Egeland, Dr. Charles Peter, U. of North Carolina, Greensboro, NC - To aid research on 'Geochemical and Physical Characterization of Lithic Raw Materials in the Olduvai Basin, Tanzania'
Preliminary abstract: The study of raw materials has traditionally been deeply embedded in analyses of the Early Stone Age, and the impact of source rock characteristics on early hominin ranging behavior and technological variation is now widely acknowledged. Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania, apart from being one of the most well-known paleoanthropological sites in the world, is also home to a great diversity of potential sources for the production of stone tools. While the lithology and mineralogy of these sources have been well described, quantitative data on inter- and intra-source geochemical and physical characteristics are still rare, which makes it difficult, if not impossible, to systematically test models of early human home ranges and raw material selectivity. This project, which builds on a successful pilot study, will carry out quantitative studies of variation in the geochemical (via portable x-ray fluorescence) and physical (via standard engineering tools) characteristics of four primary and three secondary rock sources that presumably served as important supplies of toolstone for Early Pleistocene hominins at Olduvai Gorge.
Haradon, Catherine Marie, George Washington U., Washington, DC - To aid research on 'Environmental and Faunal Context of the Acheulean to MSA Transition in Africa,' supervised by Dr. Richard Potts
CATHERINE HARADON, then a student at George Washington University, Washington, DC, received funding in April 2008 to aid research on 'Environmental and Faunal Context of the Acheulean to MSA Transition in Africa,' supervised by Dr. Richard Potts. This research examines environmental change as a factor in the transition between the Acheulean and Middle Stone Age (MSA) archaeological industries of Africa during the Middle Pleistocene (780-130 ka). Faunal assemblages from two late Acheulean and transitional/early MSA sites (Olorgesailie, Kenya, and Cave of Hearths, South Africa) are used as proxies for environmental change. Species identifications provide broad ecological indicators, and measurements of teeth and bones contribute information on the diet of the animals and the type of vegetation they inhabited. Preliminary results suggest that the Acheuelan fauna at the Cave of Hearths was dominated by large-bodied, grassland-adapted taxa. The MSA fauna consists of smaller-bodied taxa that were adapted to a wider range of environments. This resembles the East African pattern of turnover from large-bodied grazers replaced by smaller-bodied, more variably adapted taxa around the time that modern human behaviors began to emerge on the African continent. Continuing research will investigate paleo-ecological similarities between East and South Africa at this time through additional analyses of the Cave of Hearths fauna; analysis and comparison of the Olorgesailie faunal assemblages; and analysis of metric data from both sites, including feeding types, body sizes, and habitat indicators.
Waweru, Dr. Veronica Njoki, Stony Brook U., Stony Brook, NY - To aid research on 'Chronology of Holocene Innovations and Inventions in West Turkana, Kenya'
DR. VERONICA N. WAWERU, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, New York, was awarded a grant in October 2009 to aid research on 'Chronology of Holocene Innovations and Inventions in West Turkana, Kenya.' Chronology data from this research provide better resolution for dates of innovations in West Turkana between 8.2ka and 0.87ka. The Holocene marks the introduction of domestic fauna in a region that until ~5ka relied on a hunting/gathering/fishing subsistence base. A combination of Thermoluminescence (TL) and Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (AMS) methods were used to refine the timeline for innovations at different paleo-habitats in West Turkana. The study confirms existing dates for the large fishing village of Lothagam and also yields older dates for the Later Holocene lacustrine sites of Lopoy and Napedet than previously known. Aggregate data from the Holocene in the Turkana Basin is uninformative about whether local hunter/fishers adopted pastoralism or if demic movements brought the new socio-economic package of domesticate fauna and pillar-building. Chronology data from this research and that of other scientists in the last 40 years point to the existence of a mixed strategy involving hunting, fishing, and use of small domestic stock up to the very late Holocene. Niche partitioning may explain the existence of multiple economic strategies where different social groups pursued varied subsistence strategies while maintaining exchange relations involving ceramics and domestic stock. Future research will seek to answer this question.
Sahnouni, Dr. Mohamed, Stone Age Institute., Gosport, IN - To aid research on 'Further Research into the Pliocene Archaeology of Ain Boucherit, Algeria'
DR. MOHAMED SAHNOUNI, Stone Age Institute, Gosport, Indiana, received funding in April 2011 to aid research on 'Further Research into the Pliocene Archaeology of Ain Boucherit, Algeria.' Investigations undertaken at the Ain Boucherit locality have resulted in the recovery of stone tools and animal fossils spanning from 2.3 to 2.0 million years ago (Ma), much older than those already known at Ain Hanech (circa 1.8 Ma). The new archaeological materials come from two stratigraphic units: Unit P/Q and Unit R. The Unit P/Q is stratigraphically situated 13m below the Ain Hanech and El-Kherba Oldowan bearing deposits. Within this same unit, in addition to fossil animal bones, researchers also collected in situ Mode I stone artifacts encased in a fine silty matrix. A diverse fauna was associated with the stone artifacts. The artifacts include primarily core-tools and flakes. Furthermore, fragments of a large bovid upper limb bone with evidence of horn inflicted cutmarks were recovered. Excavations in the Unit R, stratigraphically located 7m above the Ain Boucherit stratum (Unit P/Q) and 6m below Ain Hanech and EI-Kherba Oldowan localities (Unit T), yielded animal fossils associated with a rich Mode I lithic assemblage encased in a floodplain deposit. The fauna collection shows more affinities with Unit P/Q. The lithic assemblage includes core-tools, flakes, and fragments. The mammalian fauna preserves several cutmarked and hammerstone-percussed bones. A 22m-thick magnetostratigraphic section was studied beginning just below Unit P/Q from the bottom all the way up to the calcrete deposit that caps the formation. Both normal and reversed polarities were documented allowing a solid correlation of the local magnetic polarity stratigraphy to the Global Polarity Time Scale, using temporally associated vertebrate faunal biochronology. The successive archaeological localities at Ain Hanech are placed along the magnetostratigraphic sequence, from bottom to top, as follows: 1) Unit P/Q, in Matuyama Reverse chron, is estimated to -2.3 Ma; 2) Unit R, at the onset of Olduvai Normal Subchron, is estimated to -2.0 Ma; 3) Ain Hanech and EI-Kherba in Unit T at the Olduvai Subchron to Matuyama polarity reversal, are estimated to -1.8 Ma; and the calcrete deposit (with Acheulean artifacts) below the Jaramillo Subchron, is estimated to over 1.0 Ma. Thus, Ain Boucherit currently represents the oldest archaeological occurrences in North Africa showing that ancestral hominins inhabited the Mediterranean fringe much earlier than previously thought.
Sahnouni, Mohamed. 2014. Early Human Settlements in Northern Africa: Paleomagnetic Evidence from the Ain Hanech Formation (Northeastern Algeria). Quaternary Science Reviews 99:203-209.
Sahnouni, Mohamed, Jordi Rosell, Jan van der Made, et al. 2013. The First Evidence of Cut Marks and Usewear Traces from the Plio-Pleistocene Locality of El-Kherba (Ain Hanech), Algeria: Implications for Early Hominin Subsistence Activities circa 1.7 Ma. Journal of Human Evolution 64(2):137-150.
Ferraro, Joseph, U. of California, Los Angeles, CA - To aid research on 'The Late Pliocene Zooarchaeology of Kanjera South, Southwestern Kenya,' supervised by Dr. Thomas W. Plummer
JOSEPH FERRARO, while a student at the University of California in Los Angeles, California, received funding in February 2002 to aid research on the late Pliocene zooarchaeology of Kanjera South, southwestern Kenya, under the supervision of Dr. Thomas W. Plummer. A consideration of sampling biases (spatial, temporal, ecological, and numeric) suggested that in the past, researchers likely underestimated the behavioral variability expressed by Oldowan hominins. To assess the full range of Oldowan hominin behaviors requires the comparative analysis of a number of excavated Oldowan assemblages distributed across time and space, representing a wide range of ecological conditions and possessing well-preserved faunas. The late Pliocene locality of Kanjera South contributes toward meeting this requirement. Its assemblages represent the only sizable, well-preserved Oldowan faunas so far recovered outside of Olduvai Gorge, and preliminary geochemical and paleontological analyses strongly suggest that the assemblages formed in an open grassland, a habitat distinct from those of other Oldowan occurrences. Ferraro conducted a zooarchaeological study of the excavated vertebrate fauna of Kanjera South, focusing especially on issues of predation pressures and foraging ecologies. His preliminary results strongly suggested that Oldowan hominins at Kanjera behaved in a way dissimilar to that frequently reported at the penecontemporaneous Oldowan locality of FLK Zinj in Olduvai Gorge.
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.
Behrens, Joanna P., Syracuse U., Syracuse, NY - To aid 'Digging the Great Trek: An Historical Archaeology of a Voortrekker Community, South Africa,' supervised by Dr. Christopher R. DeCorse
JOANNA BEHRENS, while a student at Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York, was awarded a grant in May 2004 to aid archaeological research at Schoemansdal, a mid- 19th century Voortrekker village in the Limpopo Province, northern South Africa, supervised by Dr Christopher R. DeCorse. The project investigated socio-economic diversity within a frontier community that lay along the northern margins of the wider colonial expansion, known historically as 'The Great Trek.' Between October 2004 and December 2005, Behrens undertook survey, excavation, and preliminary cataloguing as well as archival research in Pretoria, South Africa and London, England. Previous excavations at Schoemansdal, which had focused on the main community structures, were expanded, and houselots, located away from the village center, were targeted in order to access a broader understanding of the community. Shovel test pit sampling strategies were successfully employed in yard areas and six middens within the village were excavated, yielding assemblages that can be linked to individual households or properties. This material, analysed in tandem with that recovered from the community areas, is yielding insight into differential consumption practices and expanding historical understandings of trekker economies, specifically by shedding light on local and regional trade and exchange networks. The Schoemansdal material provides a crucial baseline assemblage for mid-19th century southern Africa and represents an important step in the re-interrogation of South Africa's Great Trek mythology .
Susino, George James, U. of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa - To aid research on 'Optical Dating of Quartz Microdebitage from Archaeological Deposits of Sibudu Cave, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa'
DR. GEORGE JAMES SUSINO, then a student at University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa, was awarded funding in October 2006 to aid research on 'Optical Dating of Quartz Microdebitage from Archaeological Deposits of Sibudu Cave, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.' This research addresses several key problems related to the understanding of archaeological site formation processes. In recent years, the reliance on sedimentary layers for chronological analysis of archaeological sites has been problematic. Site deposit disturbance is difficult to quantify, and archaeology has adopted several strategies for dating events within the stratigraphy. The most common is to date the terminus post quem, or the location of the lowest artefact (regardless of the movement of the material in the deposit). This research redresses these methodological problems by direct dating of remnant artefactual material (quartz microdebitage) and sedimentary quartz separately with optical dating techniques as to discern differences in age between the sedimentary and artefactual material. The OSL chronologies are then correlated with the extensive age determination achieved by other dating techniques (Radiocarbon and OSL on sediments). The Sibudu Cave site was selected primarily for the ready availability of sediment samples collected previously for optical dating and for the site importance for the understanding of changes within lithic technology from Early Stone Age to Late Stone Age. This research will apply a rigorous test for the validity of the chronology of lithic typologies at Sibudu Cave, and as a test of direct dating of artefactual material as opposed to the dating of sedimentary layers.