Author: Timothy Insoll

Abstract

Twelve species of marine shell were transported in significant quantities from the Red Sea to the trade centre of Harlaa in eastern Ethiopia between the eleventh and early fifteenth centuries AD. Initially, it was thought that species such as the cowries were imported from the Indian Ocean. Subsequent research has found that all were available from the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, c. 120 km east of Harlaa. This suggests that a hitherto largely unrecognised source of marine shells was available, and the Red Sea might have supplied not only the Horn of Africa, but other markets, potentially including Egypt, and from there, elsewhere in North Africa and ultimately West Africa via trans-Saharan routes, as well as Nubia and further south on the Nile in the Sudan, the Arabian Peninsula, and the Arabian/Persian Gulf. This is explored with reference to the shell assemblage from Harlaa, and selected shell assemblages from elsewhere in the Horn of Africa, and trading centres on the Red Sea.

In: Journal of African Archaeology

Abstract

Regarding the history of Borgu (North Benin), well-known events are the legend of Kisra, the war of Ilorin (1835-1836), and the destruction of the city named Niyanpangu. Referred to as Niyanpangu-bansu after its destruction, this archaeological site is known mostly from oral tradition and is located approximately three hundred kilometers west of Nikki (northeast Benin Republic). It has great historical significance which could contribute to our understanding of the history of caravan trade in northern Benin. This paper presents the results of the first ever archaeological research on the site in 2013 and 2014.

In: Journal of African Archaeology

Abstract

Decisions related to the production of lithic technology involve landscape-scale patterns of resource acquisition and transport that are not observable in assemblages from any one single site. In this study, we describe the stone artifacts from a discrete cluster of stone artifacts assigned to the Robberg technocomplex (22-16 ka) at the open-air locality of Uitspankraal 9 (UPK9), which is located near two major sources of toolstone in the Doring River catchment of Western Cape, South Africa. OSL dating of the underlying sediment unit provides a terminus post quem age of 27.5 ± 2.1 ka for the assemblage. Comparison of near-source artifact reduction at UPK9 with data from three rock shelter assemblages within the Doring watershed – Putslaagte 8 (PL8), Klipfonteinrand Rock Shelter (KFR), and Mertenhof Rock Shelter (MRS) – suggests that “gearing-up” with cores and blanks occurred along the river in anticipation of transport into the wider catchment area. The results reveal an integrated system of technological supply in which raw materials from different sources were acquired, reduced, and transported in different ways throughout the Doring River region.

In: Journal of African Archaeology
Author: Flavio Altamura

Abstract

In this paper I discuss the potential of archival research (i.e. the reassessment of pictures and drawings) for the identification of hitherto overlooked fossil footprints. All of the most important sites of the Pleistocene sequence of Melka Kunture (Upper Awash Valley, Ethiopia) showed evidence of biogenic structures that had escaped attention during the archaeological investigations which started in the 1960s. The case studies described here show that fossil footprints at Melka Kunture occur more frequently than expected. This could encourage archaeologists to be more aware of the possible presence of bioturbated layers in other archaeological contexts and plan specific research accordingly, using Melka Kunture as a reference.

In: Journal of African Archaeology

Abstract

Although there is no good “Oldowan” record in the Egyptian Nile Valley, the presence of the “Pebble Tools Tradition” is confirmed by surface finds, scattered in the valley and the deserts, recorded through both early and recent excavations, and confirmed by three important stratified sites at Western Thebes, Nag el Amra and Abassieh. Evidence for the existence of the Oldowan complex in Egypt was found, although there was no water corridor connecting the East African highlands to the Mediterranean, as the Proto-Nile had its sources within Egypt itself at the time of the Plio-Pleistocene boundary. The western coast of the Red Sea also should be considered a possible corridor for early Pleistocene hominins. There is still much more research to be done, especially in the Eastern Egyptian Desert and Sinai, to obtain a clearer picture of the scenario that happened during the Plio-Pleistocene episode of hominin dispersal out of Africa.

In: Journal of African Archaeology

Abstract

Excavations at several archaeological sites in and around Gao have resulted in the recovery of thousands of glass beads presumed to have been acquired from glass bead-producing centers through trade. The bead assemblages cover the period from the eighth to the fourteenth century CE. Here we report on the results of compositional analysis by LA-ICP-MS of 100 beads, permitting comparison with the growing corpus of chemical analyses for glass from African and Near Eastern sites. In this analysis, several compositional groupings are recognized. These include two types of plant-ash soda-lime-silica glass (v-Na-Ca), a mineral soda-lime-silica glass (m-Na-Ca), a high-lime high-alumina (HLHA) glass, a mineral soda-high alumina (m-Na-Al), glass, a plant ash soda-high alumina (v-Na-Al) glass and a high lead composition glass. The reconstruction and dating of depositional contexts suggests a shift in glass sources at the end of the tenth century CE. The issue of source identification is discussed and occurrences at other African sites are mapped, providing new data towards an understanding of trade and exchange networks.

In: Journal of African Archaeology

Abstract

Miniaturized stone tools made by controlled fracture are reported from nearly every continent where archaeologists have systematically looked for them. While similarities in technology are acknowledged between regions, few detailed inter-regional comparative studies have been conducted. Our paper addresses this gap, presenting results of a comparative lithic technological study between Klipfonteinrand and Sehonghong – two large rock shelters in southern Africa. Both sites contain Late Glacial (~18-11 kcal BP) lithic assemblages, though they are located in regions with different geologies, climates and environments. Results demonstrate that lithic miniaturization manifests differently in these different regions. Both assemblages provide evidence for small blade production, though key differences exist in terms of the specific technological composition of this evidence, the raw materials selected, the role played by bipolar reduction and the manner in which lithic reduction was organized. Patterned variability of this nature demonstrates that humans deployed miniaturized technologies strategically in relation to local conditions.

In: Journal of African Archaeology

Abstract

Excavations at three urban sites, Harlaa, Harar, and Ganda Harla, in eastern Ethiopia have recovered substantial assemblages of faunal remains. These, the first to be analysed from Islamic contexts in the country, were studied to reconstruct animal economies, and to assess if it was possible to identify Islamic conversion or the presence of Muslims in archaeological contexts through examining butchery practices and diet via the species present. Differences in animal economies between the sites in, for example, management strategies, use of animals for traction, and presence of imported marine fish, infers the development of different traditions. However, conversion to Islam was evident, and although issues of non-observance, mixed communities, and dietary eclecticism have to be acknowledged, the appearance of a similar range of butchery techniques suggests these were linked with the appearance of Muslim traders, and subsequent spread of Islam.

In: Journal of African Archaeology