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.
Mackay, Alex, Brian A. Stewart, and Brian M. Chase. 2014. Coalescence and Fragmentation in the Late Pleistocene Archaeology of Southernmost Africa. Journal of Human Evolution 72:26-51.
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.
Walshaw, Dr. Sarah Catherine, Simon Fraser U., Burnaby, Canada - To aid research on 'Food Production Viewed from the Fields: Contributions from Swahili Ethnoarchaeology on Pemba Island, Tanzania'
DR. SARAH C. WALSHAW, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, Canada, received a grant in May 2007 to aid research on 'Food Production Viewed from the Fields: Contributions from Swahili Ethnoarchaeology on Pemba Island, Tanzania.' Archaeological plant assemblages from several communities on Pemba Island, Tanzania, contain significant amounts of grain and chaff, suggesting that rice and pearl millet were stored in a largely unprocessed form. Ethnoarchaeological research was undertaken among farming communities on Pemba Island, where rice, sorghum, and pearl millet are farmed using non-mechanized techniques (such as hand-harvesting) to model the small-scale tropical farming systems of the Swahili. Observation of, and participation in, farming on Pemba Island helped explain several patterns seen archaeologically. First, hand harvesting eliminated weeds in the field and may be implicated in the infrequency of weed seeds in ancient houses and middens. Second, grains for food and seed were stored in the house to permit monitoring of amount and condition. Third, grains were reportedly stored in their husks to reduce loss from microbial and insect infestation, pest predation, and human over-use and theft. Labor constraints also posed significant pressures in this household-based agricultural economy, leading harvesters to spread the arduous tasks of processing throughout the year -- small amounts of grain were processed for each day's meal as required. This study demonstrates some of the agricultural and social motives for household-based agricultural practices, and provides a model for interpreting archaeobotanical patterns evident in ancient small-scale rice and millet farming systems.
Walshaw, Sarah, 2010. Converting to rice: urbanization, Islamization and crops on Pemba Island, Tanzania, AD 700-1500. World Archaeology 42:(1) 137-154.
Haynes, Dr. Gary Anthony, U. of Nevada, Reno, NV - To aid research on 'Later Stone Age Foraging in Northwestern Zimbabwe just before the Transformation to Agropastoralism'
DR. GARY HAYNES, University of Nevada, Reno, Nevada, received funding in April 2008 to aid research on 'Later Stone Age Foraging in Northwestern Zimbabwe Just Before the Transition to Agropastoralism.' One of the mysteries of human cultural history in much of southern Africa is why (and how) human groups made the dramatic switch from hunting and gathering to farming. This project's study area in northwestern Zimbabwe contains very understudied archeological evidence about the stone-age foragers of distant prehistory, and also just the merest hint of evidence about the farming peoples of a few hundred years ago -- but nearly nothing is known about the critical time period in between. This project aims to provide the missing detail. This project seeks to reconstruct the lifeways of hunter-gatherers in northwestern Zimbabwe 4000-2000 years ago, just before the profound cultural transformation of nomadic foraging systems into a radically different economy of agropastoralism. The study area is situated in a possible corridor of human ideas and population movements into southern Africa from the north, across the Zambezi River. Multi-disciplinary evidence about human adaptation to changing environmental conditions is being sought in the study of sediments and ancient underground water, and in archeological excavations of rockshelters that are yielding enormous amounts of stone tools, bone remains of animals hunted and eaten, ostrich eggshell beads, and charcoal that can be identified to tree species and radiometrically dated.
Kyriacou, Dr. Katharine, U. of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa - To aid research on 'Gathered Foods as a Source of Brain-specific Nutrients for MSA Hunter-Gatherers in the Southwestern Cape'
Preliminary abstract: The aim of this research is to analyze the fatty acid, micronutrient and energy content of some easily collected food resources available to Middle Stone Age hunter-gatherers in the southwestern Cape, South Africa, and assess the role of these foods in the evolution of large-brained, anatomically and cognitively modern humans in this region. Particular emphasis will be placed on intertidal shellfish, terrestrial invertebrates and indigenous plants. Previous research suggests that simple marine molluscs represent one of the best and most accessible sources of longer-chain omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, as well as brain-specific micronutrients such as iron and iodine. Edible insects appear to be an excellent source of polyunsaturated fatty acids. Two South African species are particularly rich in shorter-chain omega-3 α-linolenic acid. Indigenous plants are also a likely source of essential fatty acids, as well as being the only significant source of energy in the form of carbohydrates available to prehistoric people in the coastal regions of southern Africa. The nutritional content and value of large samples of marine molluscs and terrestrial insects and plants will be determined by means of gas chromatography and inductively couple plasma mass spectronomy. New quantitative and qualitative information on the nutrient content of these foods will be integrated into the existing archaeological, anthropological and ecological framework for the southwestern Cape. This will allow for the evaluation of competing and/or complementary scenarios for Middle Stone Age diet and subsistence strategies, the interpretation of patterns in the archaeological record, and testing of hypotheses on the emergence of modern Homo sapiens in a key region within southern Africa.
Monroe, Dr. James Cameron, U. of California, Santa Cruz, CA - To aid 'The Cana Archaeological Survey'
DR. J. CAMERON MONROE, University of California, Santa Cruz, California, was awarded funding in October 2012 to aid research on 'The Cana Archaeological Survey.' Urbanism has been a central focus of archaeological research for more than a century. Although archaeologists have long focused on the earliest cities, a variety of urban contexts that thrived in contact settings have emerged as ideal contexts in which to explore urbanism from a broader anthropological vantage point. The Cana Archaeological Survey examines the origins of Cana, a city on the Slave Coast of West Africa during the era of the slave trade (16th through 19th centuries AD). The project sought to understand the changing relationship between Cana, a major precolonial city of the kingdom of Dahomey, located in the modern Republic of Bénin, and its broader hinterlands over the course of the second millennium AD. The project employed systematic regional archaeological survey and test excavation around Cana to provide initial inferences into whether urbanism in Dahomey was: 1) a deeply rooted precontact phenomenon resulting from the close articulation of towns and their respective countrysides; or rather 2) a state-driven process driven by long-distance forces of the Atlantic Era. Collectively, archaeological and ethnohistorical evidence collected suggests that the latter was the case, providing a valuable window onto the political and economic forces shaping urban life in the tumultuous Atlantic Era.
Mosothwane, Morongwa N., U. of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa - To aid research on 'Molecular Tracing of Early Farmers Diets in Eastern Botswana,' supervised by Dr. Karim Sadr & Dr. Judith C. Sealy
MORONGWA NANCY MOSOTHWANE, then a student at University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa, received funding in November 2005 to aid research on 'Molecular Tracing of Early Farmers Diets in Eastern Botswana,' supervised by Dr. Karim Sadr and Dr. Judith C. Sealy. The study was intended to identify farmers and foragers during the Early Iron Age (EIA) in Botswana through the use of stable isotope analysis. The areas were selected as they are known to have been frontiers of contact between foragers and farmers. The aim was to determine whether there were foragers buried on farmers' settlements or vise versa and to identify those individuals who had shifted from one of subsistance to the other over a long period. The human samples came from EIA settlements in the Toutswe area, Tsodilo Hills and Okavango River. Toutswe samples were derived from Kgaswe B55 (n=17), Bonwapitse (n=3), Taukome (n=5) and Thatswane (n=6), Bosutswe (n=13) and Toutswemogala (n=28) and others (n=4). At the Tsodilo Hills, two sites are Divuyu (n=1) and N!oma (n=3). Xaro (n=2), is along the Okavango River. Thus, 76 humans were selected for stable isotope analysis. Animal samples from archaeological and modern context were analysed to provide reference standards for the interpretation of human isotope values. They included domestic species like cattle, sheep/goats, and a dog as well as wild animals: zebra, hare, tortoise, and steenbok. According to results, EIA farmers in the Toutswe and the Tsodilo Hills areas relied on domestic C4 crops (sorghum and millet), which they supplemented with C3 plants. The C3 component was derived from a combination of domestic and wild plants. At N!oma the two individuals showed isotopic evidence for having been a foragers who later shifted to a farming mode of subsistence. It is possible that the Xaro individuals exploited freshwater fish from the nearby Okavango River but they were farmers.