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
Preliminary abstract: The discovery of ochre at African Middle Stone Age sites has been widely interpreted as relating to the onset of modern human symbolic behavior. Dependence on symbolism to communicate information and strengthen group identities is an essential attribute of our species. Although significant quantities of modified ochre have been recovered which date to before the oldest Homo sapiens fossils (~195,000 years ago), the first unambiguous evidence of symbolism does not appear until 80-105 thousand years ago. An alternate hypothesis holds that ochre's first function was technological rather than symbolic. This project will ask the research question, 'When routine human acquisition of ochreous minerals began during the Middle Stone age, was this activity motivated primarily by symbolic or technological considerations?' We will test 5 hypotheses addressing whether: Specific sources of ochre in Africa can be distinguished from one another by trace element composition, MSA ochre artifacts can be matched to specific sources, MSA ochre procurement was mediated by color preferences, ochre was heat-treated to induce color transformations, and if ochre improves the adhesive efficacy of resin glues. This research will be carried out at Memorial University of Newfoundland, The George Washington University, Olorgesailie, Kenya; Karonga, Malawi; and Twin Rivers, Zambia.
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
Blumenschine, Dr. Robert J., Rutgers U., New Brunswick, NJ; and Masao, Dr. Fidelis T., U. of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania - To aid collaborative research on 'Predation Risk And Oldowan Hominin Land Use At Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania'
Blumenschine, Robert J., Ian G. Stanistreet, Jackson K. Njau, et al. 2012. Environments and Hominin Activities across the FLK Peninsula during Zinjanthropus Times (1.84 Ma), Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania. Journal of Human Evolution 63(2)364-383.
Blumenschine, Robert J., Fidelis T. Masao, Harald Stollhofen, Ian G. Stanistreet, et al. 2012. Landscape Distribution of Oldowan Stone Artifact Assemblages across the Fault Compartments of the Eastern Olduvai Lake Basin during Early Lowermost Bed II Times. Journal of Human Evolution 63(2):384-394.
Semaw, Dr. Sileshi, Stone Age Institute, Gosport, IN - To aid the 'Gona Palaeoanthropological Research Project'
DR. SILESHI SEMAW, Stone Age Institute, Gosport, Indiana, was awarded a grant in June 2008 to aid the 'Gona Palaeoanthropoligcal Research Project.' The Gona Palaeoanthropological Research Project 2008 field investigations were focused primarily on expanding the excavations opened at two Early Acheulian sites located in the Ounda Gona South (OGS-12) and Busidima North (BSN-17) areas. The OGS12 and BSN17 archaeological sites are estimated between 1.6-1.5 million years (Ma), and both are among the oldest Acheulian sites in Africa (though slightly younger than Konso, from Southern Ethiopia, dated to 1.7 Ma). The archaeology team excavated both sites and retrieved a large number of crudely made handaxes and flaking debris in situ. Further, survey of DAN-5 -- a contemporary Early Acheulian site from Ounda Gona -- yielded two additional hominid molars belonging to an early Homo erectus. A cranium belonging to the same individual, and estimated to 1.6-1.5 Ma, had already been discovered earlier at the site. The geology team sampled dating materials from OGS-12 and BSN-17 and several other Early-Late Pleistocene archaeological sites. Soil carbonates were sampled for paleoenvironmental reconstructions and for V-Th geochronology, and tuffs were collected for refining the age of these archaeological sites with zircon (V-Pb) dating, a new technique promising to yield reliable age estimates for the hominids and artifacts. In addition, more paleomagnetic samples were collected to tighten up the age of several important hominid (Ar. ramidus, 4.5-4.3 Ma) and archaeological sites known at Gona.
Stout, Dietrich, Sileshi Semaw, Michael J. Rogers, Dominique Cauche. 2010. Technological Variation in the Earliest Oldowan from Gona, Afar, Ethiopia. Journal of Human Evolution 58(6):474-491.
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.