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.
Manthi, Dr. Fredrick Kyalo, National Museums of Kenya, Nairobi, Kenya - To aid engaged activities on 'Public Engagement in Palaeontological Investigations of the Plio-Pleistocene Nachukui Formation, Northern Kenya,' 2013, Turkana County, Kenya
DR. FREDRICK MANTHI, National Museums of Kenya, Nairobi, Kenya, received an Engaged Anthropology Grant in August 2012 to aid 'Public Engagement in Palaeontological Investigations of the Plio-Pleistocene Nachukui Formation, Northern Kenya.' The Lake Turkana Basin in northern Kenya has contributed significantly to understanding the evolution of human and non-human species during the Plio-Pleistocene. Although prehistory research has been carried-out in the Basin for over 50 years, a large number of the local people are not aware of the scientific importance of the findings from this research. In fact, many of the local people believe that researchers make a lot of money from fossils and artifacts. In the last six years, the grantee has directed palaeontological investigations in the Lake Turkana Basin, aided in part with funding from Wenner-Gren. In the course of these expeditions, it became evident that there was need for more engagement between research groups and the local people. Funding went to organize an outreach program in February 2013 that entailed holding public meetings, visits to schools and discussions with local administrators, which were all centered on the importance of prehistory research in understanding the past and (it is hoped) helped lay the foundation for future engagements advancing research in the Turkana Basin.
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.
Chemere, Dr. Yonatan Sahle, U. of California, Berkeley, CA - To aid research on 'A Closer Investigation of Early Complex Projectile Technologies at Porc-Epic Cave and Aduma, Ethiopia'
Preliminary abstract: Complex projectiles (i.e. those delivered using a mechanical propeller) provide broader lethal ranges than throwing spears (i.e. 'simple' projectiles). They are therefore considered decisive for the successful adaptation and dispersal of modern humans during the Upper Pleistocene. The identification of such mechanically projected weapons in deep antiquity has proven difficult, as conclusive evidence indicating the mode of weapon delivery is as yet lacking from the African Middle Stone Age (MSA). Based on indirect evidence, archaeologists suggest that complex projectiles were already used in Africa by 100-50 kya. Suggestions from the Ethiopian MSA sites of Porc-Epic Cave and Aduma particularly derive from several hundred stone points that may have been used to tip arrows and/or darts. However, these inferences rely only on shape, weight, and/or retouch attributes of the stone points, informing on potential (rather than actual) use of the points as complex projectile tips. Considering their adaptive and cognitive implications, an exhaustive investigation of the origin of complex projectiles in Africa remains crucial. With the application of multiple approaches, including the non-subjective fracture velocity method, this study seeks to assess whether some of the MSA stone points from Porc-Epic Cave and Aduma represent early complex projectiles.
Frey, Carol J., U. of Washington, Seattle, WA - To aid research on 'Pastoralism's Ecological Legacy: Zooarchaeological Investigation in the Southwest Cape, South Africa,' supervised by Dr. Donald K. Grayson
CAROL J. FREY, then a student at the University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, was awarded a grant in October 2003 to aid research on 'Pastoralism's Ecological Legacy: Zooarchaeological Investigation in the Southwest Cape, South Africa,' supervised by Dr. Donald K. Grayson. This research used archaeofaunal remains to examine the prehistoric ecological impacts of the introduction of herding in the winter rainfall region of South Africa. Ecologists and conservationists recognize that the shapes and courses of modern ecosystems are plotted by the legacy of prior human land use and by long-term ecological community dynamics. In the Western Cape, already occupied by hunter-gatherers and native wild fauna, sheep (Ovis aries) and cattle (Bos taurus) were introduced between c. 2000 and 1300 years ago. In order to address how this prehistoric introduction of herd animals and herding economies may have affected the landscape, archaeofaunal remains were examined from three well-stratified sites that span the preceding period, as well as the local introduction and the development of pastoralism: Die Kelders, Kasteelberg and Paternoster. Factors relevant to addressing changes in human use of the landscape and changes in the Landscape itself include the types and range of prey taken by humans before and after the arrival of domestic animals, transport decisions, prey demographics, and live condition. Taxon, skeletal element, age-at-death, butchery and taphonomic data were collected for more than 30,000 reptile and mammal remains. Conical bone thickness, a potential indicator of animals' live condition, was recorded using X-ray photography of complete long bones and bone portions. Preliminary results suggest that the introduced domesticates did not directly impact wild populations, but shifts in human landscape use, consequent to the introduction of herding, did have effects on certain native taxa.
Woldekiros, Helina S., Washington U., St. Louis, MO - To aid research on 'Archaeology of the Afar Salt Caravan Route of Northeastern Ethiopia,' supervised by Dr. Fiona Marshall
HELINA S. WOLDEKIROS, then a student at Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri, was awarded funding in May 2010, to aid research on 'Archaeology of the Afar Salt Caravan Route of Northeastern Ethiopia,' supervised by Dr. Fiona Marshall. In Africa, social, political, and economic structures have been shaped by salt production, distribution, and long-distance trade, in areas where salt is a critical resource. In Ethiopia, emphasis has been placed on Aksumite control of the Red Sea Trade (150 C.E.-C.E 700) and the trade in ivory, gold, perfume, and slaves rather than on local and regional trade in consumable commodities. Furthermore, scholars understand more about the geographic distribution of key resources than they do about other aspects of the archaeological record of ancient commodity flow -- such as procurement and transfer costs, or the material correlates of exchange activities -- that linked distribution centers. To address this issue, ethnoarchaeological research was carried out on the Afar salt caravan route in Northern Ethiopia, which focused on collection of information on the route and material traces of caravans to identify ancient use of the Afar trail. Major archaeological sites were identified on the salt route, and excavation of these sites revealed ancient bread-cooking stones similar to those characteristic of modern salt trader camps. Aksumite pottery and obsidian distinctive of the Afar were also identified, suggesting local or regional exchange in commodities from the Afar lowlands to the North Ethiopian plateau dating to as early as Aksumite (150 C.E-C.E 700) period.