P314 Earlier Prehistory of Africa

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Reading and Topic Schedule

PDF (printable text file) list of articles

Note: If you are a graduate student you will have additional reading requirements. Please consult Professor Sept.

Week 1: The History of Prehistoric Research in Africa, and an Introduction to Africa's Geography and Paleoenvironments

One objective of this first week's readings is to familiarize yourself with Africa the continent (its countries, major geographical features, etc). You will find several questions about African geography on the first week's QUIZ! Conveniently, we are able to use the Geography Library to hold the course readings, so you might want to look at some of their MAPS and other materials about Africa as well. Alternatively, I recommend studying or printing out some of the maps of Africa linked to the lecture notes webpage for this class.

A second reading objective is to familiarize yourself with the types of questions scholars and scientists have asked about Africa, and how they have changed through time. Chapter 1 is a good guide to this.

A third objective is to review some of the methods archaeologists use to establish the age and environment of ancient sites. This is covered in chapter 2, and we will be looking at examples of the application of these methods during the course of the semester.

If you are particularly interested in the history of archaeology in Africa, I recommend you refer to the book   A History of African Archaeology P. Robertshaw (ed) 1990 Heinemann, Portsmouth NH.

Week 2: Early Hominids and Artifacts in South Africa

Chapter 3 is a brief background to some basics of primate evolution, which will be useful for those of you who who have not studied it before or feel a bit rusty on this topic.

However, the rest of the readings address our our focus in lectures during the second week: the history of Early Stone Age archaeology from a South African perspective. We will also review some of the recent developments in ESA archaeology, to bring you up to date on current issues and debates. While reading, you should focus on the following types of questions:

Week 3: The Ages and Environmental Contexts of the ESA sites in East Africa

On Tuesday, Sept 12, our class will meet in Library-503 computer cluster to work with the Investigating Olduvai CD-ROM. Bring a copy with you to class, or make arrangements in advance to work in a pair with someone who will! Our focus in class will be investigating how this site was dated, and how the paleoenviroment of the site can be reconstructed. You will be using the following sections of the CD-ROM in class, and if you can look at them in advance, your in-class assignment will go much faster.

On Thursday, Sept 14, we will meet back in the Student Building, probably in a lab, to examine stone tools and discuss ESA technology and the question of which hominid(s) were responsible for the FLK-Zinj site. Read the following before class:

Come to class prepared to discuss the following questions: What are the differences between the sedimentary contexts of the earliest known stone tools from East Africa and South Africa? How do these contexts affect archaeologists' abilities to reconstruct various behaviors of the tool makers? Which hominid(s) was/were the likely toolmakers at the FLK-Zinj site, and why?

Week 4: Reconstructing early hominid behavior from stones and bones

Read the following before class:

On Tuesday Sept 19, we will meet back in the LI-503 computer lab to broaden our inquiry into the ESA in Africa. Bring your Olduvai CD-ROMs as a possible reference, but we will also be using WWW resources in class to address the questions:

How old are the earliest sites in Africa? Who made the earliest stone tools and why?

On Thursday Sept 21 we will return to the Student Building to begin to discuss the ESA archaeological sequence in the Lake Turkana Basin, and its implications for cultural variability in the Oldowan. Read the following articles before class:

Week 5: Comparing the "material culture" of ESA hominids and living chimpanzees

On Tuesday Sept 26, we will meet back in the LI-503 computer lab to broaden our inquiry into the ESA in Africa. Bring your Olduvai CD-ROMs as a possible reference, but we will also be using WWW resources in class to address the questions:

How does the artifact variability present in the ESA compare to artifact variability of living chimpanzees?

Read the following articles before class:

On Thursday Sept 28 we will meet back in the Student Building lecture hall to continue to discuss ways we can compare the archaeological record left by early hominids to the behavior patterns of living chimpanzees. Read the following articles before class:

Week 6: Meat-eating, food-sharing and the evolution of Homo

What are the possible interpretations of how the early sites formed? How did the subsistence and social patterns of the early hominid toolmakers seem to differ from that of living chimpanzees or modern human foragers? How can Isaac's "food sharing/home base" hypothesis be evaluated, 25 years after it was first proposed?

Week 7: Changing Technology: Developed Oldowan and Acheulian

Tuesday, Oct 10, we'll meet back in the LI-503 computer lab to explore the space and time dimensions of the ESA,

Thursday, Oct 12 we'll meet back in the Student Building to discuss how Acheulian sites differ technologically from Oldowan and Developed Oldowan sites and what explanations have been offered for this? What were handaxes probably used for, and why did they change so little for over a million years? What do we know about the first use of fire by hominids? If we have time, we'll look at a case study site called Olorgesailie.

Week 8: The Acheulian, from north to south

Week 9: The MSA

Week 10-12: MSA sites and questions of modern human origins

On Tuesday, Oct 31, we'll meet in the LI-503 computer lab again, to explore variation in MSA sites around the African continent. You will be doing research on specific MSA archaeological sites that relate to this question. In addition, here are three, general articles that compare the genetic, fossil and archaeological records for modern human origins in different regions or from different perspectives than the Deacon text.

Week 14-15: The Later Stone Age -- South African examples

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 Professor Jeanne Sept
 (812) 855-5395 ; email: SEPT  
 Office Hours Student Bldg 038

TuTh 1:00-2:00, or by appt.

   Lectures: Student Bldg 150

TuTh 11:15-12:30


Human Origins in Africa | African Resources | Archaeology Links |
Sept teaching interests | IU Anthropology
Sept research | Sept Home Page

Last updated: 29 August 2000
URL: http://www.indiana.edu/~origins/teach/p314/p31498read.html
Comments: sept@indiana.edu
Copyright Jeanne Sept 1998 : do not cite without permission

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