Project title: EPIGONES AND FORERUNNERS - ADAPTATION STRATEGIES OF THE SUBSAHARAN SOCIETIES IN TERMINAL PLEISTOCENE AND EARLY HOLOCENE. Case study of the region of Affad Basin, Southern Dongola Reach, Sudan
Project No: UMO-2015/18/E/HS3/00416
Project lead: dr Marta Osypińska
Project lead, institutional: Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology of the Polish Academy of Sciences
Project financing:National Science Center, 2014-2016
phone (22) 620-28-81 do 86
Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology of the Polish Academy of Sciences
1. Research project objectives/ Research hypothesis
First stage of the research in Sudanese Southern Dongola Reach financed by National Center of Science (UMO-2011/01/D/HS3/04125) inscribed into Polish tradition of studies on prehistory of the North-Eastern Africa. Since 2012 the area of Affad was a place of field works known as the "Levallois Tradition Epigones in the Middle Nile Valley" project. Number of unique data of Terminal Pleistocene and Early Holocene settlement was available due to the three-years works - relics of cut features (postholes, pits, hearths), rich assemblages of animal remains and one of the latest stone industry rooted in the Levallois traditions. Riverine plains - few kilometers away ofnowadays Nile presents numerous relics ofsettlement sealed within silts related with Terminal Pleistocene river alluviation c.16 thousands years ago. Also later sediments (Early Holocene) produced settlement remains rich in osteological materials that enable the adaptation strategy evaluation of first demographically and socially advanced societies by the Nile.
Research project objectives/ Research hypothesis
The principal objective of the proposed project is evaluation of the different adaptation strategies formation at the Terminal Pleistocene and Early Holocene societies. Preliminary hypothesis assumes substantially different models of the environment exploitation in both periods while the fauna composition, geomorphology and hydrology suggest identical or very similar ecozones settled within the microregion of Affad Basin. Comprehensive analysis of the both excavated and new locations within the meaning ofpalaeoenvironmental studies (including also magnetometric survey and absolute datings apart archaeozoological and geomorphological data) allow a high resolution model of the land formation analyzing. The main research problem to be solved is to find and evaluate particular factors driving adaptation models of Middle Palaeolithic and Mesolithic/Early Neolithic. The complex of archaeological sites at Affad Basin gave the unique possibility to search the subject due to preservation of stratified and secure archaeological evidence of both periods. Diversity of the adaptation strategies as a combination of relations between human culture and environment were not previously analyzed in the Middle Nile Valley, but can accelerate discussion upon very long lasting persistence of Middle-Paleolithic in sub-Saharan Africa and late appearance of socially and demographically advanced societies in the region.
2. Research project methodology
The unique character of Affad sites embrace secure stratigraphic evidence enabling to define the camps size and its spatial organization, pointing the functional diversity of sites and detailed analysis of lithic industries including functional approach. Similar potential concerns animal remains as a source of data for palaeoenvironmental studies, defining hunting/gathering strategies and the meet processing (food conservation and preparation). Also Early Holocene sites produce additional correlates of material culture - pottery and domesticated animals remains (ready to be analyzed through their isotopic composition toward evaluation of the animals diet and migrations). Wide spectrum of planned analyses includes also OSL sediments dating, radiocarbon dating of Neolithic remains, Electron Spin Resonance dating of the teeth, Digital Elevation Model (DEM) creation for the GIS analysis, magnetometric survey of selected areas and petrographic analysis of sediments for the buried topography reconstruction, working on comparative collections ofAfrican mammals and fishes in Belgium and Kenya as well as experimental procurement and usage the stone tools of local raw material for functional analysis.
3. Expected impact of the research project on the development of science, civilization and society
Taking into account multispectral approach and range of the project, it should be perceived as innovative way of research on prehistory ofAfrica. The project results will greatly influence on the development ofglobal knowledge ofearly history of human culture, especially adaptation strategies of societies related to the Middle Palaeolithic and its long survival in Sub-Saharan Africa. Not less important can be results ofthe Early Holocene societies studies inhabiting Affad as a slightly delayed forerunners of new adaptation model. African Neolithic origins (e.g. domestication of African species instead of influx of Near Eastern animals) is still a subject of international debate.
Proposed research project could also affect much wider scientific debate concerning global climatic changes and human adaptations models.