011 excavation at Goda Buticha clarified the sedimentary sequence and recovered a rich collection of archaeological materials using controlled excavation methods. Many LSA and MSA artifacts and faunal remains were recovered. Additional ostrich eggshell beads and isolated human skeletal remains were also found in the MSA levels. Sedimentological samples were collected for OSL dating and micro-morphological analysis. While thorough assessment of the significance of the site rests with the archaeological analysis and the chronometric dating that are in progress, the 2011 excavation has demonstrated the potential of Goda Buticha to provide insight into the late Middle Stone Age and later prehistory of the region.