This paper presents and contextualizes two radiocarbon dates directly obtained from Kansyore and Savanna Pastoral Neolithic (Narosura) ceramic sherds from sites near Lake Eyasi in Tanzania. The dates improve upon those obtained during prior research, which were compromised by problematic samples and stratigraphic disturbance. This underscores the importance of direct dating on diagnostic ceramics in areas with poor site integrity. The Eyasi Basin, often thought to mark a “southern frontier” for stone-using herders, is placed in a broader regional context in terms of material correlates of the spread of food production.
Mumba Rockshelter in northern Tanzania presents one of the richest and most complete archaeological sequences in East Africa for the Middle Stone Age through the Iron Age. Past excavations of the shelter revealed an extremely rich lithic and faunal assemblage, but were problematic, either because of poor excavation and recording methods (in the 1930s), or because the materials were never fully studied (in the 1979/1981 excavations). In both cases, excavators had concluded that the shelter contained a deposit without visible separation between archaeological levels. Re-excavation of Mumba, using modern techniques for recording spatial data, show that the previous geological and archaeological sub-divisions of the shelter deposits need much revision. The results of the excavation have implications for the interpretation of the “transitional” Mumba Industry in the Pleistocene levels and for the co-occurrence of ceramic traditions in the Holocene levels.
Recent re-excavation of Mumba Rockshelter unearthed an unbiased lithic sample from Bed V. Technological analysis has permitted a reinterpretation of the so-called Mumba Industry, a transitional industry between Middle and Later Stone Ages originally defined by Mehlman (1989). Our data confirm Mehlman’s observation that the “evolutionary” markers in Mumba Bed V are basically typological. However, our study differs from his in that we classify all of Bed V as LSA based on the combined analyses of typology and technology in our excavated assemblage. From a technological perspective, no changes have been observed throughout the sequence, and continuity is the main technological characteristic of the series. The only transitional marker from Lower through Upper Bed V is the appearance of the geometric crescent in the latter, taking into account that microliths exist throughout the sequence. This evidence casts some doubts on previous interpretations and underscores the need to recover a larger sample using modern excavation techniques. It also stresses the need to define the MSA/LSA transition in better terms, combining techno-typological criteria.