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.
Pante, Dr. Michael Christopher, Colorado State U., Fort Collins, CO - To aid research on 'The Paleo Diet: Carnivory and Human Evolution'
Preliminary abstract: This project tracks the increasingly carnivorous diet of the genus Homo at Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania through the analysis of fossil animal bones that preserve traces of hominin and carnivore feeding in the form of carnivore tooth and stone tool butchery marks. The consumption of large mammal carcasses by early humans 2.5 million years ago marks an important adaptive shift that provided our ancestors a new and substantial resource. An increase in brain size that began over 2 million years ago and continued through the appearance of modern humans is often associated with an increase in carnivory. However, the significance of this niche expansion cannot be appreciated without an understanding of the nature of hominin carcass acquisition capabilities, which at some point, around the time that a new species (Homo erectus) and technology (the Acheulean) emerged, began to include hunting. The development and use of state-of-the-art data collection methods to study freshly excavated fossil bone assemblages that straddle the Oldowan-Acheulean technological transition will shed new light on the evolution of human carnivory and its importance to the unparalleled expansion of brain size seen in the genus Homo
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.
Clark, Dr. Jamie Lynn, U. of Alaska, Fairbanks, AK - To aid research on 'The Sibudu Fauna: Implications for Understanding Behavioral Variability in the Southern African Middle Stone Age'
DR. JAMIE LYNN CLARK, University of Alaska, Fairbanks, Alaska, received a grant in April 2013 to aid research on 'The Sibudu Fauna: Implications for Understanding Behavioral Variability in the Southern African Middle Stone Age.' This project sought to gain a deeper understanding of human behavioral variability during the Middle Stone Age through the analysis of the Still Bay (SB; ~71,000 ya) and pre-SB (>72,000 ya) fauna from Sibudu Cave. In addition to characterizing variation in human hunting behavior within and between the two periods, the project had two larger goals. First, to explore whether the data were consistent with hypotheses linking the appearance of the SB to environmental change. No significant changes in the relative frequency of open vs. closed dwelling species were identified, with species preferring closed habitats predominant throughout. This suggests that at Sibudu, the onset of the SB was not correlated with climate change. Secondly, data collected during this project will be combined with lithic and faunal data from later deposits at Sibudu in order to explore the relationship between subsistence and technological change spanning from the pre-SB through the post-Howiesons Poort MSA (~58,000 ya). Preliminary analysis indicates steady, continuous change in the fauna over time, with no marked breaks associated with the major changes in technology. This suggests that technological changes may not have been driven by subsistence needs, and may instead reflect changes in mobility, demography, or social organization.
Thiaw, Dr. Ibrahima, U. of Dakar, Dakar, Senegal - To aid joint conference of PAA/SAfA on 'Preserving African Cultural Heritage,' 2010, U. Cheikh Anta Diop, Dakar, in collaboration with Dr. Ndeye Sokhna Gueye
Preliminary abstract: The Pan African Archaeological Association (PAA) and Society of Africanist Archaeologists (SAfA) are the most important international platforms in the field of African archaeology. This joint meeting is unprecedented in the history of the two organizations and this is the first time SAfA will formally meet on African soil. It seeks to bring together Africanist scholars from around the world to promote research and encourage cooperation between all professionals in the field. It will gather c. 300 participants from around the world in Dakar, Senegal between November 1-7, 2010. The Congress will be structured around an overarching theme, 'The Preservation of African Cultural Heritage.' The meeting will also be a unique moment to recast and consolidate the role and place of the PAA and SAfA in the definition of a new humanism. We will look back at 50 years of archaeological practice in independent Africa but also will reflect on the prospects of African archaeology in the 21st century. More than ever, archaeologists and heritage managers who work on the continent are being asked to define the social and economic benefits of their work to the wider populace and to conduct their research so as to produce 'useable' pasts.
Haws, Dr. Jonathan Adams, U. of Louisville, Louisville, KY - To aid research on 'Middle Stone Age Archaeology and Modern Human Origins Research in Southern Mozambique'
DR. JONATHAN A. HAWS, University of Louisville, Louisville, Kentucky, was awarded funding in April 2012 to aid research on 'Middle Stone Age Archaeology and Modern Human Origins Research in Southern Mozambique.' In 2012, the project conducted a reconnaissance survey of the Maputaland region of Mozambique to investigate the origins of modern human behavior. As part of this work, the team documented new Middle Stone Age sites and collected samples to establish age control for the study of Quaternary landscapes in the region. The survey was limited due to bureaucratic constraints but yielded positive results to warrant further research. The project team explored the coastal strip south of Maputo. At Ponta Maone researchers recorded a Middle Stone Age site eroding out of the bluffs. The artifacts at this locality showed little evidence for weathering thus suggesting a stratigraphically intact occupation. Sediment samples were collected for OSL dating. Several points along the coast of Maputaland have previously documented Quaternary deposits but visibility was limited in most areas due to covering vegetation. In the area of Moamba, two new Middle Stone Age sites were recorded: one surface scatter with discoidal cores and flakes, and another in stratigraphic position exposed in a streamback cut. Between Moamba and Goba the team recorded the presence of numerous potential rockshelters.
Zipkin, Andrew Michael, George Washington U., Washington, DC - To aid research on 'Material Symbolism and Ochre Use in Middle Stone Age East-Central Africa,' supervised by Dr. Alison S. Brooks
ANDREW M. ZIPKIN, then a graduate student at George Washington University, Washington, DC, received funding in October 2012 to aid research on 'Material Symbolism and Ochre Use in Middle Stone Age East-Central Africa,' supervised by Dr. Alison S. Brooks. The discovery of ochre pigments at African Middle Stone Age (MSA) sites has been widely interpreted as relating to the onset of modern human symbolic behavior. However, an alternate hypothesis holds that ochre's first function was technological rather than symbolic. This project asked, 'When routine human acquisition of ochreous minerals began during the MSA, was this activity motivated primarily by symbolic or technological considerations?' Using ochre artifacts from the site of Twin Rivers Kopje, Zambia, as well as samples of mineral pigment deposits from Zambia, Kenya, and Malawi, this project refined geochemical methods of matching ochre artifacts to their source on the landscape. In addition, ochre streak colorimetry combined with analysis of how ochre artifacts from Twin Rivers were modified by humans determined that pigments with a saturated purple color were preferentially modified by grinding, likely to produce powdered pigment, relative to other types of ochre available near the site. Finally, an experimental archaeology study of ochre and resin adhesives determined that ochre fillers do not yield a significantly stronger adhesive than other widely available minerals like quartz, indicating that the documented use of ochre in the hafting of composite tools in the MSA was likely motivated by visual considerations.