Sahnouni, Dr. Mohamed, Stone Age Institute., Gosport, IN - To aid research on 'Further Research into the Pliocene Archaeology of Ain Boucherit, Algeria'
DR. MOHAMED SAHNOUNI, Stone Age Institute, Gosport, Indiana, received funding in April 2011 to aid research on 'Further Research into the Pliocene Archaeology of Ain Boucherit, Algeria.' Investigations undertaken at the Ain Boucherit locality have resulted in the recovery of stone tools and animal fossils spanning from 2.3 to 2.0 million years ago (Ma), much older than those already known at Ain Hanech (circa 1.8 Ma). The new archaeological materials come from two stratigraphic units: Unit P/Q and Unit R. The Unit P/Q is stratigraphically situated 13m below the Ain Hanech and El-Kherba Oldowan bearing deposits. Within this same unit, in addition to fossil animal bones, researchers also collected in situ Mode I stone artifacts encased in a fine silty matrix. A diverse fauna was associated with the stone artifacts. The artifacts include primarily core-tools and flakes. Furthermore, fragments of a large bovid upper limb bone with evidence of horn inflicted cutmarks were recovered. Excavations in the Unit R, stratigraphically located 7m above the Ain Boucherit stratum (Unit P/Q) and 6m below Ain Hanech and EI-Kherba Oldowan localities (Unit T), yielded animal fossils associated with a rich Mode I lithic assemblage encased in a floodplain deposit. The fauna collection shows more affinities with Unit P/Q. The lithic assemblage includes core-tools, flakes, and fragments. The mammalian fauna preserves several cutmarked and hammerstone-percussed bones. A 22m-thick magnetostratigraphic section was studied beginning just below Unit P/Q from the bottom all the way up to the calcrete deposit that caps the formation. Both normal and reversed polarities were documented allowing a solid correlation of the local magnetic polarity stratigraphy to the Global Polarity Time Scale, using temporally associated vertebrate faunal biochronology. The successive archaeological localities at Ain Hanech are placed along the magnetostratigraphic sequence, from bottom to top, as follows: 1) Unit P/Q, in Matuyama Reverse chron, is estimated to -2.3 Ma; 2) Unit R, at the onset of Olduvai Normal Subchron, is estimated to -2.0 Ma; 3) Ain Hanech and EI-Kherba in Unit T at the Olduvai Subchron to Matuyama polarity reversal, are estimated to -1.8 Ma; and the calcrete deposit (with Acheulean artifacts) below the Jaramillo Subchron, is estimated to over 1.0 Ma. Thus, Ain Boucherit currently represents the oldest archaeological occurrences in North Africa showing that ancestral hominins inhabited the Mediterranean fringe much earlier than previously thought.
Sahnouni, Mohamed. 2014. Early Human Settlements in Northern Africa: Paleomagnetic Evidence from the Ain Hanech Formation (Northeastern Algeria). Quaternary Science Reviews 99:203-209.
Sahnouni, Mohamed, Jordi Rosell, Jan van der Made, et al. 2013. The First Evidence of Cut Marks and Usewear Traces from the Plio-Pleistocene Locality of El-Kherba (Ain Hanech), Algeria: Implications for Early Hominin Subsistence Activities circa 1.7 Ma. Journal of Human Evolution 64(2):137-150.
Chazan, Dr. Michael, U. of Toronto, Toronto, Canada - To aid research on 'Archaeology of Wonderwerk Cave, Northern Cape Province, South Africa'
DR. MICHAEL CHAZAN, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada, was awarded a grant in May 2007 to aid research on 'Archaeology of Wonderwerk Cave, Northern Cape Province, South Africa.' Research funded at Wonderwerk Cave (South Africa) has helped to establish it as one of the most important sites in Southern Africa. Research at the back of the cave (Excavation 6) indicates that over 0.180 Ma (the Fauresmith), hominins introduced into this dark locality (approximately 140m from the cave entrance) objects with special sensory properties. Intercalation of a 3D-laser scan of the cave interior and a survey of the overlying hillside confirms the absence of another entrance, implying purposeful occupation of Excavation 6, perhaps due to its special natural visual and acoustic qualities. This suggests that sensitivity to the sensory properties of a landscape and to materials, formed an integral element in the emergence of modern symbolic behavior. The age of the lowest in situ layers in the cave front (Excavation 1) has been confirmed as ca. 2.0 Ma, and represents the earliest evidence for intentional hominin cave use in the world. This finding was covered widely in the international media and has contributed to the candidacy of this site for World Heritage status.
Chazan, Michael. 2009. Laser Scanning for Conservation and Research of African Cultural Heritage Sites: The Case Study of Wonderwerk Cave, South Africa. Journal of Archaeological Science 36:1847-1856
Falgueres, Dr. Christophe, Museum National D'histoire Naturelle, Paris, France - To aid conference on 'Modern Man in Northern Africa: Chronology, Behavior and Cultural Heritage,' 2015, Rabat, Morocco, in collaboration with Dr. Mohamed El Hajraoui
Preliminary abstract: The project aims in meeting several searchers coming from different labs from Canada, France, Morocco, Italy and to enlarge to other labs from Senegal, Tunisia, Algeria. The main scopes are dedicated to geochronology, caracterisation methods applied to global heritage since the origin of Modern humans to the historic period in Maghreb. Two main subjects will be discussed :1.) Chronology and behavior of Modern Man since its origins about 130 000 years in Maghreb area; and 2) Caracterisation of pigments and colorants using different non invasive and portable methods in the frame of cultural heritage.The goals are:to establish the state of the art of the research in Morocco and discuss the results obtained since the last 5 years in Morocco; to reinforce the dialog between teams who are working in Morocco and to enlarge collaborations to other countries such as Algeria, Tunisia and Senegal in order to reconstruct the history of Modern Man in Northern Africa and his behavior from a cultural point of view. In 2010, a first meeting was organized by UQAM at Montreal. This previous colloquium allowed a good synergy between labs and inititated several collaborations in which phd students were involved. In 2013, a new edition was organized by MNHN-CNRS, Paris, involving Moroccan labs. In 2015, the next conference in Rabat is intended to consolidate these collaborations and initiate new prospectives for research and training.
Wilmsen, Dr. Edwin Norman, U. of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa - To aid research on 'Pottery, Clays, and Lands: An Ethnoarchaeological Study of the Social Dimensions of Pottery in Botswana'
DR. EDWIN WILMSEN, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa, was awarded a grant in April 2013 to aid research on 'Potters, Clays, and Lands: An Ethnoarchaeological Study of the Social Dimensions of Pottery in Botswana.' A potting clay mine and a nearby archaeological site at Manaledi village in the Tswapong Hills of Botswana were excavated. The work and family histories of current potters in this village, along with those of 41 potters in five other villages, were studied using ethnohistorical methods. Clay from the mine and sherds from the excavations and current potters were prepared as thin section slides and examined by petrography. Uniformity in trace minerals in the Manaledi clays and sherds confirm that clay from the mine has been used for potting exclusively at Manaledi for several generations. Manaledi ancestors, and the Hills themselves, are powerful guardians of the mines and their interests must be protected. Among these interests is procreation, and unlike at other villages, pregnant Manaledi women may work the mines and continue potting. Ancestry and pregnancy are bipolar attributes of community continuity bound together with tenurial rights in land through descent and are emphasized by village potters. Potters at all the villages studied are of varying age, status, religion, and skill levels; most are elderly women (40-79 years old) living in rural areas, but younger women are increasingly becoming apprentices to supplement their income, as demand for clay pots is expanding in both traditional and commercial markets.
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.
Lyons, Dr. Diane E., U. of Calgary, Calgary, Canada - To aid the '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.
Bernatchez, Jocelyn Anna, Arizona State U., Tempe, AZ - To aid research on 'The Role of Ochre in the Development of Modern Human Behavior: A Case Study from South Africa,' supervised by Dr. Curtis W. Marean
JOCELYN A. BERNATCHEZ, then a student at Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona, received a grant in October 2010 to aid research on 'The Role of Ochre in the Development of Modern Human Behavior: A Case Study from South Africa,' supervised by Dr. Curtis W. Marean. The presence of ochre in Middle Stone Age (MSA ~250-40ka) sites in southern Africa is often proposed as evidence for symbolism and early modern human behavior. However, there is significant debate about the uses of ochre in the past and whether symbolism is the most appropriate explanation for its presence in these sites. This project focused on the following research question: Within the MSA sites at Pinnacle Point, South Africa, is ochre evidence for symbolic behavior, or were more utilitarian activities involving ochre taking place? Several aspects of the record were studied to test these questions, including geological survey and sourcing attempts of archaeological samples. The acquisition of ochre is typically a highly ritualized activity for recent hunter-gatherer groups when compared to the exploitation of other non-symbolically loaded raw materials (such as stone). An exploitation pattern focusing primarily on distant sources rather than closer sources or a pattern focused on a few deposits when many are available may be suggestive of some symbolic meaning. Twenty-four ochre sources were identified. Using Particle Induced X-Ray Emission (PIXE), it was possible to identify a possible preference for the ochre at one source located approximately 19km from Pinnacle Point.
Sahnouni, Dr. Mohamed, Stone Age Institute, Gosport, IN - To aid research on 'Investigations into the Pliocene Archaeology of Ain Boucherit, Northeastern Algeria'
DR. MOHAMED SAHNOUNI, Stone Age Institute, Gosport, Indiana, received a grant in April 2008 to aid research on 'Investigations into the Pliocene Archaeology of Ain Boucherit, Northeastern Algeria.' Archaeological investigations were carried out to examine the possibility of whether early hominins inhabited North Africa prior to 2.0 million years ago. The investigations consisted of surveying the research area, studying the stratigraphy and sampling for dating, excavating the late Pliocene fossil/stone artifact bearing stratum, and analyzing the excavated archaeological materials. The excavations yielded relatively rich stone tool and faunal assemblages. The stone tools are Oldowan and include core-forms, whole flakes, and fragments. The presence of an Equus bone bearing a series of cut-marks indicates the causal link between the stone tools and the faunal remains. Paleomagnetic and cosmogenic nuclides studies are underway but faunal taxa of biochronological interest indicate a late Pliocene age that can be estimated between 1.95 and 2.32 Ma. Thus, Ain Boucherit documents the evidence of the earliest human occupation in North Africa, and can help our understanding of the larger picture of early hominin dispersal out of Africa.