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Adil Moumane, Jonathan Delorme, Adbelhadi Ewague, Jamal Al-Karkouri, Mohamed Gaoudi, Hassan Ista, Mohamed Moumane, Hammou Mouna, Ahmed Oumouss, Abdelkhalk Lmejidi and Noreddine Zdaidat

Abstract

The authors, with the help of a team of researchers, have discovered twelve rock shelters with inside paintings on the southern slopes of the Jbel Bani Mountains in southern Morocco. The paintings vary in subject and time period and span multiple rock art styles. Majestic creatures that once inhabited southern Morocco are depicted next to hunters, pastoralists, and warriors. The shelters and paintings cast upon their walls illustrate a transfer of culture, beliefs, technology, and ideas between people groups of the Meridional and Central Sahara and the Jbel Bani region. These discoveries were all made along a mountain path in the Bani Mountains known as Foum Laachar and may help trace ancient human migration routes.

Karim Sadr

Abstract

Kweneng is an extensive aggregation of stone-walled ruins that represent a pre-colonial Tswana capital. It is located 30 km south of today’s Johannesburg. The Molokwane architectural style predominates at this site. This style dates from around the mid- eighteenth to the mid- nineteenth centuries AD. The northern sector of Kweneng contains some structures in an architectural style from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries AD. Scattered here and there on the fringes of Kweneng are Type N compounds, which represent the oldest architectural style in this region and date to the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries AD. With a long sequence from formation to collapse, Kweneng will shed light not only on the birth of complex urban society in this region, but also in more distant times and places where the evidence might be considerably less intact. This preliminary report introduces the site and the principal features of its built environment.

Two Thousand Years in Dendi, Northern Benin

Archaeology, History and Memory

Series:

Edited by Anne Haour

In Two Thousand Years in Dendi, Northern Benin an international team examines a little-known part of the Niger River valley, West Africa, over the longue durée. This area, known as Dendi, has often been portrayed as the crossroads of major West African medieval empires but this understanding has been based on a small number of very patchy historical sources. Working from the ground up, from the archaeological sites, standing remains, oral traditions and craft industries of Dendi, Haour and her team offer the first in-depth account of the area.

Contributors are: Paul Adderley, Mardjoua Barpougouni, Victor Brunfaut, Louis Champion, Annalisa Christie, Barbara Eichhorn, Anne Filippini, Dorian Fuller, Olivier Gosselain, David Kay, Nadia Khalaf, Nestor Labiyi, Raoul Laibi, Richard Lee, Veerle Linseele, Alexandre Livingstone Smith, Carlos Magnavita, Sonja Magnavita, Didier N'Dah, Nicolas Nikis, Sam Nixon, Franck N’Po Takpara, Jean-François Pinet, Ronika Power, Caroline Robion-Brunner, Lucie Smolderen, Abubakar Sule Sani, Romuald Tchibozo, Jennifer Wexler, Wim Wouters.

Enza Elena Spinapolice, Andrea Zerboni, Michael Meyer and Donatella Usai

Abstract

The middle reaches of the Nile River play a key role in the current models about the diffusion of modern Humans out of Africa, nevertheless the Early and the Middle Stone Age (Early Palaeolithic and Middle Palaeolithic) in central Sudan are poorly known. On-going investigation at al-Jamrab (White Nile region) highlights the archaeological potential of the central Sudan and illustrates the importance of an integrated approach combining archaeological excavation and palaeoenvironmental reconstruction for understanding cultural site formation and post-depositional dynamics. The stratigraphic sequence at al-Jamrab includes a thick cultural layer rich in Early and Middle Stone Age artefacts, preserved in a deeply weathered palaeosol developed on fluvial sediments. The cultural layer includes a two-fold human occupation covering the Middle Stone Age, with Acheulean and Sangoan bifacial artefacts, although an Early Stone Age/Middle Stone Age transitional phase cannot be excluded. The artefact-bearing unit is attributed to the Upper Pleistocene based on preliminary OSL dating, the local palaeoenvironmental context, and strong pedogenetic weathering. Considering the paucity of archaeological data for the Pleistocene of Sudan and the importance of this region in the study of human dispersal out of Africa, this preliminary work on a new site and its associated stratigraphic context provides insights into the early peopling of Sudan and adds one more tessera to the Eastern Africa picture.

A.C. Christie and A. Haour

Abstract

The lost caravan of Ma’den Ijafen, Mauritania, with its cargo of cowries and brass, is widely discussed in African archaeology, providing significant insight into the nature of long-distance trade in the medieval period. While the brass bars recovered by Théodore Monod during his expedition to the site in 1962 have received considerable attention, the cowrie shells described in his comprehensive publication of the assemblage in 1969 have received much less coverage. This issue was addressed during a recent visit to the Institut Fondamental d’Afrique Noire (IFAN) in Dakar, Senegal in May 2017, when the authors re-examined the shells as part of a wider project which also involved archaeological and environmental surveys in the Maldives, the oft-assumed source of these shells. Examinations of natural history collections of cowries, ethnographic interviews in the Maldives, and environmental surveys in East Africa were also carried out. Drawing on insights from these surveys, we systematically compared the Ma’den Ijafen cowrie assemblage to three others from the Maldives, focussing on four criteria: species composition and diversity, shell size and evidence of modifications. This analysis enabled us to shed new light on the nature of the Ma’den Ijafen cowries and their wider significance to understanding the role of the shells in West African trade networks.

Hugo Pinto, Will Archer, David Witelson, Rae Regensberg, Stephanie Edwards Baker, Rethabile Mokhachane, Joseph Ralimpe, Nkosinathi Ndaba, Lisedi Mokhantso, Puseletso Lecheko and Sam Challis

Abstract

The rock shelter Mafusing 1 was excavated in 2011 as part of the Matatiele Archaeology and Rock Art or MARA research programme initiated in the same year. This programme endeavours to redress the much-neglected history of this region of South Africa, which until 1994 formed part of the wider ‘Transkei’ apartheid homeland. Derricourt’s 1977 Prehistoric Man in the Ciskei and Transkei constituted the last archaeological survey in this area. However, the coverage for the Matatiele region was limited, and relied largely on van Riet Lowe’s site list of the 1930s. Thus far, the MARA programme has documented more than 200 rock art sites in systematic survey and has excavated two shelters – Mafusing 1 (MAF 1) and Gladstone 1 (forthcoming). Here we present analyses of the excavated material from the MAF 1 site, which illustrates the archaeological component of the wider historical and heritage-related programme focus. Our main findings at MAF 1 to date include a continuous, well stratified cultural sequence dating from the middle Holocene up to 2400 cal. BP. Ages obtained from these deposits are suggestive of hunter-gatherer occupation pulses at MAF 1, with possible abandonment of the site over the course of two millennia in the middle Holocene. After a major roof collapse altered the morphology of the shelter, there was a significant change in the character of occupation at MAF 1, reflected in both the artefact assemblage composition and the construction of a rectilinear structure within the shelter sometime after 2400 cal. BP. The presence of a lithic artefact assemblage from this latter phase of occupation at MAF 1 confirms the continued use of the site by hunter-gatherers, while the presence of pottery and in particular the construction of a putative rectilinear dwelling and associated animal enclosure points to occupation of the shelter by agropastoralists. Rock art evidence shows distinct phases, the latter of which may point to religious practices involving rain-serpents and rainmaking possibly performed, in part, for an African farmer audience. This brings into focus a central aim of the MARA programme: to research the archaeology of contact between hunter-gatherer and agropastoralist groups.

Kathryn Ranhorn and Christian A. Tryon

Abstract

Late Pleistocene and Holocene evidence from multiple rockshelters in north-central Tanzania suggests a regional pattern of changing technological behaviors through time. We use independent chronological evidence to test if the proposed technological patterns across space were also temporally equivalent. We applied AMS radiocarbon dating methods to the carbonate fraction of five ostrich eggshell fragments from Mehlman’s 1975-1976 excavations at Nasera rockshelter and compared our results to recent re-dating efforts of Mumba rockshelter. We document radiocarbon results >46 ka at Nasera in Level 5, indicating that associated and underlying technologies (including what Mehlman termed the ‘Nasera Industry’) are older than previously documented. Backed pieces first appear >46 ka at Nasera, which is in accordance with recent evidence from nearby rockshelters like Enkapune ya Muto, Panga ya Saidi, and potentially Kisese II. We also provide an age of 11,260-11,710 calBP for the ‘Silale Industry’ of Level 3B. Overall, the shifts in lithic technology previously considered to be shared between Mumba and Nasera rockshelters are not temporally aligned, emphasizing the possibility that intra-site variability was the norm throughout the Late Pleistocene in eastern Africa.

Marika Low and Alex Mackay

Abstract

Emphasis on the production of small unretouched blades is the strongest defining technological characteristic of southern African assemblages referred to as the Robberg – a ‘technologically uniform’ technocomplex identified across the sub-continent. This paper explores the spatial organisation of Robberg blade technology from three rockshelter sites in the Doring River catchment of the eastern Cederberg Mountains. The Doring is both a key source of water and toolstone, and the three sites are located at varying distances from it. Blades and blade cores from these sites are used to explore the influence of distance to source on the abundance of raw materials, staging of production and maintenance/reduction of transported artefacts. Results suggest key differences in procurement and provisioning strategies for different materials. Hunter-gatherers ‘geared up’ with hornfels and silcrete blades at the river before moving up the tributaries where toolkits were supplemented by small numbers of blades made from transported silcrete cores and the situational use of local rock types such as quartz. Results demonstrate the importance of understanding local-scale controls on technological organisation before inferring patterns of broader behavioural import.