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

In: Journal of African Archaeology
Birgit Keding University of Cologne, Institute of Prehistoric Archaeology, Department of African Studies Jennerstr. 8, D-50823 Köln

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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.

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