Landscape perspectives on variability in the Acheulean behavioural system in sub-Saharan Africa: A view from Koobi Fora and Elandsfontein

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Dokumentart: PhDThesis
Date: 2019-08-20
Language: English
Faculty: 7 Mathematisch-Naturwissenschaftliche Fakultät
Department: Geographie, Geoökologie, Geowissenschaft
Advisor: Conard, Nicholas J. (Prof. Dr.)
Day of Oral Examination: 2019-07-18
DDC Classifikation: 500 - Natural sciences and mathematics
550 - Earth sciences
930 - History of ancient world to ca. 499
960 - History of Africa
Keywords: Archäologie , Evolution , Artefakt , Afrika
Other Keywords:
quantitative approaches to lithic analysis
hominin behavioural evolution
Early Stone Age
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The emergence of the Acheulean is understood to mark a key adaptive shift in several dimensions of hominin behaviour. Some archaeologists associate the onset of the Acheulean at ~1.7 Ma with the expansion of hominin foraging ranges involving increased mobility and tool transport distances, variability in strategies of stone raw material procurement and use and increased spatial and temporal depths of planning in the organization of stone tool production. Other scientists view Acheulean hominins as being tied to water and water related resources, as well as to stone raw-material sources across the landscape. In this second model, hominins rarely planned subsistence and technological activities in substantial spatial or temporal anticipation of future need. Very little quantitative archaeological data, however, have been published to support either of these models. We need to understand how Acheulean hominins organized and economized their technology on a landscape scale, to make quantitative assessments about how shifts in hominin cognition are manifested archaeologically. Here I develop a series of methods to (1) interrogate how Acheulean hominins organized and economized their technology on a landscape scale, and to (2) quantitatively assess how shifts in hominin cognition are manifested archaeologically. Few contexts exist that are conducive to such studies. Two of the more suitable sets of sites are (a) a set of spatially separated semi-contemporaneous early Acheulean (~1.4 Ma) sites in Koobi Fora, east Turkana, Kenya, consisting of the localities of FxJj65, FxJj63, FxJj37 and FxJj21, and, (b) a ~10 km2 dune field with multiple later Acheulean localities known as Elandsfontein, West Coast, South Africa (~1 Ma-600 Ka). Quantitative and qualitative analyses demonstrate that archaeological sites at Koobi Fora and at Elandsfontein were ‘fragmented’. In other words, hominins structured their tool manufacture, use, and maintenance patterns spatially across the landscape, a pattern that is not evident in the archaeological record preceding the Acheulean. This finding suggests that fragmentation may be a ‘pan-African’ feature of Acheulean hominin behaviour, potentially conflicting with inferences that Acheulean hominins were tied to resources, and did not plan their activities beyond immediate expedient tool manufacture and use. This thesis proposes a model wherein early and later Acheulean hominins used the landscape in flexible and systematic ways, at the geographic extremes of sub-Saharan Africa, implying a depth of planning in Acheulean hominins wherein technological activities were undertaken in substantial anticipation of future needs.

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