P314 Earlier Prehistory of Africa

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Reference materials on Oldowan sites, arranged approximately by age

Site Name
Region / Country
Site Age
Middle Awash region, Ethiopia
~ 2.5 myr
Gona sites
Hadar region, Ethiopia
2.6-2.5 myr

Shungura Formation Member E sites

Shungura Fm Member F sites

southern Ethiopia, sediments exposed near Omo River, north of Lake Turkana
E: 2.48-2.34 myr

F: 2.34-2.32

West Turkana

Lokalalei sites

sediments exposed on west side of Lake Turkana
2.35 myr
~2.3 myr
East Turkana

Koobi Fora Member sites

Okote Member sites

sediments exposed on east side of Lake Turkana
KBS tuff sites:

~1.88 myr

Okote tuff sites:

1.6-1.4 myr

Olduvai Gorge Bed I sites

DK site

FLK-Zinj site

on the edge of the Serengeti plains in northern Tanzania ~ 1.9 - 1.7 myr
Sterkfontein Member 5

local basalt cores & flakes

It turns out that the oldest archaeological sites yet known have been found in the same region where the famous "Lucy" fossils were discovered in the 1970's : the HADAR region of Ethiopia, in the "Afar triangle" of the Rift Valley ...

However, NO ARCHAEOLOGY associated with A. afarensis fossils (most buried in lake margins). (Lucy is ~2.8 mya). In stratigraphic levels above A. afarensis, stone artifacts have been found. First discoveries by French at Kada Gona-- stone tools in secondary context -- e.g. part of conglomerate.

Jack Harris and Sileshi Semaw explored fine grained deposits nearby, and found and excavated artifacts in primary context (stream margin sediments). This project is now run by Sileshi Semaw at West Gona.

These early sites are at least 2.5 mya, and some may be as old as 2.6 mya (above the BKT 2 tuff 2.88mya). Stratigraphy diagram.

scatters of shattered quartz lumps and pebbles, found eroding out of sediments from ancient channel margins. Quartz pebbles are not a natural component of these fine grained sediments.

Site FtJi 2 contains 224 artifacts in situ, buried in fine silts from a back swamp or marginal floodbasin sedimentary setting. There were two, low density scatters of small quartz artifacts. These quartz chips were classified (3 flakes, 4 flake fragments, 217 angular fragments), and 7 manuports (unmodified stones) were also found. Each lens of artifacts is about 15 cm thick, and the two lenses are separated vertically by 10-15 cm. No bones were found at the site.

(+ A. aethiopicus in contemporary sediments)

quartz chips (streams)

(+ A. aethiopicus in contemporary sediments)

local basalt cores from river gravels & refitting flakes from several sites

(+ A. aethiopicus in contemporary sediments)

Artifact assemblage graphs for all East Turkana Sites. Each site has been given a number in the local catalog system: e.g. "FxJj 50" is the 50th site in the regional grid area F/J (and x/j small square within that). This site is listed as site "50" on graphs:

Stones flaked more systematically -- and new toolforms appear, e.g. "Karari scrapers"

Lots of sites are BIG = huge concentrations of bone/stone. Sites with large assemblages have greater diversity of tool types, etc (see assemblage graphs above)

One of key new technology types which MAY appear during this time is FIRE...

Olduvai Gorge

A number of important sites were excavated by Mary Leakey in Bed I, including the famous FLK-Zinj site, and a slightly older site called DK, with a stone circle. Refer to your readings and CD-ROM for more information about these sites.

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Last updated: 3 October, 2000
URL: http://www.indiana.edu/~origins/teach/p314/xxx.html
Comments: sept@indiana.edu
Copyright Jeanne Sept 2000 : do not cite without permission

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