African Archaeology


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Marean showed the shard image to Eugene Smith, a volcanologist with the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, and Smith confirmed it was a volcanic shard.

African archaeology

Early in the study, the team brought in expert cryptotephra scientist Christine Lane who trained graduate student Amber Ciravolo in the needed techniques. Racheal Johnsen later joined Ciravalo as lab manager and developed new techniques. From scratch, with National Science Foundation support, they developed the Cryptotephra Laboratory for Archaeological and Geological Research, which is now involved in projects not only in Africa, but in Italy, Nevada and Utah.

Encased in that shard of volcanic glass is a distinct chemical signature, a fingerprint that scientists can use to trace to the killer eruption. In their paper in Nature, the team describes finding these shards in two archaeological sites in coastal South Africa, tracing those shards to Toba through chemical fingerprinting and documenting a continuous human occupation across the volcanic event. It did, but such studies lack the archaeological data needed to show how Toba affected humans.

The Pinnacle Point team has been at the forefront of development and application of highly advanced archaeological techniques. They measure everything on site to millimetric accuracy with a "total station," a laser-measurement device integrated to handheld computers for precise and error-free recording.

Cleghorn explains, "We collected a long column of samples - digging out a small amount of sediment from the wall of our previous excavation. Each time we collected a sample, we shot its position with the total station. Archaeological dates at these age ranges are imprecise - 10 percent or s of years error is typical. Toba ash-fall, however, was a very quick event that has been precisely dated. The time of shard deposition was likely about two weeks in duration - instantaneous in geological terms.

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This latter site is where a group of people, possibly members of the same group as those at Pinnacle Point, sat in a small circle and made stone tools. Finding the shards at both sites allows us to link these two records at almost the same moment in time.

People lived at the Pinnacle Point site from 90, to 50, years ago. Zenobia Jacobs with the University of Wollongong, Australia, used optically stimulated luminescence OSL to date 90 samples and develop a model of the age of all the layers. OSL dates the last time individual sand grains were exposed to light. This lends very strong support to Jacobs' cutting-edge approach to OSL dating, which she has applied to sites across southern Africa and the world. Testing whether the clock ticks at the correct rate is important.

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So getting this degree of confirmation is pleasing," says Jacobs. In the s, scientists began arguing that this eruption of Mount Toba, the most powerful in the last two million years, caused a long-lived volcanic winter that may have devastated the ecosystems of the world and caused widespread population crashes, perhaps even a near-extinction event in our own lineage, a so-called bottleneck. This study shows that along the food-rich coastline of southern Africa, people thrived through this mega-eruption, perhaps because of the uniquely rich food regime on this coastline.

Now other research teams can take the new and advanced methods developed in this study and apply them to their sites elsewhere in Africa so researchers can see if this was the only population that made it through these devastating times. Aerial photo of the dig in December Archaeologists unearth tombs in ancient Nubia 5 March The archaeological site of Sedeinga is located in Sudan, a hundred kilometers to the north of the third cataract of the Nile, on the river's western shore. Known especially for being home to the ruins of the Egyptian temple of Queen Tiye, the royal wife of Amenhotep III, the site also includes a large necropolis containing sepulchers dating from the kingdoms of Napata and Meroe seventh century BCE-fourth century CE , a civilization 1 mixing local traditions and Egyptian influences.

They represent one of the largest collections of Meroitic inscriptions, the oldest language of black Africa currently known. The necropolis of Sedeinga stretches across more than twenty-five hectares and is home to the vestiges of at least eighty brick pyramids and over a hundred tombs, dating from the kingdoms of Napata and Meroe seventh century BCE-fourth century CE. The research programs carried out since 3 have focused on the chronology of the construction of this necropolis, which is difficult as there is very little remaining historical information on this civilization.

The researchers have shown that most of the pyramids and tombs are buildings dating from the era of the Napata kingdom that were later adjusted by the Meroitics. These adjustments were thus made five centuries after the initial building on the site, which the Meroitics supplemented with new chapels built out of brick and sandstone blocks on the western side of the pyramids, and which were intended for the worship of the deceased.

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This practice was particular to the Napatans and Meroitics, who veritably revered the monuments of the past, unlike their Egyptian neighbors. Pieces of decorated sandstone, such as steles as well as lintels and door surrounds, have been discovered at the surface, providing magnificent examples of Meroitic funerary art. For example, pigments - mainly blue in color- have been preserved on a stele found lying on its side. This is rare for objects of this kind, which typically are subjected to the vagaries of time. This is the first extant representation of this goddess depicting her with African characteristics.

During the last excavation campaign in late , the researchers discovered a stele in the name of a Lady Maliwarase. The stele sets out her kinship with the notables of Nubia in the north of the kingdom of Meroe: The archeologists have also unearthed a lintel inscribed with four lines of text describing the owner of the sepulcher, another great lady, Adatalabe.

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She hailed from an illustrious lineage that included a royal prince, a member of the reigning family of Meroe. These two steles written for high-ranking women are not isolated examples in Sedeinga. In Meroitic society, it was indeed women who embodied the prestige of a family and passed on its heritage.

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Notes 1 The kingdoms of Napata and Meroe formed one and the same civilization, known as the "Kush kingdom" by their ancient Egyptian neighbors. It will continue until and is divided into three four-year plans, the last of which began in November Microscopic plant remains, called phytoliths, from grasses, sedges, palms, forbs, and trees that lived near Lake Malawi in East Africa about 74, years ago. Yost, University of Arizona Department of Geosciences. No volcanic winter in East Africa from ancient Toba eruption 6 February The massive Toba volcanic eruption on the island of Sumatra about 74, years ago did not cause a six-year-long "volcanic winter" in East Africa and thereby cause the human population in the region to plummet, according to new University of Arizona-led research.

The new findings disagree with the Toba catastrophe hypothesis, which says the eruption and its aftermath caused drastic, multi-year cooling and severe ecological disruption in East Africa. Yost, a doctoral candidate in the UA Department of Geosciences. Yost and his colleagues studied microscopic bits of plants preserved in two sediment cores from Lake Malawi, which is approximately kilometers miles long and is the southernmost of the East African Rift lakes.

Previous investigators found material from the Toba eruption in the Lake Malawi cores. That material pinpoints the time of the eruption and allowed Yost and colleagues to peer back in time years before to years after the Toba eruption. The team analyzed samples that represented, on average, every 8.

The team did find some die-off of mountain plants just after the eruption. Cooling from the eruption might have injured frost-intolerant plants, he said. Had the region experienced the drastic, multi-year cooling post-Toba, the cores would have evidence of a massive die-off of the region's vegetation at all elevations, Yost said. Part of the Toba catastrophe hypothesis suggests the eruption caused human populations to shrink.

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Cohen, UA Distinguished Professor of Geosciences, said, "That a singular event in Earth history 75, years ago caused human populations in the cradle of humankind to drop is not a tenable idea. Yost's and Cohen's co-authors are Lily J.

Edited by Peter Mitchell and Paul J. Lane

In Indonesia, the source of the destruction would have been evident to terrified witnesses - just before they died. The researchers' analysis of 52 glass beads from the excavated assemblage revealed that none matched the chemical composition of any other known glass-production area in the Old World, including Egypt, the eastern Mediterranean, the Middle East and Asia. It's unclear whether Homo sapiens or a closely related species made Olorgesailie's Middle Stone Age tools, since no hominid fossils have been found there. Meroe was one of the wealthiest cities of the ancient Kingdom of Kush. Articles for publication in Journal of African Archeology online through Editorial Manager , please click here. Marean showed the shard image to Eugene Smith, a volcanologist with the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, and Smith confirmed it was a volcanic shard.

The Lake Malawi Drilling Project took the cores from the lake bottom in , said Cohen, one of the principal investigators on the collaborative project. The lake is one of the deepest in the world. The material archived in the cores goes back more than one million years. Plant and animal material washes into lakes and is deposited on the bottom in annual layers, so a sediment core contains a record of the past environments of a lake and of the surrounding land.

Yost studied two cores taken from the lake: Other researchers had pinpointed what layer in those cores had glass and crystals from the Toba eruption, Cohen said. Yost took samples from the cores that straddled the eruption and analyzed the samples for charcoal and for silica-containing plant parts called phytoliths. The work required hundreds of hours of peering through a microscope, said Yost, who is an expert in identifying the type of plant a particular phytolith came from.

If the Toba catastrophe hypothesis is true, the massive die-off of vegetation would have resulted in more wildfires and therefore more charcoal washing into the lake. However, he did not find an increase in charcoal outside the range of normal variability in the sediments deposited after the eruption. This is Sub-Saharan Africa glass. Researchers find first evidence of sub-Saharan Africa glassmaking 18 January Scholars from Rice University, University College London and the Field Museum have found the first direct evidence that glass was produced in sub-Saharan Africa centuries before the arrival of Europeans, a finding that the researchers said represents a "new chapter in the history of glass technology.

He recovered more than 12, glass beads and several kilograms of glass-working debris.

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Researchers raised the possibility of local production in Ife, although direct evidence for glassmaking and its chronology was lacking. The researchers' analysis of 52 glass beads from the excavated assemblage revealed that none matched the chemical composition of any other known glass-production area in the Old World, including Egypt, the eastern Mediterranean, the Middle East and Asia. Rather, the beads have a high-lime, high-alumina HLHA composition that reflects local geology and raw materials, the researchers said. The excavations provided evidence that glass production at Igbo Olokun dates to the 11th through 15th centuries A.

Babalola said the presence of the HLHA glass at other important early West African sites suggests that it was widely traded. He hopes the research will cast more light on the innovation and development of glass in early sub-Saharan Africa and how the regional dynamics in glass production connect with the global phenomenon of glass invention and exchange. He also hopes his work will help researchers understand its impact on the social, political and economic fabrics of the African societies.

This book aims to situate African archaeology within its theoretical, methodological, and historical context. It considers the history of human culture on the African continent. His main interests are in the historical ecology of African landscapes, the archaeology of colonial encounters, the materialisation of memory, the organisation and use of space and time in pre-industrial societies, maritime archaeology, and the transition to farming in Africa.

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