The Paleoenvironmental Context of Middle and Late Stone Age Behavior and Social Networks in Sub-Saharan Africa Open Access

Robinson, Joshua Robert (2014)

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The tempo of Middle and Late Stone Age behavioral change in Africa is integral to understanding the evolution of our species. Environmental change has been implicated in the technological changes, migratory routes and subsistence patterns that characterize the transition from the Middle to Late Stone Ages. However, we need more complete climatic and environmental data for individual archaeological sites relevant to this interval in order to understand the links between ecology and behavior. This study tests the hypothesis that local climatic and environmental records provide a higher-resolution and locally distinct reconstruction than existing regional proxies in understanding the complex relationship between environment, behavior, and demography. Paleoenvironments at six study sites spanning this time period (Omo-Kibish and Porc Epic, Ethiopia; Lukenya Hill, Kenya; Kalemba and Makwe Caves, Zambia; Sibudu Cave, South Africa) were reconstructed through carbon and oxygen isotopic characterization and zooarchaeological analysis of fossil tooth enamel of faunal communities. The main results suggest that the Last Glacial Maximum was the most significant continent level event in Africa during the late Pleistocene. Most study sites reflect a rapid shift towards greater aridity from the pre-Last Glacial to the Last Glacial time period. However, Omo-Kibish and Porc Epic may actually have become slightly less arid during the Last Glacial Maximum. In Zambia, a concurrent transition to C3 grasslands is indicated by carbon isotopic profiles of traditional grazers, particularly equids. Such a transition is not interpreted from the data for sites in Kenya or Ethiopia, suggesting that human groups in southern Africa may have experienced more extreme shifts in local climate. High-resolution environmental data allows for a greater appreciation of the microeconomic forces influencing behavior. Aridification of southern Africa during the Last Glacial may have had a major impact on migration and population change, altering population distributions and densities. Ethiopia with its relatively dry, but stable, environment throughout the late Pleistocene may have been a refugia for human groups and a cul-de-sac in terms of migrations out of Africa. Results of this study provide a more complete picture of regional environmental diversity for contextualizing local habitats in which humans evolved across Africa.

Table of Contents

TABLE OF CONTENTS CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION: THE MIDDLE AND LATE STONE AGES, MODERN HUMAN BEHAVIOR, AND THE ENVIRONMENT 1 1.1 THEORETICAL RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN ENVIRONMENT AND BEHAVIOR 4 1.2 CURRENT STATE OF LATE PLEISTOCENE ENVIRONMENTAL AND CLIMATIC KNOWLEDGE 9 1.3 DESCRIPTION OF THE MIDDLE AND LATE STONE AGES 19 1.4 SITE DESCRIPTIONS 21 1.4-1 Lukenya Hill 23 1.4-2 Omo-Kibish 25 1.4-3 Porc Epic 26 1.4-4 Kalemba Rockshelter 27 1.4-5 Makwe Caves 28 1.4-6 Sibudu Cave 29 1.4-7 Site Synthesis 30 1.5 OVERVIEW OF THE ANALYTICAL AND EMPIRICAL FRAMEWORK 32 1.5-1 Carbon Isotopes and Photosynthetic Pathways 33 1.5-2 Oxygen Isotopes and Aridity 33 1.5-3 Hypotheses 35 1.5-4 Sampling and Statistical Methodology 36 1.6 ORGANIZATION OF THE VOLUME 42 CHAPTER 2 BURNED BY THE FIRE: COMPROMISED ISOTOPIC RESULTS 45 2.1 ENAMEL STRUCTURE AND STABLE ISOTOPES 46 2.2 STUDY DESIGN 47 2.3 RESULTS 53 2.3-1 General 53 2.3-2 Oxygen 53 2.3-3 Carbon 54 2.4 DISCUSSION 55 2.4-1 δ18O and δ13C Behavior 55 2.4-2 Implications for Paleoenvironmental or Dietary Reconstructions 57 2.5 CONCLUSION 58 CHAPTER 3 THINKING LOCALLY DURING THE LAST GLACIAL MAXIMUM 59 3.1 STUDY DESIGN 61 3.2 RESULTS 64 3.2-1 Oxygen 64 3.2-2 Aridity Index 72 3.2-3 Carbon 74 3.3 DISCUSSION 77 3.3-1 Implications for Behavior 87 3.4 CONCLUSION 89 CHAPTER 4 APPEARANCE AND EXPANSION OF C3 GRASSLANDS DURING THE LAST GLACIAL MAXIMUM 91 4.1 ABSTRACT 91 4.2 INTRODUCTION 92 4.3 SITE DESCRIPTION 93 4.3-1 Geochronology and Archaeology at Kalemba Rockshelter 94 4.3-2 Late Pleistocene Climatic and Environmental Contexts in Central Africa 96 4.4 ISOTOPIC ANALYSIS AND ENVIRONMENTAL RECONSTRUCTION 98 4.4-1 Carbon and Oxygen Stable Isotopes 98 4.4-2 Photosynthetic Pathways and the C3/C4 Distinction 101 4.4-3 History of the C3 to C4 Grassland Transition in Africa 103 4.5 MATERIALS AND METHODS 105 4.5-1 Statistical Analysis 106 4.6 RESULTS 113 4.6-1 Oxygen 113 4.6-2 Carbon 117 4.7 DISCUSSION 120 4.7-1 Implication for Agriculture and Mobility 126 4.8 CONCLUSION 128 CHAPTER 5 SIBUDU CAVE: SOUTH AFRICAN ARCHAEOLOGY IN CONTEXT 132 5.1 GEOLOGICAL AND ARCHAEOLOGICAL CONTEXT 133 5.2 ENVIRONMENTAL CONTEXT 138 5.3 ISOTOPE BACKGROUND 140 5.4 METHODS 142 5.4-1 Statistical Analysis 143 5.5 RESULTS 144 5.5-1 General 144 5.5-2 Bovidae 148 5.5-3 Rhinocerotidae 155 5.5-4 Hippopotamidae 156 5.5-5 Primate 156 5.5-6 Equidae 157 5.5-7 Suidae 158 5.6 DISCUSSION 159 5.7 CONCLUSION 163 CHAPTER 6 SYNTHESIS, CONCLUSIONS, AND FUTURE RESEARCH 166 6.1 ENVIRONMENTAL AND CLIMATIC HYPOTHESES 167 6.2 FAUNAL HYPOTHESES 171 6.3 ISOTOPE STUDY IN BROADER PERSPECTIVE 174 6.4 CONCLUSIONS AND FUTURE DIRECTIONS 183 REFERENCES 189 APPENDIX 1. MAMMALIAN TOOTH ENAMEL 18O AND 13C OF FOSSIL SAMPLES IN THIS STUDY 224

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