Thompson, Dr. Jessica Corrine, U. of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia - To aid research on 'Testing Models of Middle Stone Age Site Formation, Technological Change, and Response to Climatic Variability'
DR. JESSICA C. THOMPSON, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia, was awarded a grant in April 2012 to aid research on 'Testing Models of Middle Stone Age Site Formation, Technological Change, and Response to Climatic Variability.' An important issue within human origins research is how quickly modern behavioral complexity emerged within the African Middle Stone Age (MSA - ca. 465-30ka). Another question is how extreme 'megadroughts' near Lake Malawi, central Africa, affected resident MSA populations. Resolving these issues in tandem requires the development of a long archaeological sequence of MSA behavior on the landscape adjacent to the lake. This project recovered over 15,000 stone artefacts and samples from the Chaminade West (CHA-W) locality in northern Malawi. CHA-W contains both Middle and Later Stone Age deposits within a continuous sequence of alluvial sand. The site shows variability in artefact types, raw materials, and intensity of occupation over time. It also shows occupation near a stream channel that may have attracted MSA people to the spot, compared to a site one kilometer to the east where most MSA artefacts are concentrated at a single horizon and no stream activity is evident. Dating of the landscape indicates that the sediments (and archaeological materials within them) began to accumulate more than 100ka and continued into the Holocene, leaving an excellent record of human occupation, adaptation, and abandonment in this part of central Africa.
Mehari, Asmeret Ghebreigziabiher, U. of Florida, Gainesville, FL - To aid research on 'Decolonizing the Pedagogy of Archaeology in East Africa,' supervised by Dr. Peter R. Schmidt
ASMERET G. MEHARI, then a student at University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, received funding in October 2009 to aid research on 'Decolonizing the Pedagogy of Archaeology in East Africa,' supervised by Dr. Peter R. Schmidt. This dissertation research explores the nature of archaeology in postcolonial East Africa using Tanzania and Uganda as case studies. Its main focus is analyzing the history and development of practicing and teaching archaeology by African scholars. Particularly, it examines what constitutes local archaeological research and how emerging local professionals contribute towards decolonizing archaeology in the region, meaning creating archaeological practices and pedagogies that are liberated and locally relevant. The methods for collecting relevant information include in-depth interviews with archaeologists, students, local communities, and antiquities and museum officials; archival research at university libraries, museums, and national research clearance institutions; participant observation -attending field schools and class-room based lectures, occasionally delivering lectures to undergraduate students, and living with local communities who reside around archaeological sites. Research findings show that most archaeological research is performed under collaborative projects that are mainly run by European-descendant Africanist scholars. Local Ugandan and Tanzanian scholars are most likely to have a profound influence on decolonizing archaeology through their own self-initiated and administrated projects. The contributions of local scholars vary but predominantly their efforts have been directed to the final product of archaeological research - primarily in the rewritings of African history.
Mehari, Asmeret. 2014. Knowledge about Archaeological Field Schools in Africa: The Tanzanian Experience. Azania: Archaeological Research in Africa, 49(2): 184-202
Pante, Michael Christopher, Rutgers U., New Brunswick, NJ - To aid 'A Taphonomic Investigation of Vertebrate Fossil Assemblages from Beds III and IV, Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania,' supervised by Dr. Robert J. Blumenschine
MICHAEL C. PANTE, then a student at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey, was awarded funding in May 2007 to aid research on 'A Tophanomic Investigation of Vertebrate Fossil Assemblages from Beds III and IV, Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania,' supervised by Dr. Robert J. Blumenschine. This doctoral project is a comparative and experimental study of fossils from Beds III and IV (1.15-.6 ma), Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania. The goals met were: 1) to carry out experiments designed to address the hydraulic transport of bone fragments created by hominins and carnivores during carcass consumption; and 2) to curate and conduct the first analysis of the Bed III and IV fossil assemblages. Flume experimentation was used to produce a database of over 1800 observations aimed at identifying variables that are associated with the hydraulic transport of individual bone fragments. Initial analyses show that animal size and the dimensions of bone fragments affect the hydraulic potential of specimens. In addition to flume experiments over 100,000 fossils and artifacts stored since the 1960s and 70s were curated and organized. Vertebrate fossils from two sites WK and JK 2 were studied in detail to determine the processes responsible for the modification, transport and deposition of the assemblages. Preliminary analyses based on the incidences of butchery marks and tooth marks indicate both hominins and carnivores contributed to the accumulation of the assemblages. This data will be used to assess the evolution of human carnivory through comparisons with the older FLK 22 site.
Pante, Michael C. 2013. The Larger Mammal Fossil Assemblage from JK2, Bed III, Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania: Implications for the Feeding Behavior of Homo erectus. Journal of Humanj Evolution 64(1):68-82.
Braun, David R., Rutgers U., New Brunswick, NJ - To aid research on 'Ecology of Oldowan Technology: Koobi Fora and Kanjera South,' supervised by Dr. John W.K. Harris
DAVID R. BRAUN, then a student at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey, received funding in December 2003 to aid research on 'Ecology of Oldowan Technology: Koobi Fora and Kanjera South,' supervised by Dr. John W.K. Harris. The ultimate goal of this project was to determine if the archaeological record of Oldowan tool use could be used to determine the impact of stone tool use on hominid adaptive strategies. The two sites investigated in this study (Kanjera South and two localities from the KBS member of the Koobi Fora Formation) are particularly relevant for a description of the significance of stone tool manufacture because of their varied environmental and geographic context. We examined Oldowan technology through three major avenues: 1) experimental and archaeological studies of flaking patterns used by early hominids to extend the use-life of their tools; 2) geochemical and engineering analyses to determine the effect of raw material availability and quality on artifact production and discard in the terminal Pliocene; and 3) comparison of how these factors influenced the industries found in these two different contexts in northern and western Kenya. The synthesis of these three avenues of study have shown that Pliocene hominids were possibly adept at selecting high quality raw materials and may have preferentially transported rocks that had particular physical properties that made them ideal for making stone artifacts. Furthermore, these behaviors seem to be reflected in both basins of varying ecological context, suggesting that this may be an underlying pattern found in the earliest archaeological traces.
Braun, David R., Michael J. Rogers, John W.K. Harris, Steven J. Walker. 2008. Landscape-scale Variation in Hominin Tool Use: Evidence from the Developed Oldowan. Journal of Human Evolution 55(6):1053-1063.
Semaw, Dr. Sileshi, Stone Age Institute, Gosport, IN - To aid the 'Gona Palaeoanthropological Research Project'
DR. SLESHI SEMAW, Stone Age Institute, Gosport, Indiana, was awarded funding in October 2006 to aid the 'Gona Palaeoanthropological Research Project.' The timing and context of early hominid technological leap from the Oldowan to the Acheulian Industry in Africa is among the least understood questions in paleoanthropology. The Oldowan-Acheulian transition marks the first time that our ancestors created tools (handaxes, cleavers, picks, etc.) that probably required a preconception of form before their manufacture. This transition is poorly known, though, because of the paucity of well-dated Acheulian sites that are older than 1.4 million years old (Ma). Preliminary investigations in East Africa suggest that the Acheulian appeared about 1.7 Ma, and probably coincided with the expansion of Homo erectus into areas unoccupied by earlier hominids. However, the emergence of the Acheulian at ~1.7-1.6- Ma has yet to be unambiguously demonstrated both archaeologically and geologically. Our systematic archaeological investigations at Gona are now beginning to yield important clues to answer some of these questions. The recent systematic surveys and excavations at Gona have produced fossil hominids and Early Acheulian artifacts that are ~1.6 Ma. Two Early Acheulian sites (OGS-12 and BSN-17) have been excavated yielding a high density of large flakes and crudely-made bifaces, and débitage estimated to ~1.6 Ma. The presence of a thick Plio-Pleistocene sequence at Gona has provided an opportunity to assess if any lithic assemblages existed to mark the Oldowan-Acheulian transition. There are no lithic assemblages that are attributable to the 'Developed Oldowan,' and the evidence from Gona appears to favor a rapid technological transition from the Oldowan (Mode I) to the Acheulian technology (Mode II) ~1.7-1.6 Ma. While there is some evidence of African climate change about 1.8-1.7 Ma, there is no clear link between environmental change and the origins of Homo erectus or the Acheulian.
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.
Grillo, Katherine Mary, Washington U., St. Louis, MO - To aid research on 'Containing Life: Perspectives on Pastoralist Pottery in East Africa,' supervised by Dr. Fiona B. Marshall
KATHERINE M. GRILLO, then a student at Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri, was awarded funding in April 2008 to aid research on 'Containing Life: Perspectives on Pastoralist Pottery in East Africa,' supervised by Dr. Fiona B. Marshall. This project aims to provide archaeological insight into the complex relationships between mobile pastoralism and pottery production, use, and exchange. Food production in Africa followed a unique pathway: cattle pastoralism developed long before agriculture. Although pottery is very often associated with some degree of sedentism and agricultural production, little research has examined the ways in which the material cultures of mobile pastoral societies are represented in the archaeological record. Many archaeologists simply assume such groups are either incapable or unwilling to produce substantial amounts of pottery at all. However, this research has helped to describe and explain for the first time how ceramic production and use can be deeply economically, politically, and ideologically integrated into even highly mobile pastoralist societies. Ethnoarchaeological research was conducted among Samburu cattle pastoralists in northern Kenya, and collections-based research at the Nairobi National Museum provided a comparative case study in how the earliest pastoralists in East Africa utilized pottery as part of both their domestic and ceremonial lives. Ultimately this project will provide an empirically rigorous and ethnoarchaeologically grounded basis for interpreting pastoralist pottery found in archaeological contexts, advancing ongoing studies of the nature and spread of early food-producing communities throughout the Pastoral Neolithic of eastern Africa.