Henshilwood, Dr. Christopher, U. of Bergen, Bergen, Norway; and Dr. Francesco d'Errico, U. de Bordeaux 1, Talence, France - To aid collaborative research on use of Nassarius kraussianus shells as ornamentation in southern Africa Middle Stone Age
DR. CHRISTOPHER HENSHILWOOD, University of Bergen, Bergen, Norway, and DR. FRANCESCO D'ERRICO, Université de Bordeaux 1, Talence, France, received an International Collaborative Research Grant in October 2006, to aid collaborative research on the use of Nassarius kraussianus shells as ornamentation in southern Africa Middle Stone Age. The aim of this project was to investigate the human use of Nassarius kraussianus (Nk), as ornamentation during the Middle Stone Age and the Later Stone Age in southern Africa. In particular the collaborative research wanted to identify the factors (human choice vs. environmental conditions) playing a role in the size variability of Nk shell beads, and document and identify the causes (taphonomic vs. anthropogenic) of the modifications recorded on archaeological specimens (perforation, pigment staining, color change, use wear, heating). In order to achieve these goals, the researchers used optical and scanning electron microscopy, elemental analysis, and Raman spectroscopy to identify shell structure and composition, document changes under heating at different temperatures and in different environments, and differentiate them from changes produced by diagenetic processes. Optical and electron microscopy was also used to analyze use wear on archaeological and experimentally worn shells. Seven morphological (Perforation Type, Presence/absence of carnivore drills, Color, Location of use-wear, Age-class, State of completeness, Morphology of the Apex) and two morphometric variables (shell height and shell width) were systematically recorded on modern biocoenoses and thanatocoenosis of this species, as well as on two MSA, 37 LSA and seven burial sites (ca 5000 specimens).
Henshilwood, Christopher S., Francesco d’Errico, and Ian Watts. 2009 Engraved Ochres from the Middle Stone Age Levels at Blombos Cave, South Africa. Journal of Human Evolution 57(1):27-47.
Klehm, Dr. Carla Elizabeth, Washington U., St. Louis, MO - To aid research on 'Does Monumentality Hinge on Inequality? Mortuary Bead Analysis at Megalithic Pillar Sites in Kenya 5000bp'
Preliminary abstract: Megalithic architecture appeared suddenly in NW Kenya around 5000 BP in tandem with early herding. As Lake Turkana shrank, people built 'pillar sites' - massive feats of labor and coordination that represent an early instance of monumentality in Africa. Burials within pillar sites have thousands of beads made from stone, bone, ostrich eggshell, and shell. As the first comprehensive analysis of pillar site bead assemblages, this project can illuminate specific economic and social changes as herding began. Beads may have played a role in expressions of individual identity, social bonds within/between groups, and relationships between ancestors and living. Interpretation of beads, particularly as evidence for aggrandizement or leveling, depends on knowledge of raw materials (including stone from distant sources and teeth from dangerous animals), production methods, distribution, and display. Detailed analysis of beads from precise positions within specific burials at pillar sites will assess variation among individuals for evidence of inequality, and variation through pillar site sequences for diachronic changes in mortuary ornamentation. Data collection will focus on GeJi9 due to exceptional contextual control, but also include assemblages from GeJi10, GcJh5, GbJj1, and GaJi23. Analysis will integrate bead data with information on minerology and sourcing, and prior bioarchaeological studies of burials.
Manthi, Dr. Fredrick Kyalo, National Museums of Kenya, Nairobi, Kenya - To aid research on 'A Further Investigation for Microfauna in the Plio-Pleistocene Hominin Sites of Northwestern Kenya'
DR. FREDRICK KYALO MANTHI, National Museums of Kenya, Nairobi, Kenya, received funding in October 2009 to aid research on 'A Further Investigation for Microfauna in the Plio-Pleistocene Hominin Sites of Northwestern Kenya.' Mammalian remains have a number of features that make them important in ecological studies. In order to recover macro- and micromammalian fauna for reconstructing the environmental contexts in which Plio-Pleistocene hominins lived and also understand the evolutionary trajectories of mammalian species during this time period, a number of hominin sites in the Nachukui Formation, northwestern Kenya, were recently investigated. These sites include those that occur along the Lomekwi, Nachukui, and Nariokotome drainage systems. Work in these sites included surface surveys, and sieving of back-dirt sediments from earlier excavations so as to recover microfaunal remains that may have passed through the course sieves that were employed during theses excavations. Although some unidentifiable bone fragments of macrofauna were recovered from the sieving of the back-dirt sediments, no microfauna were recovered. The surface surveys resulted in the recovery of 245 fossil specimens, including a maxilla fragment that has been attributed to Homo sp. Another 59 fragmentary dental elements belonging to Elephantidae, Suidae, and Equidae were also collected for isotopic studies in order to contribute towards understanding the environmental contexts during the Plio-Pleistocene. Overall, elements attributable to Bovidae, Suidae, Equidae, and Cercopithecidae exhibited a higher representation relative to those of other taxa.
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.
Njau, Jackson K., Rutgers U., New Brunswick, NJ - To aid research on 'Vertebrate Taphonomy and Paleoecology of Lake-Margin Wetlands during Oldowan Times in Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania,' supervised by Dr. Robert J. Blumenschine
JACKSON K. NJAU, while a student at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, received an award December 2001 to aid research on the vertebrate taphonomy and paleoecology of lake-margin wetlands during Oldowan times in Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania, under the supervision of Dr. Robert J. Blumenschine. Njau's objective was to develop ecological models of landscape facets as they pertained to early hominids and large wetland vertebrate fauna during the Plio-Pleistocene at Olduvai Gorge. The ultimate goal was to understand the ecological contexts in which the behaviors of stone-tool-using human ancestors evolved. Studying the feeding behavior of captive crocodiles and their consumption of large mammalian carcasses, Njau developed basic taphonomic guidelines for distinguishing the effects of crocodilians from those of large terrestrial carnivores in bone accumulations. He also studied large-vertebrate bone assemblages on modern wetland land surfaces in Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, and Lakes Manyara and Eyasi. Systematic and intensive bone surveys were carried out at a very fine landscape scale in order to match environmental settings that might have existed in ancient Olduvai lake deposits, where unusually rich paleontological and archaeological material has been collected. Modern analog studies provided a useful tool in developing techniques for identifying the taphonomic characteristics of landscape sub-environments for application to prehistoric landscapes.
Njau, Jackson K., and Leslea J. Hlusko. 2010. Fine-Tuning Paleoanthropological Reconnaissance with High-Resolution Satellite Imager: The Discovery of 28 New Sites in Tanzania. Journal of Human Evolution 59(6):680-684.
Njau, Jackson K., and Robert J. Blumenschine. 2006. A diagnosis of crocodile feeding traces on larger mammal bone, with fossil examples from the Plio-Pleistocene Olduvai Basin, Tanzania. Journal of Human Evolution 50 (2006): 142-162
Manthi, Dr. Fredrick Kyalo, National Museums of Kenya, Nairobi, Kenya - To aid engaged activities on 'Public Engagement in Palaeontological Investigations of the Plio-Pleistocene Nachukui Formation, Northern Kenya,' 2013, Turkana County, Kenya
DR. FREDRICK MANTHI, National Museums of Kenya, Nairobi, Kenya, received an Engaged Anthropology Grant in August 2012 to aid 'Public Engagement in Palaeontological Investigations of the Plio-Pleistocene Nachukui Formation, Northern Kenya.' The Lake Turkana Basin in northern Kenya has contributed significantly to understanding the evolution of human and non-human species during the Plio-Pleistocene. Although prehistory research has been carried-out in the Basin for over 50 years, a large number of the local people are not aware of the scientific importance of the findings from this research. In fact, many of the local people believe that researchers make a lot of money from fossils and artifacts. In the last six years, the grantee has directed palaeontological investigations in the Lake Turkana Basin, aided in part with funding from Wenner-Gren. In the course of these expeditions, it became evident that there was need for more engagement between research groups and the local people. Funding went to organize an outreach program in February 2013 that entailed holding public meetings, visits to schools and discussions with local administrators, which were all centered on the importance of prehistory research in understanding the past and (it is hoped) helped lay the foundation for future engagements advancing research in the Turkana Basin.
D'Andrea, A. Catherine, Simon Fraser U., Burnaby, BC, Canada - To aid 'Ethnoarchaeological Studies of Sorghum, Middle Nile Basin, Sudan'
DR. CATHERINE A. D'ANDREA, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada, received funding in June 2004 to aid 'Ethnoarchaeological Studies of Sorghum, Middle Nile Basin, Sudan.' Anthropological field research in the Mahas region of northern Sudan was designed to investigate ancient and modern Sudanese crop and food processing techniques, emphasizing sorghum-based foods. These issues were examined through ethnoarchaeological interviews of Mahas farmers and sampling for archaeological plant remains at the Meroitic site of Dangeil, near Atbara. The persistence of traditional farming practices in the Mahas coupled with the recent introduction of mechanised equipment makes this a fascinating ethnoarchaeological study on its own, but it also provides an interesting comparison with recently completed studies in Ethiopia. Interviews documented impacts of the discontinuation of old technology and introduction of new implements, as well as a concomitant decline in the traditional knowledge base associated with sorghum and other indigenous crops. The social contexts of food storage, processing, and baking were documented by mapping modern and abandoned residential compounds and noting the location of food processing and related activities, including an in-depth study of griddle bread-baking technology. Ancient residues of crop processing and bread baking were sampled from a temple bakery at Dangeil, focussing on seeds, starch grains, and microscopic plant silica skeletons. These archaeobotanical samples will provide useful archaeological correlates to the ethnoarchaeological data collected in the Mahas.
Logan, Dr, Amanda, Northwestern U., Evanston, IL - To aid engaged activities on 'Histories of Food, Home, and Field: Celebrating Women's Knowledge and Sustainable Choices in Banda, Ghana,' 2014, Banda, Ghana
DR. AMANDA LOGAN, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, was awarded funding in February 2014 to aid engaged activities on 'Histories of Food, Home, and Field: Celebrating Women's Knowledge and Sustainable Choices in Banda, Ghana.' Building on research supported by a Wenner-Gren grant in 2010, this engagement project involved the presentation of long-term histories of food, home, and field to the community of Banda, Ghana. After several weeks of community consultation, a 'Remembering the Past Celebration' was held at the Banda Cultural Centre in July 2014. The intent was to generate interest in the past to help bridge generational divides, highlight women's knowledge, and de-stigmatize certain practices associated with poverty. The event included five poster displays interpreted by trained historical ambassadors that focused on what can be learned from the past; an Olden Times Food Fair, with fourteen different dishes prepared by local women; and potters, spinners, weavers, and carvers making their crafts. Attendance was much higher than expected, with an estimated 400 people in attendance. Several focus groups were held after the event in order to stimulate conversation on what can be learned from the past, which practices should and should not be revived, and how best to disseminate and promote knowledge about the past. In the short term, a Heritage Farmers group was formed to experiment with 'lost' crops, and a Banda Heritage Facebook page was launched.