Pante, Michael Christopher, Rutgers U., New Brunswick, NJ - To aid 'A Taphonomic Investigation of Vertebrate Fossil Assemblages from Beds III and IV, Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania,' supervised by Dr. Robert J. Blumenschine
MICHAEL C. PANTE, then a student at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey, was awarded funding in May 2007 to aid research on 'A Tophanomic Investigation of Vertebrate Fossil Assemblages from Beds III and IV, Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania,' supervised by Dr. Robert J. Blumenschine. This doctoral project is a comparative and experimental study of fossils from Beds III and IV (1.15-.6 ma), Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania. The goals met were: 1) to carry out experiments designed to address the hydraulic transport of bone fragments created by hominins and carnivores during carcass consumption; and 2) to curate and conduct the first analysis of the Bed III and IV fossil assemblages. Flume experimentation was used to produce a database of over 1800 observations aimed at identifying variables that are associated with the hydraulic transport of individual bone fragments. Initial analyses show that animal size and the dimensions of bone fragments affect the hydraulic potential of specimens. In addition to flume experiments over 100,000 fossils and artifacts stored since the 1960s and 70s were curated and organized. Vertebrate fossils from two sites WK and JK 2 were studied in detail to determine the processes responsible for the modification, transport and deposition of the assemblages. Preliminary analyses based on the incidences of butchery marks and tooth marks indicate both hominins and carnivores contributed to the accumulation of the assemblages. This data will be used to assess the evolution of human carnivory through comparisons with the older FLK 22 site.
Pante, Michael C. 2013. The Larger Mammal Fossil Assemblage from JK2, Bed III, Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania: Implications for the Feeding Behavior of Homo erectus. Journal of Humanj Evolution 64(1):68-82.
Braun, David R., Rutgers U., New Brunswick, NJ - To aid research on 'Ecology of Oldowan Technology: Koobi Fora and Kanjera South,' supervised by Dr. John W.K. Harris
DAVID R. BRAUN, then a student at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey, received funding in December 2003 to aid research on 'Ecology of Oldowan Technology: Koobi Fora and Kanjera South,' supervised by Dr. John W.K. Harris. The ultimate goal of this project was to determine if the archaeological record of Oldowan tool use could be used to determine the impact of stone tool use on hominid adaptive strategies. The two sites investigated in this study (Kanjera South and two localities from the KBS member of the Koobi Fora Formation) are particularly relevant for a description of the significance of stone tool manufacture because of their varied environmental and geographic context. We examined Oldowan technology through three major avenues: 1) experimental and archaeological studies of flaking patterns used by early hominids to extend the use-life of their tools; 2) geochemical and engineering analyses to determine the effect of raw material availability and quality on artifact production and discard in the terminal Pliocene; and 3) comparison of how these factors influenced the industries found in these two different contexts in northern and western Kenya. The synthesis of these three avenues of study have shown that Pliocene hominids were possibly adept at selecting high quality raw materials and may have preferentially transported rocks that had particular physical properties that made them ideal for making stone artifacts. Furthermore, these behaviors seem to be reflected in both basins of varying ecological context, suggesting that this may be an underlying pattern found in the earliest archaeological traces.
Braun, David R., Michael J. Rogers, John W.K. Harris, Steven J. Walker. 2008. Landscape-scale Variation in Hominin Tool Use: Evidence from the Developed Oldowan. Journal of Human Evolution 55(6):1053-1063.
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.
Tryon, Christian A., U. of Connecticut, Storrs, CT - To aid research on 'The Acheulian to Middle Stone Age Transition in the Southern Kapthurin Formation, Kenya,' supervised by Dr. Sally McBrearty
CHRISTIAN A. TRYON, while a student at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, Connecticut, was awarded a grant in June 2001 to aid research on the Acheulean to Middle Stone Age transition in the southern Kapthurin Formation, Baringo, Kenya, under the supervision of Dr. Sally McBrearty. Excavations at Koimilot (GnJh-74) have revealed two stratified, in situ, early Middle Stone Age (MSA) archaeological assemblages in the southern Kapthurin Formation. Tephrostratigraphic correlation has shown that these assemblages are the youngest known from the formation and overlie a sequence of interstratified Acheulean, Sangoan, and MSA sites dated by 4OArp/39Ar to more than 284,000 years ago. The Kapthurin Formation preserves one of the few well-dated, continuous sedimentary and archaeological sequences appropriate for assessing the nature of the Acheulean-MSA transition, a technological shift reflecting profound behavioral changes in the later middle Pleistocene, the likely time and place of the appearance of modern humans. Preliminary sedimentological data from Koimilot, artifact size and distribution studies, and analysis of refitted flakes suggested an intact flaking floor at Koimilot Locus 1, with hominid activities directed toward raw material acquisition and the production of typically oval flakes by Levallois methods. The stratigraphically younger Koimilot Locus 2 showed a technology that targeted the production of large Levallois points or elongated flakes. These data suggested a diversification during the early MSA of methods initially developed within the local Acheulean. Additional landscape-scale studies of sites and paleoenvironmental features linked through tephrostratigraphic studies were expected to contribute to an understanding of this variability and to facilitate extraregional comparisons of the end of the Acheulean.
Grillo, Katherine Mary, Washington U., St. Louis, MO - To aid research on 'Containing Life: Perspectives on Pastoralist Pottery in East Africa,' supervised by Dr. Fiona B. Marshall
KATHERINE M. GRILLO, then a student at Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri, was awarded funding in April 2008 to aid research on 'Containing Life: Perspectives on Pastoralist Pottery in East Africa,' supervised by Dr. Fiona B. Marshall. This project aims to provide archaeological insight into the complex relationships between mobile pastoralism and pottery production, use, and exchange. Food production in Africa followed a unique pathway: cattle pastoralism developed long before agriculture. Although pottery is very often associated with some degree of sedentism and agricultural production, little research has examined the ways in which the material cultures of mobile pastoral societies are represented in the archaeological record. Many archaeologists simply assume such groups are either incapable or unwilling to produce substantial amounts of pottery at all. However, this research has helped to describe and explain for the first time how ceramic production and use can be deeply economically, politically, and ideologically integrated into even highly mobile pastoralist societies. Ethnoarchaeological research was conducted among Samburu cattle pastoralists in northern Kenya, and collections-based research at the Nairobi National Museum provided a comparative case study in how the earliest pastoralists in East Africa utilized pottery as part of both their domestic and ceremonial lives. Ultimately this project will provide an empirically rigorous and ethnoarchaeologically grounded basis for interpreting pastoralist pottery found in archaeological contexts, advancing ongoing studies of the nature and spread of early food-producing communities throughout the Pastoral Neolithic of eastern Africa.
Keitumetse, Dr. Susan, U. of Botswana, Maun, Botswana; and Crossland, Dr. Zoe, Columbia U. NY, NY - To aid collaborative research on 'Historical Archaeology Of 'Marginal Landscapes' Of East-Central Botswana: Between Kgalagadi Desert & Limpopo Dry Valleys'
This project looks at archaeological material from the sparsely populated ecotone between the Kalahari desert and the rich subsidiary valleys of the Limpopo river ('marginal spaces'), in order to explore the social and political upheavals of the latter half of the 19th century in Botswana. This was a period characterized by Tswana polities' migrations into present-day Botswana who came across other Tswana and San communities such as Tswana of Bakgalagadi origin in Shoshong town later occupied by BaNgwato polity who had contact with them. Most archaeological work has been directed either towards earlier sites or the royal towns of BaNgwato of the 19th century. Little environmental and social research work has been carried out on what is generally considered as marginal zones, where other communities may have thrived. We propose to carry out surface survey and excavation in a cattle post near Mosolotshane area, along the dry Bonwapitse stream of the Limpopo River Basin (LRB), in order to better understand the changing patterns of landscape inhabitation and social stratification during migration byTswana communities. We will shift focus away from the hilltop settlements (Toutswe) and nucleated towns (e.g. Shoshong, Palatswe, etc), that have been the object of most anthropological research.
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.
Patterson, David Burch, George Washington U., Washington, DC - To aid research on 'Ecological Niche Evolution in Homo and Paranthropus at East Turkana, Northern Kenya,' supervised by Dr. Rene Bobe
Preliminary abstract: The fossil record suggests that our genus, Homo, originated in eastern Africa around 2.4 million years ago (Ma), at which time our ancestors would have shared the environment with a closely related species, Paranthropus boisei. However, the record indicates that by 1.3 Ma the Paranthropus lineage went extinct and Homo had expanded outside of Africa. Although we understand they coexisted, we lack a relevant framework for testing hypotheses related to their ecologies during this period. The objective of this project is to use the quantitative methods of community ecology and stable isotope geochemistry to contrast the ecological niches of Homo and Paranthropus within a localized paleoecosystem. This study will use data collected directly from hominin localities and archaeological sites between 2 -- 1.4 Ma at East Turkana in northern Kenya to test a series of hypotheses related to the following research question: What role did ecological conditions play in the different fates of Homo and Paranthropus between 2 Ma and 1.4 Ma? This study will create the first high-resolution reconstruction of the niches of these two taxa and provide key insights into the mechanisms behind the survival of our genus on landscapes that witnessed the extinction of our close fossil relatives.
Breunig, Dr. Peter, J.W. Goethe-Universitat, Frankfurt, Germany - To aid 19th Meeting of the Society of Africanist Archaeologists (SAfA): 'Cultural Diversity of Africa's Past,' 2008, Frankfurt, in collaboration with Dr. Carlos A. Magnavita Santos
'Cultural Diversity of Africa's Past: 19th Meeting of the Society of Africanist Archaeologists (SAfA)'
September 7-12, 2008, Goethe-University, Frankfurt/Main, Germany
Organizers: Dr. Peter J.W. Breunig and Dr. Carlos A. Magnavita Santos (Geothe-University)
The Society of Africanist Archaeologists (SAfA) was founded in the United States and is today one of the largest organizations in the field of African archaeology, with members mainly from North America, Europe, and Africa. With 260 participants from 33 countries and about 200 presentations, its 2008 conference was the largest so far in the field of Africa archaeology worldwide. This important meeting was hosted by the Goethe-University (Frankfurt, Germany), and organized by Prof. Peter Breunig, in cooperation with the archaeology departments of the Universities of Cologne and Geneva. A wide range of regions, time periods, and subjects was presented and discussed. The opportunity to get together and present the latest research results is very important in a field where university departments are rare and spread worldwide. Such a meeting is thus the basis for establishing a global network of joint research projects and the discussion of important new methods and directions in African archaeology. Wenner-Gren funding helped over 30 scientists and students, mainly from Africa, with travel support. The next meeting will be in 2010 in Dakar, Senegal, in cooperation with the Pan-African Congress of Pre-and Protohistory and Related Studies.