Keitumetse, Dr. Susan, U. of Botswana, Maun, Botswana; and Crossland, Dr. Zoe, Columbia U. NY, NY - To aid collaborative research on 'Historical Archaeology Of 'Marginal Landscapes' Of East-Central Botswana: Between Kgalagadi Desert & Limpopo Dry Valleys'
This project looks at archaeological material from the sparsely populated ecotone between the Kalahari desert and the rich subsidiary valleys of the Limpopo river ('marginal spaces'), in order to explore the social and political upheavals of the latter half of the 19th century in Botswana. This was a period characterized by Tswana polities' migrations into present-day Botswana who came across other Tswana and San communities such as Tswana of Bakgalagadi origin in Shoshong town later occupied by BaNgwato polity who had contact with them. Most archaeological work has been directed either towards earlier sites or the royal towns of BaNgwato of the 19th century. Little environmental and social research work has been carried out on what is generally considered as marginal zones, where other communities may have thrived. We propose to carry out surface survey and excavation in a cattle post near Mosolotshane area, along the dry Bonwapitse stream of the Limpopo River Basin (LRB), in order to better understand the changing patterns of landscape inhabitation and social stratification during migration byTswana communities. We will shift focus away from the hilltop settlements (Toutswe) and nucleated towns (e.g. Shoshong, Palatswe, etc), that have been the object of most anthropological research.
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.
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.
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.
Prendergast, Dr. Mary E., St. Louis U. in Madrid, Madrid, Spain; and Mabulla, Dr. Audax, U .of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania - To aid collaborative research on 'Archaeological Investigation of a 'Moving Frontier' of Early Herding in Northern Tanzania'
Preliminary Abstract: This project aims to understand the spread of herding and impacts on foragers in eastern Africa ca. 3000 years ago. Sites with so-called 'Pastoral Neolithic' ceramics, often associated with remains of livestock in Kenya, are found in an area stretching from the Serengeti to the Rift Valley in northern Tanzania. This poorly documented area is usually thought to mark the southern 'boundary' of early pastoralism. The existence and implications of this boundary have not been questioned, and it might be more appropriately thought of as a 'frontier' that may shift, dissolve or solidify depending on the nature of forager-food producer relationships. Thus sites in this area are ideal testing grounds for anthropological theories regarding such contact. We explore the 'moving frontier' of herding through systematic surveys and test excavations in the Manyara and Engaruka basins of the Rift Valley. We aim to: understand how land use varied according to subsistence strategy; refine the local chronology for early herding; examine claims for contact among Rift Valley populations; and elucidate the relationship, if any, between material culture and subsistence. The team includes specialists from Tanzania, Europe and the US who will train Tanzanian students in field methods and materials analyses.
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.
Stewart, Dr. Brian Alfred, U. of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom - To aid research on 'The Middle Stone Age of the Lesotho Highlands'
DR. BRIAN AL. STEWART, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom, was awarded a grant in May 2010 to aid research on 'The Middle Stone Age of the Lesotho Highlands.' An understanding of the diversity of early modern human adaptations is compromised by a geographical research bias towards the southern African coasts. This project redresses this by exploring high-altitude landscape use by Middle Stone Age societies in highland Lesotho. The project's mainstays are targeted excavations at two large rockshelters: Melikane and Sehonghong. Wenner-Gren funding supported a series of key scientific analyses on aspects of the sedimentary sequence at Melikane. This helped establish the basic processes responsible for forming this sequence, when these processes occurred and the environmental conditions during these times. The results suggest that although a highly complex interplay of natural and cultural agents generated this sequence, four main depositional types can be distinguished on a sedimentological basis. Human occupation at Melikane occurred in relatively short bursts at 83,000 years ago (ka), 60ka, 50ka, 46-38ka, 24ka, 9ka, 3ka, and several hundred years ago. Wood charcoals from human fires and the isotopic signatures of the sediments show the environment was colder and typically drier than present-day, though it appears the local river was always capable of supporting water-loving trees and shrubs. One hypothesis is that the reliable freshwater provided by the mountains attracted humans to the area during especially dry periods.
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.
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),'
Preliminary abstract: The project evaluates claims (Beaumont & Vogel 2006) for pigment use in various Northern Cape (South Africa) Fauresmith and Acheulian assemblages, focussing on the recently dated Kathu Pan and Wonderwerk sequences. These claims challenge current models of the evolution of collective ritual. A preliminary assessment found evidence consistent with Fauresmith use, but Acheulian evidence was more equivocal. The preliminary findings need thorough substantiation and contextualization. Adopting Watts' (2010) descriptive methods, this will largely be done through examination of all the relevant collections to identify and characterize potential pigments, traces of utilization, and whether these are consistent with pigment use. It will be complemented by limited experimental work evaluating taphonomic processes on colour stability and whether corrosion of ground facets precludes inferring utilization. Field surveying will attempt to identify potential parent rocks, while limited chemical and mineralogical analyses will augment characterization and comparison of field and archaeological samples. Apart from evaluating existing claims, the study will provide a basis for testing predictions derived from the Female Cosmetic Coalitions model of the evolution of symbolic culture (Power 2009), regarding the timing of initial use, colour selection, and the timing of a predicted shift from irregular/localized use to regular and ubiquitous use.
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.