Janzen, Anneke, U. of California, Santa Cruz, CA - To aid research on 'Mobility and Herd Management among Early Pastoralists in East Africa,' supervised by Dr. Diane Gifford-Gonzalez
Preliminary abstract: African pastoralism is unique in that it developed earlier than farming, and spread throughout the continent, appearing in East Africa around 3000 years ago and continuing to adapt to changes in the social and ecological landscape until the present. The proposed project examines mobility and herd management strategies of early pastoralists in East Africa. Stable isotope analysis of carbon, oxygen, and strontium, will provide detailed information about seasonal movements across the landscape as well as livestock exchange. Herd demographic profiles will also lend insight into the economic strategies employed by herders. This collections-based project will include nine archaeological sites, representing both fully pastoral and mixed economies. Pastoralism was not adopted uniformly across East Africa, and foraging populations coexisted with herders over the last three millennia. Sites with both domestic and wild animals hint at interactions between food producers and foragers, and this project aims to examine those social interactions in more detail.
McDonald, Dr. Mary Margaret Ann, U. of Calgary, Calgary, Canada - To aid research on 'The Late Pleistocene Khargan Settlement at Bulaq, Kharga Oasis, Egypt, and Implications for Environmental Change'
Preliminary Abstract: With colleagues of the Kharga Oasis Prehistory Project (KOPP), I propose to excavate the Khargan Unit settlement located high on the escarpment face at Naqb Bulaq, Kharga Oasis, Egypt, and to investigate the contexts of this unprecedented degree of Late Pleistocene sedentism. Orginally discovered by Gardner and Caton-Thompson in 1932, test excavations were conducted in several slab structures by Gardner's assistants in 1933 at 'Site J' (KOPP#, BQ-008). Despite the acknowledged association of Khargan Unit lithics both within and outside structures, the localiity was published as 'Stone outlines of unknown age and purpose.' In 2011 three KOPP members relocated the 7 slab structures reported, discovered the published plan to be erroneous, and that there are at least 12 slab structures within a radius of ~50 m. All associations are, as reported, Khargan Unit. Single Khargan structures have been found previously, including by KOPP in 2008 at Gebel Yebsa Area, but associated 'hut settlements' have, to date, only been found in Holocene contexts. While the Khargan Complex still lacks chronometric dating, typological seriation, and the settings and conditions of artefacts, indicate a later Late Pleistocene age. Understanding this rather 'peculiar' lithic aggregate and the settlement requires a detailed resurvey of the Bulaq escarpment in order to reassess the puzzling distribution of Aterian Complex versus Khargan Complex aggregates by elevation reported by Caton-Thompson: only Aterian at lower levels; mixed components higher up; and only Khargan at the highest elevations. If verified, this distribuition requires explanation: one KOPP hypothesis has been that Khargan aggregates represent the same population as do the earlier Aterian aggregates--a population having to adjust to deteriorating environmental conditions, but there are possible alternative explanations.
Njau, Jackson K., Rutgers U., New Brunswick, NJ -
To aid research on 'Vertebrate Taphonomy and Paleoecology of Lake-Margin Wetlands during Oldowan Times in Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania,' supervised by Dr. Robert J. Blumenschine
JACKSON K. NJAU, while a student at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, received an award December 2001 to aid research on the vertebrate taphonomy and paleoecology of lake-margin wetlands during Oldowan times in Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania, under the supervision of Dr. Robert J. Blumenschine. Njau's objective was to develop ecological models of landscape facets as they pertained to early hominids and large wetland vertebrate fauna during the Plio-Pleistocene at Olduvai Gorge. The ultimate goal was to understand the ecological contexts in which the behaviors of stone-tool-using human ancestors evolved. Studying the feeding behavior of captive crocodiles and their consumption of large mammalian carcasses, Njau developed basic taphonomic guidelines for distinguishing the effects of crocodilians from those of large terrestrial carnivores in bone accumulations. He also studied large-vertebrate bone assemblages on modern wetland land surfaces in Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, and Lakes Manyara and Eyasi. Systematic and intensive bone surveys were carried out at a very fine landscape scale in order to match environmental settings that might have existed in ancient Olduvai lake deposits, where unusually rich paleontological and archaeological material has been collected. Modern analog studies provided a useful tool in developing techniques for identifying the taphonomic characteristics of landscape sub-environments for application to prehistoric landscapes.
Njau, Jackson K., and Leslea J. Hlusko. 2010. Fine-Tuning Paleoanthropological Reconnaissance with High-Resolution Satellite Imager: The Discovery of 28 New Sites in Tanzania. Journal of Human Evolution 59(6):680-684.
Njau, Jackson K., and Robert J. Blumenschine. 2006. A diagnosis of crocodile feeding traces on larger mammal bone, with fossil examples from the Plio-Pleistocene Olduvai Basin, Tanzania. Journal of Human Evolution 50 (2006): 142-162
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 funding in November 2009, to aid the 'Gona Palaeoanthropological Research Project.' The Gona Palaeoanthropological Research Project, Afar, Ethiopia, is known for yielding a large number of stone artifacts and associated fragmentary fossil bones dated to 2.6 Ma, which are the oldest well documented archaeological materials in the world. In part funded by the Wenner-Gren Foundation, the Gona archaeology team continued fieldwork in 2010 and discovered stone artifacts with extraordinary information from newly opened excavations at the site of OGS-7 (in the Ounda Gona South area). The newly excavated stone artifacts include the first hammerstone to ever be found with the earliest archaeological materials dated to 2.6 Ma, more than a dozen cores (some radially-worked), a pick-like core, a large number of débitage (including whole flakes and angular fragments) and associated fragmentary fossil bones. The stone artifacts were recovered within fine-grained sediments and their condition was very fresh. Further, the Gona archaeology team conducted extended systematic surveys in the older deposits dated between 2.6-3.0 Ma to document the presence of any stones/bones modified as a result of hominid activities. The team collected several fossil fauna, but no modified stones/bones were encountered in these deposits. Based on the abundance of archaeological sites documented at 2.6 Ma at Gona and the superior knapping skills shown on the techniques of the manufacture of these artifacts, it is possible that the beginnings of the use of flaked stones may go back further in time, probably as early as 2.9 Ma. The last fossil evidence for Australopithecus afarensis is dated to 2.9 Ma, and it is likely that a new hominid species that evolved after the demise of A. afarensis could have begun manipulating stones, eventually discovering sharp cutting tools from stones probably used for activities related to animal butchery. Recently the Dikika Project (located south of the Gona study area) announced 3.4 Ma fossil bones that the team claims to have been intentionally modified by A. afarensis. However, this claim cannot be scientifically substantiated because it was based on two surface collected bones with no geological context, and with no evidence of a single stone artifact to back it up. In addition, the cutmark evidence from Dikika was challenged, and a number of experts in taphonomy believe that the modifications exhibited on the bones represent evidence that is typical of trampling. Therefore, currently Gona is the only site that has yielded scientifically proven stone artifacts and fossil bones that are the oldest documented in the world.
Tryon, Christian A., U. of Connecticut, Storrs, CT - To aid research on 'The Acheulian to Middle Stone Age Transition in the Southern Kapthurin Formation, Kenya,' supervised by Dr. Sally McBrearty
CHRISTIAN A. TRYON, while a student at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, Connecticut, was awarded a grant in June 2001 to aid research on the Acheulean to Middle Stone Age transition in the southern Kapthurin Formation, Baringo, Kenya, under the supervision of Dr. Sally McBrearty. Excavations at Koimilot (GnJh-74) have revealed two stratified, in situ, early Middle Stone Age (MSA) archaeological assemblages in the southern Kapthurin Formation. Tephrostratigraphic correlation has shown that these assemblages are the youngest known from the formation and overlie a sequence of interstratified Acheulean, Sangoan, and MSA sites dated by 4OArp/39Ar to more than 284,000 years ago. The Kapthurin Formation preserves one of the few well-dated, continuous sedimentary and archaeological sequences appropriate for assessing the nature of the Acheulean-MSA transition, a technological shift reflecting profound behavioral changes in the later middle Pleistocene, the likely time and place of the appearance of modern humans. Preliminary sedimentological data from Koimilot, artifact size and distribution studies, and analysis of refitted flakes suggested an intact flaking floor at Koimilot Locus 1, with hominid activities directed toward raw material acquisition and the production of typically oval flakes by Levallois methods. The stratigraphically younger Koimilot Locus 2 showed a technology that targeted the production of large Levallois points or elongated flakes. These data suggested a diversification during the early MSA of methods initially developed within the local Acheulean. Additional landscape-scale studies of sites and paleoenvironmental features linked through tephrostratigraphic studies were expected to contribute to an understanding of this variability and to facilitate extraregional comparisons of the end of the Acheulean.
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.
Jillani, Mr. Ngalla Edward, National Museums of Kenya, Nairobi, Kenya - To aid conference on 'Towards Understanding Palaeoenvironment during the First 'Out of Africa,' ' 2006, National Museums, in collaboration with Dr. Fredrick Kyala Manthi
Geo-environmental conditions may have triggered migrations at various times in the last 3 million years ago. Physical human factors and the environment can also trigger movement both at local and continental scale. Ecology and behaviour of a dispersing species becomes more variable as novel environments are settled and no close competitors are encountered. Adaptability, key factor to an organism's ability to endure change, thrive and spread to new environments rather than climatic shift and expansion of grasslands may explain success of early Homo in its novel environments. Ubeidiya, with Mediterranean-type of environmental setting contrary to woody savannahs earlier interpreted for the initial stages of exodus, may mean that ecological success of hominins dispersing out of Africa should be sought in intrinsic characters rather than their adaptation to Savanna grasslands. Migration to another continent represents a radical departure into the unknown and usually follows easiest routes to regain known conditions. Foreign environments are colonized only if known habitats are completely destroyed till there is nothing to live on. Considerable changes in faunas during early Pleistocene in East Africa saw Primates and Carnivores experiencing increase in speciation and extinction rates. Ecosystems re-organization in the region's basins potentially encouraged dispersion through search of new resources and increased inter and intra specific population competition. Anatomical and behavioural evidences point to first migration by Homo into Eurasia from Africa about 1.7 million years ago (ma) at 3 km per generation. This quick successful dispersal and colonization possibly took place via the Levant, Sinai Peninsula, Afar triangle into the Arabian peninsular or the strait of Bab al Mandab. Brain size and specialized technology seem to have conferred less advantage despite the latter's considered significance in hominid evolution. High hominid variability evident in Dmanisi and Turkana basin imply that those penetrating new environments and colonizing new lands were experiencing ecological release, key to behavioural changes. An endemic species, Homo australis, colonized South Africa and highly probably Homo erectus/ergaster never did. To create a clearer out of Africa picture, more field research works be directed to areas not extensively worked, combining theoretical and methodological themes in the field, tease out stress driven markers in teeth to decipher environmental/ecological stresses, consider exodus as a process therefore work towards predictive models by considering short time intervals and finally encourage active collaborative data exchange among researchers in all regions.