Ongoing archaeological research at North Lake Eyasi has produced a wealth of information, including a new hominid fossil and several archaeological sites dating to the end of the Middle Pleistocene. One of the sites (WB9) has been excavated and has produced evidence of multiple processes in its formation, including evidence of functional associations of stone tools and faunal remains which are scarce for this time period. The stone tool industry is based on a core and flake industry, which is not very diagnostic and attributed to MSA. Earlier heavy-duty tools classified as Sangoan may derive from the underlying Eyasi Beds. The stratigraphic provenience of previous fossil hominids is unknown. Surface collections from the Eyasi lake, thus, comprise two different sets of stone tools and fossils, which can only be clearly differentiated in the field. This advises against the use of previously curated collections as a homogeneous sample. Earlier definitions of the Njarasa industry should be revised. This work presents results on the paleoecology of the area and of its paleontological and archaeological information, with special reference to the excavation of WB9, the most complete site discovered in the area so far. This contributes to the limited information available about site functionality and hominid subsistential behaviour in East Africa during the end of the Middle Pleistocene. A technological study from WB9 also shows the variability of stone tool traditions at this time.
Over the past four decades, several functional hypotheses have been proposed for archaeological ochre. Ochre has been shown to have antiseptic properties and to inhibit the bacterial production of collagenase. These qualities are repeatedly cited to support the hypothesis that red ochre was used to preserve or ‘tan’ animal hides in prehistory. If clothing made from hides was worn by Homo sapiens in Africa, then hide tanning could have formed a part of the trend towards increasingly modern technological and social advances during the Middle to Late Pleistocene. This paper presents the results of an experimental study exploring the efficacy of ochre as a treatment for making unprocessed animal hide resistant to putrification and desiccation. This study shows that certain types of ochre do preserve animal hide. The implications of this technological advance for the emergence of human behavioural modernity in Africa are discussed.
This paper focuses on a specific class of locally made artifacts known in the archaeological literature of the eastern African coast as bead grinders. Bead grinders are discarded potsherds or stone cobbles distinguished by long grooves abraded into their surfaces. Although they are some of the most commonly located artifacts on late first-millennium AD coastal sites, few close analyses of them have been conducted. Here we examine a particularly large assemblage of bead grinders from the site of Tumbe on Pemba Island, Tanzania, the largest such assemblage recovered from any site in eastern Africa. This essay is not aimed at determining whether or not these artifacts were in fact used to grind shell beads, the subject of considerable local debate, although we operate from that assumption. Rather, we treat them as artifacts related to production, and focus on standardization as a way to provide insight into the organization of production at Tumbe. Based on our analysis we argue that despite the intensive production implied by the sheer quantity of grinders recovered at Tumbe, the high degree of variation within relevant variables suggests that production was unstandardized and decentralized, carried on in individual households. We hope that this case study encourages more comparative research between coastal regions on bead grinders and other classes of artifacts related to production.
Archaeological investigations on settlements and graveyards near the Mare de Kissi in NE Burkina Faso proved human occupation at that location at least from the 4th century BC up to the 12th/13th century AD. Among others, one important category of finds recovered from excavations are beads: about five thousand of various materials were found, especially as grave goods in the cemeteries, but also in the settlement zones. A clear imbalance in raw materials is visible between beads found in the settlement zones and those from the cemeteries: there is a trend towards low value materials in the settlement zones, while beads found in the graves demonstrate wealth and important trade relations of that society.