Keywords: Middle Stone Age, Origins of technology, Late Stone Age, Primates, The first toolmakers, Iron Age, Human Evolution, Ethnoarchaeology
Brief description
​Africa has a special place in our understanding of human origins as the continent where the split between humans and other apes took place. Current research indicates that both the appearance of anatomically modern humans and the behavioral repertoire of our species is likely to have emerged in Africa during the last several million years, namely Modern Human Behavior (DNA studies have noted a close relation between the present Khoisan and the earliest Homo sapiens sapiens, making these populations the best ethnographic proxy for the earliest Modern human populations). The archaeology of Africa also continues to offer important contributions in areas such as Iron Age and Historical Archaeology. Thus, within ICArEHB, the African Archaeology and Human Evolution section aims to understand the emergence of human behavior in Africa by applying an interdisciplinary approach across a diversity of time frames and geographic scales. Along with earlier periods, the research group aims to include other areas of African archaeology that contribute to a better understanding of broad socio-economic and political changes. This group is developing projects in a variety of African sites and within broad chronologies, which will allow us to combine information, for the first time, from archaeology, primatology, geology, geomorphology, ecology and ethnoarchaeology. The use of multiple lines of evidence, theoretical backgrounds and methodologies provide pioneer insights concerning technology-related behaviors, including evolutionary origins, political-economy and social factors. ICArEHB researchers in this area are studying:
  • The emergence of the earliest lithic technology in eastern Africa (e.g., Koobi Fora in Kenya, and Rift Valley);
  • The ecological context that led to the earliest species of Homo and their key adaptive features (e.g. Kenya, Ethiopia);
  • Referential modelling: studying extant apes (wild chimpanzees) to understanding the origins of technology-related behaviors, e.g. raw material selection, transport, tool make and use, tool use site formation, etc (Guinea, Tanzania, Republic of Congo, etc);
  • The microenvironments underlying early anatomically modern human adaptations and emergence of the so-called modern human behavior in Africa using geoarchaeological site formation studies (e.g., Morocco, Mozambique);
  • The nature of anthropogenic sediments associated with the emergence and use of fire and other human activities, e.g., bedding, habitation floors and spatial organization of habitats;
  • The emergence of modern human behavior and complex lithic technology (e.g. South Africa and Mozambique);
  • The behavior ecology of hunter-gatherers, their systematic coastal exploitation and the emergence of hyper prosocial proclivities (e.g. South Africa and Mozambique);
  • Ethnoarchaeology of ceramic production, and political-economic and social changes due to the influence of long-distance and long-term processes, such as long-distance trade and migrations (e.g. Ghana and Mozambique);
  • Ethnoarchaeology of compound construction and the impact of political events (e.g., empire construction) in technology and settlement patterns (Ghana and Mozambique)