Susino, George James, U. of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa - To aid research on 'Optical Dating of Quartz Microdebitage from Archaeological Deposits of Sibudu Cave, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa'
DR. GEORGE JAMES SUSINO, then a student at University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa, was awarded funding in October 2006 to aid research on 'Optical Dating of Quartz Microdebitage from Archaeological Deposits of Sibudu Cave, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.' This research addresses several key problems related to the understanding of archaeological site formation processes. In recent years, the reliance on sedimentary layers for chronological analysis of archaeological sites has been problematic. Site deposit disturbance is difficult to quantify, and archaeology has adopted several strategies for dating events within the stratigraphy. The most common is to date the terminus post quem, or the location of the lowest artefact (regardless of the movement of the material in the deposit). This research redresses these methodological problems by direct dating of remnant artefactual material (quartz microdebitage) and sedimentary quartz separately with optical dating techniques as to discern differences in age between the sedimentary and artefactual material. The OSL chronologies are then correlated with the extensive age determination achieved by other dating techniques (Radiocarbon and OSL on sediments). The Sibudu Cave site was selected primarily for the ready availability of sediment samples collected previously for optical dating and for the site importance for the understanding of changes within lithic technology from Early Stone Age to Late Stone Age. This research will apply a rigorous test for the validity of the chronology of lithic typologies at Sibudu Cave, and as a test of direct dating of artefactual material as opposed to the dating of sedimentary layers.
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.
Watts, Dr. Ian Douglas Somerled, Independent Scholar, Athens, Greece - To aid research on 'The Antiquity and Behavioural Implications of Pigment Use in the Northern Cape (South Africa),'
DR. IAN D.S. WATTS, an independent scholar in Athens, Greece, was awarded funding in April 2012 to aid research on 'The Antiquity and Behavioral Implications of Pigment Use in the Northern Cape (South Africa).' Earth pigment use is widely considered to date back approximately 300,000 years (~300 ka), but several poorly documented claims have been made for earlier use, from Fauresmith and Acheulean contexts in South Africa's Northern Cape. This project evaluated these claims. At Kathu Pan, scraped specularite-a glittery form of haematite-is associated with some of the earliest blades and points, at ~500 ka. This is currently the earliest compelling evidence for pigment use. Utilized specularite and red pigments were recovered from an undated Fauresmith context at the back of Wonderwerk Cave, where firelight would have been essential. Specularite was also confirmed at Canteen Kopje, associated with early Middle Stone Age or Fauresmith material, with dating estimates for overlying deposits indicating a minimum age of ~300 ka. Claims for Acheulean pigments at Kathu Pan, Kathu Townlands, and Wonderwerk could not be confirmed; indeed, there is good evidence of absence. Minimum distances to specularite outcrops for Wonderwerk and Canteen Kopje are 50km and 170km respectively, with no natural agencies capable of reducing these distances. These findings lend some support to predictions of Power's 'female cosmetic coalitions' model of the evolution of symbolic culture, while challenging predictions of Kuhn's 'honest, low-cost signals' hypothesis.
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.
M'Mbogori, Dr. Freda Nikrote, British Institute in Eastern Africa, Nairobi, Kenya - To aid research on 'Revisiting Bantu Migration Narrative: A Contextual Archaeological Approach'
Preliminary abstract: The grand narrative of 'Bantu migration' was archaeologically investigated in Eastern Africa during 1960- 70s. Since then and despite the widespread application of more socially informed and more refined scientific approaches in archaeology, these supposed Bantu sites have remained unexplored. Pottery forms and decoration were used as the primary means to identify and date these Bantu archaeological sites and such investigations were largely offered to elaborate the historic-linguistic data (e.g. Ehret 1974). However, pottery stylistics attributes have been found to be unreliable as markers of identity and social boundaries, since they are often copied by people who do not share a language or even genetic material (Boaz 2003). Although farming and iron were identified as other attributes of early Bantu (Philipson 2003), they were rarely fully investigated (Kahlheber et al 2009; Bellwood 2009). Following the recent criticism of 'pots equals people' (Eggert 2005) and the work of post-processualists such as Hodder (1987) and others it has become apparent that material culture cannot be viewed in a unilateral way. But it can be used to infer economics, technologies, social organization and ritual practices, what Hodder refers to as 'contextual archaeology.' This research aims to provide a much higher resolution to the narrative of the Bantu expansion by conducting contextual archaeology within the Iron Age sites of the South East Mt. Kenya region. For the first time in Eastern Africa, it will seek to identify the myriad of Early Iron Age sites in one specific region and assess their connections and social settings by studying not only pottery styles and techniques but also iron production, archaeobotany, zooarchaelogy and the spatial distribution of the sites.We hope that this highly resolved approach to Bantu archaeology will serve as a training ground for Kenyan students and as a model for future studies.
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.
Rosso, Daniela Eugenia, U. Bordeaux, Bordeaux, France - To aid research on 'Technological and Physicochemical Characterization of MSA Pigments from Porc-Epic Cave (Dire Dawa, Ethiopia),' supervised by Dr. Francesco D'Errico
DANIELA E. ROSSO, then a graduate student at University of Bordeaux, Bordeaux, France, received funding in October 2013 to aid research on 'Technological and Physicochemical Characterization of MSA Pigments from Porc-Epic Cave (Dire Dawa, Ethiopia),' supervised by Dr. Francesco D'Errico. Novel methodology was applied to the analysis of the Middle Stone Age (MSA) ochre and ochre-processing tools from Porc-Epic cave (Dire Dawa, Ethiopia) with the aim of gaining a better understanding of the emergence of pigment related technology in this region, and discussing its implications for the debate on the origin of 'behavioral modernity.' This research shows that the MSA layers of this site have yielded the richest collection of pigment thus far, with 40 kg of ochre fragments and 23 ochre-processing tools. Porc-Epic cave is one of the rare palaeolithic sites at which most of the stages of ochre treatment are recorded. Elemental and mineralogical analyses show that ferruginous rocks, with variable proportions of iron, silicon, and aluminum, rich in hematite, goethite and clay minerals, were used to produce ochre powder, probably for a variety of functions (utilitarian and symbolic). The identification of different types of modification marks on the ochre fragments, and the presence of grindstones of a variety of raw material, show that a complex ochre treatment system, previously unknown in the Horn of Africa MSA, was used by the inhabitants of Porc-Epic cave.
Swanepoel, Dr. Natalie J., U. of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa - To aid 'Biennial Meeting of the Association of Southern African Professional Archaeologists (ASAPA),' 2011, Mbabane, Swaziland, in collaboration with Dr. Mary Thembiwe Russell
Preliminary abstract: The biennial meetings of the Association of Southern African Professional Archaeologists bring together professional archaeologists who live and work in southern Africa, as well as other international scholars whose research interests are centred on the sub-region. The conference provides an invaluable opportunity for these archaeologists to come together to discuss new finds and trends in the discipline with national and international colleagues and to build foundations for cooperative research and the sharing of ideas. Students benefit by interacting with senior members of the discipline. The conference attracts a diverse attendance from archaeologists based at universities, museums, in CRM practice, heritage management and government, thus ensuring the opportunity for real dialogue between practitioners with shared interests, who may not get the opportunity to meet otherwise. The conference programme includes oral and poster presentations, as well as round- table sessions to discuss issues relating to policy and practice. The scope of the conference covers the full span of southern African archaeology, including: current debates around human evolution and behavioural modernity, Stone Age population dynamics, social complexity, and the impacts of colonial settlement and culture contact. In addition, CRM practice, heritage management and the role of archaeology in southern Africa today are discussed.