Villa, Paola

Grant Type: 
Post-Ph.D. Research Grant
Insitutional Affiliation: 
Colorado, Boulder, U. of
Status: 
Completed Grant
Approve Date: 
October 17, 2008
Project Title: 
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.

Publication Credit:
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.

Grant Year: 
2008
Award Amount: 
$24,100

Garcea, Elena Antonella

Grant Type: 
Int'l Collaborative Research Grant
Insitutional Affiliation: 
Cassino, U. of
Status: 
Completed Grant
Approve Date: 
October 18, 2006
Project Title: 
Garcea, Dr. Elena, U. di Cassino, Cassino, Italy; and Dr. Abdulaye Maga, IRSH/UAM, Niamey, Niger - To aid collaborative research on Early and Middle Holocene adaptations across the Sahara-Sahel border

Publication Credit:

Garcea, Elena A.A (ed.) 2013. Gobero: The No-Return Frontier Archaeology and Landscape at the Saharo-Sahelian Borderland. Africa Magna Verlag: Frankfurt, Germany

Grant Year: 
2006
Award Amount: 
$30,000

Jopela, Albino Pereira de Jesus

Grant Type: 
Wadsworth Fellowship
Insitutional Affiliation: 
Witwatersrand, U. of
Status: 
Active Fellowship
Approve Date: 
January 14, 2014
Project Title: 
Jopela, Albino, U. of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa - To aid training in archaeology at U. of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa, supervised by Dr. Benjamin Smith
Grant Year: 
2014
Award Amount: 
$16,040

Mercader, Julio

Grant Type: 
Post-Ph.D. Research Grant
Insitutional Affiliation: 
Calgary, U. of
Status: 
Completed Grant
Approve Date: 
April 8, 2011
Project Title: 
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.

Grant Year: 
2011
Award Amount: 
$20,000

Minichillo, Thomas Joseph

Grant Type: 
Dissertation Fieldwork Grant
Insitutional Affiliation: 
Washington, U. of
Status: 
Completed Grant
Approve Date: 
May 16, 2002
Project Title: 
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.

Publication Credits:

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.

Grant Year: 
2002
Award Amount: 
$16,963

Prassack, Kari Alyssa

Grant Type: 
Dissertation Fieldwork Grant
Insitutional Affiliation: 
Rutgers U.
Status: 
Completed Grant
Approve Date: 
October 26, 2006
Project Title: 
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.

Grant Year: 
2006
Award Amount: 
$24,975

Behrens, Joanna P.

Grant Type: 
Dissertation Fieldwork Grant
Insitutional Affiliation: 
Syracuse U.
Status: 
Completed Grant
Approve Date: 
June 10, 2004
Project Title: 
Behrens, Joanna P., Syracuse U., Syracuse, NY - To aid 'Digging the Great Trek: An Historical Archaeology of a Voortrekker Community, South Africa,' supervised by Dr. Christopher R. DeCorse

JOANNA BEHRENS, while a student at Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York, was awarded a grant in May 2004 to aid archaeological research at Schoemansdal, a mid- 19th century Voortrekker village in the Limpopo Province, northern South Africa, supervised by Dr Christopher R. DeCorse. The project investigated socio-economic diversity within a frontier community that lay along the northern margins of the wider colonial expansion, known historically as 'The Great Trek.' Between October 2004 and December 2005, Behrens undertook survey, excavation, and preliminary cataloguing as well as archival research in Pretoria, South Africa and London, England. Previous excavations at Schoemansdal, which had focused on the main community structures, were expanded, and houselots, located away from the village center, were targeted in order to access a broader understanding of the community. Shovel test pit sampling strategies were successfully employed in yard areas and six middens within the village were excavated, yielding assemblages that can be linked to individual households or properties. This material, analysed in tandem with that recovered from the community areas, is yielding insight into differential consumption practices and expanding historical understandings of trekker economies, specifically by shedding light on local and regional trade and exchange networks. The Schoemansdal material provides a crucial baseline assemblage for mid-19th century southern Africa and represents an important step in the re-interrogation of South Africa's Great Trek mythology .

Grant Year: 
2004
Award Amount: 
$23,476

Spiers, Samuel R.

Grant Type: 
Dissertation Fieldwork Grant
Insitutional Affiliation: 
Syracuse U.
Status: 
Completed Grant
Approve Date: 
January 10, 2001
Project Title: 
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.

Grant Year: 
2001
Award Amount: 
$19,140

Chazan, Michael

Grant Type: 
Post-Ph.D. Research Grant
Insitutional Affiliation: 
Toronto, U. of
Status: 
Completed Grant
Approve Date: 
May 4, 2007
Project Title: 
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.

Publication Credit:

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

Grant Year: 
2007
Award Amount: 
$16,950

Walshaw, Sarah Catherine

Grant Type: 
Post-Ph.D. Research Grant
Insitutional Affiliation: 
Simon Fraser U.
Status: 
Completed Grant
Approve Date: 
May 4, 2007
Project Title: 
Walshaw, Dr. Sarah Catherine, Simon Fraser U., Burnaby, Canada - To aid research on 'Food Production Viewed from the Fields: Contributions from Swahili Ethnoarchaeology on Pemba Island, Tanzania'

DR. SARAH C. WALSHAW, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, Canada, received a grant in May 2007 to aid research on 'Food Production Viewed from the Fields: Contributions from Swahili Ethnoarchaeology on Pemba Island, Tanzania.' Archaeological plant assemblages from several communities on Pemba Island, Tanzania, contain significant amounts of grain and chaff, suggesting that rice and pearl millet were stored in a largely unprocessed form. Ethnoarchaeological research was undertaken among farming communities on Pemba Island, where rice, sorghum, and pearl millet are farmed using non-mechanized techniques (such as hand-harvesting) to model the small-scale tropical farming systems of the Swahili. Observation of, and participation in, farming on Pemba Island helped explain several patterns seen archaeologically. First, hand harvesting eliminated weeds in the field and may be implicated in the infrequency of weed seeds in ancient houses and middens. Second, grains for food and seed were stored in the house to permit monitoring of amount and condition. Third, grains were reportedly stored in their husks to reduce loss from microbial and insect infestation, pest predation, and human over-use and theft. Labor constraints also posed significant pressures in this household-based agricultural economy, leading harvesters to spread the arduous tasks of processing throughout the year -- small amounts of grain were processed for each day's meal as required. This study demonstrates some of the agricultural and social motives for household-based agricultural practices, and provides a model for interpreting archaeobotanical patterns evident in ancient small-scale rice and millet farming systems.

Publication Credit:

Walshaw, Sarah, 2010. Converting to rice: urbanization, Islamization and crops on Pemba Island, Tanzania, AD 700-1500. World Archaeology 42:(1) 137-154.

Grant Year: 
2007
Award Amount: 
$9,323
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