1-2 of 2 Results

  • Keywords: Middle Stone Age x
Clear all


Southern African Middle Stone Age  

Sarah Wurz

Currently the concept of the Middle Stone Age (MSA) denotes the period between c. 300 and 25 ka. It is a phase marked by prepared core reduction methods used to knap predetermined flakes and blades that are occasionally retouched into various types of tools. Denticulates, notches, and scrapers occur regularly, and bifacial and unifacial points and backed geometrics are sometimes linked to time-restricted regional patterns, especially for the Still Bay and Howiesons Poort technocomplexes. An uneven geographical representation of data and insufficient dating resolution preclude a coherent consensus chrono-culture stratigraphic framework for the southern African region, the area south of the Kunene and Zambezi Rivers encompassing the modern political entities of Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, southern Mozambique, Swaziland (eSwatini), Lesotho, and South Africa. Therefore many assemblages are described in relation to the marine isotope stages and local industries. Perhaps the most radical development in MSA research during the 20th century relates to the characterization of culture and behavior. In the formation years, when mostly surface collections of stone tools, organized into industries and variants were available, MSA “cultures” of the region were seen as the product of waves of immigrants that entered dark Africa from Europe, in increasingly “advanced” forms. In the latter part of the 20th century, the prevailing Eurocentric paradigm suggested that it was only with the Upper Paleolithic–like Later Stone Age that “modern” culture developed in southern Africa. Although Eurocentric thinking prevails, “modernity” is now linked to the MSA especially after 100 ka. Fluctuating complexity in behavior may relate to various degrees of social interaction within dynamic landscapes. Paleoenvironmental data is growing and, combined with cutting-edge geoarchaeological and digital methods, allow a deeper understanding of past habitats and ecological contexts. Studies on the MSA from southern Africa are expanding rapidly. This growth would be most productive and ethical if research is integrated with African socio-political realities, engaging with decoloniality and inclusivity.


Paleolithic and Neolithic Northeast Africa  

Donatella Usai

The Nile Valley with the deserts and the Ethiopian highlands with the Afar depression and the Rift were, albeit to different extents and in different phases, witnesses of the human enterprise from the origin of the species up to the formation of one of the most important forms of complex society. These regions form a vast area of Africa and, although archaeological and anthropological research make great strides, and the help of science contributes ever more to understanding, the available knowledge is still like a drop in an ocean. From the oldest traces of humankind to the societies that underlie the formation of the pharaonic kingdoms, tracing this history requires a great capacity for synthesis on the basis of a precise line; in this case, one approach can be described as evolutionary. The story begins with the oldest evidence of artifacts made by the first hominids and continues with their evolution into increasingly elaborate form, in a constant relationship with the surrounding environment and under the yoke of a climate that has, sometimes, dictated the times and ways of these changes. This part of the story sees the Ethiopian and the Afar and Rift depressions as the richest in evidence. The most recent phases see the Nile Valley with evidence of the hunter-gatherer groups of the Late Pleistocene and the Early Holocene always grappling with climate changes but with new tools to face and overcome them. The invention of pottery may be seen as one of these tools. This is also when the foundations for a food-producing economy are laid. For a long time, however, hunting and gathering practices continue and, especially along the Nile, fishing activities remain a constant in the economy of prehistoric societies, with herding and plant cultivation differently contributing and, supposedly, according to the potential and characteristics of each corner of this immense area.