Middle Holocene Fisher-Hunter-Gatherers of Lake Turkana in Kenya and Their Cultural Connections with the North: The Pottery

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Abstract

During the Early and Middle Holocene, large areas of today’s arid regions in North and East Africa were populated by fisher-hunter-gatherer communities who heavily relied on aquatic resources. In North Africa, Wavy Line pottery and harpoons are their most salient diagnostic features. Similar finds have also been made at sites in Kenya’s Lake Turkana region in East Africa but a clear classification of the pottery was previously not available. In order to elucidate the cultural connections between Lake Turkana’s first potters and North African groups, the pottery of the Koobi Fora region that was excavated by John Barthelme in the 1970/80s was re-assessed in detail. It was compared and contrasted – on a regional scale – with pottery from Lowasera and sites near Lothagam (Zu4, Zu6) and – on a supra-regional scale – with the pottery of the Central Nile Valley and eastern Sahara. The analyses reveal some significant points: Firstly, the early fisher pottery of Lake Turkana is clearly typologically affiliated with the Early Khartoum pottery and was thus part of the Wavy Line complex. Secondly, certain typological features of the Turkana assemblages, which include only a few Dotted Wavy Line patterns, tentatively hint to a date at least in the 7th millennium bp or earlier. Thirdly, the pottery features suggest that the East African fisher-hunter-gatherers adopted pottery from Northeast Africa.

Middle Holocene Fisher-Hunter-Gatherers of Lake Turkana in Kenya and Their Cultural Connections with the North: The Pottery

in Journal of African Archaeology

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References

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Figures

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    Sites with Wavy Line pottery in North and East Africa adapted from Jesse (2003: 197, fig. 40). Red circled: Sites in the Turkana Basin with possible Wavy Line pottery. (Country names in German language.)
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    Locality map with the Koobi Fora region, site Lowasera and the Lothagam region.
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    View of the site FxJj12 N (Koobi Fora) with a loose artefact scatter of pottery, stone- and bone artefacts, animal bones and human remains.
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    Barbed bone points from Koobi Fora sites.
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    Possible Wavy Line pottery a: Zu6; b-d: Zu4-6 (Lothagam region), e: GaJj2.
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    Pottery with “soft zigzag” patterns. a-d, f: FxJj12 N, surface (Koobi Fora); e: Lowasera, surface.
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    Pottery with dotted zigzag patterns. a, b, d: Zu4-6 (Lothagam region); c, e “soft zigzags”: FxJj12 N, surface (Koobi Fora).
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    Pottery from the Turkana Basin. a: GaJj2; b-c: FxJj12 N, surface; d: GaJj12 (Koobi Fora).
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    Pottery with incised bows or curved patterns. a: Lowasera, Unit 1; b, c: FxJj12 N, surface; d, e: Zu 6 (Lothagam region).
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    Segments, ostrich eggshell and stone beads from GaJj1 site (Koobi Fora).
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    Early Khartoum pottery from the Central Nile valley and the eastern Sahara. Dotted Wavy Line: a) Westnubian Paleolake S98/20; c) Rahib 80/87; d) Tageru 84/34 (all eastern Sahara, Photos: bos/acacia). Dotted zigzags: b) Khartoum Hospital (adapted from Arkell 1949: Pl. 85.3); e-g) El-Khiday sites (adapted from Salvatori et al. 2014, Pl. 5: e, f “Late Mesolithic”; g “Middle Mesolithic”), j) “soft zigzags”: Lower Wadi Howar S95/2 (eastern Sahara, Photo: acacia). Incised Wavy Line: h) Delebo, Zone iv, Ennedi Mountains (Bailloud 1969; Photo: Keding). Pointed bottom: i) Westnubian Paleolake S98/20 (eastern Sahara; Photo: acacia).
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    Early Kanysore pottery from Siror (GpJb16), Trench 1. a: 30-35 cm below ground level; b: 35-40 cm; c: 40-45 cm; d: 45-50 cm; e, f: 50-55 cm; g-l: 55-60 cm

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