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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

Abstract

Salvage excavations in the 1970s uncovered a sizeable commoner occupation at Great Zimbabwe, as well as evidence for the early construction of an elite stonewalled enclosure. As a result of these excavations, we can revise somewhat the chronology of Great Zimbabwe. The most important changes are the extension of Period IVa, lasting from AD 1285±10 to 1395±10, and the appearance of P, P/Q and Q-coursed walling in Period IVa. The small Nemanwa palace was built in P/Q and first dates to Period IVa, as does the Outer Perimeter Wall, and both were linked to the growth of the Zimbabwe state. Period IVb represents the floruit of Great Zimbabwe, while Period IVc encompasses the occupation after the political elite moved north to become the well-known Mutapa dynasty. After the move north, the Mutapa established a masungiro ritual centre at Great Zimbabwe, perhaps to maintain territorial rights in the face of Torwa expansion.

In: Journal of African Archaeology

Abstract

Excavations at Old Dongola in 2018/2019 led to the discovery of a quarter of wattle-and-daub houses located outside the town walls. The houses, dated to the 17th − 18th century, are arranged in compounds and visibly differ from other dwellings. This paper aims to identify the functional and social organisation of domestic space, based primarily on the analysis of access and activity areas. It sheds light on the relations of private and public space as well as gender divisions. The paper also addresses the question of the identity of dwellers and the social structure of the town in the Funj period.

In: Journal of African Archaeology

Abstract

South Africa is one of the best-studied regions in terms of Stone Age research in the last few decades. Considerable progress has been made, especially for the Middle Stone Age (MSA). Recently the late Pleistocene Later Stone Age (LSA) has come back into focus. However, there are still large understudied areas such as northeastern South Africa. Here we present the first data from an archaeological site containing late Pleistocene occupations associated with the Robberg techno-complex in this region. Iron Pig rock shelter provides a well-dated sequence spanning from >16000 cal BP to <9000 cal BP. A lithic analysis of the Robberg occupations of the lowermost layers 5 and 6 provided here implies gradual temporal shifts in technology indicating short-term changing traditions. A comparative review of other LSA sites in the wider region suggests considerable research gaps and the necessity of intensified work in this area.

In: Journal of African Archaeology