We use instrumental neutron activation analysis (INAA) of ceramics from three centers, Cerro Portezuelo, Chalco, and Xaltocan, in the Basin of Mexico, whose occupations span the Postclassic to examine the changing role of markets and evaluate models of political economy. Our results suggest that production and distribution of Epiclassic serving wares was highly localized conforming closely to a solar market model. Ceramic exchange within the Basin increased during the Early and Middle Postclassic, in some cases paralleling political alliance networks. The Late Postclassic marketing pattern incorporated both increased regionalism and increased exchange between hinterlands and imperial cities. These patterns are probably not unique to the Basin of Mexico. INAA is a fruitful means to explore the development of preindustrial markets related to fluctuating economic, demographic, and political processes.
The extent to which lithic artifacts are consumed or reduced can be attributed to a number of factors, including raw material accessibility, differential transport, patterns of site use, and tool function. In order to isolate the influence of any single factor, independent data must be used to control for variation caused by the other factors. Variation in the reduction of cores and retouched tools in eight Mousterian assemblages from west-central Italy reflects the effects of several processes and contingencies. The availability of lithic raw materials strongly affects the extent of core exploitation but not the intensity of tool retouch or reduction. Evidence for differential transport accounts for some but not all of the remaining contrasts in tool reduction. Information derived from associated faunas suggests that contrasts in the duration or stability of cave-use events as well as activity variation stand behind some of the most pronounced differences in the intensity of reduction among the lithic assemblages.
East African coastal archaeological research has traditionally concentrated on the stone towns. In contrast, this study adopts a maritime cultural landscape approach by examining one of those towns, Kilwa, in its wider setting towards the peak of its economic success. Using archaeological evidence derived from coastal and inter-tidal survey and excavation, it identifies the environmental advantages of Kilwa′s estuarine location and resources that are exploited by a series of settlements providing marine produce and construction materials. The maritime approaches to the town also provide the context for a cultural display of religious allegiance and power through the symbolism of conspicuously sited mosques and a more perplexing series of causeways. Knowledge of the wider integrated coastal environment is seen as key to understanding the culture and economy of the region.
Population peaked in the Northern San Juan in the early A.D. 1200s, but many people remained after A.D. 1250. Regional abandonment probably started in the west in the late 1260s and in the central area in the 1270s; it was complete by the early or middle 1280s. The social context of the late 1200s included warfare, settlement aggregation, minimal trade with groups outside the region, and low levels of intra- and intercommunity hierarchy. Climatic and other environmental problems undoubtedly had severe effects on farming and perhaps on domestic water supplies. These difficulties probably gave abandonment the principal "push," but complete depopulation of the region may also have required sociocultural "pulls" from outside the region.
Archaeological evidence for migration into the Tonto Basin during the early Classic period (ca. A.D, 1150-1350) is examined in this study. The Tonto Basin, located in central Arizona, provides an ideal setting for investigating prehistoric migration for several reasons: (1) it is located in an interstitial zone in both environmental and cultural terms; (2) an enormous amount of archaeological information is now available for the Classic period; and (3) migrant groups can be differentiated from the local population based on material remains. In this study, concepts from the anthropology of technology are applied to architectural and ceramic data to examine migration patterns in the 13th-century Tonto Basin. The effects of migration on the sociopolitical organization of the local population are also discussed.
This study draws on data from recent settlement surveys and new demographic data derived from repatriation-related assessments of human remains in museums to examine the circumstances of the 1878–1880 famine on Saint Lawrence Island, Alaska. The human data consist of a biased sample of individuals dying at these settlements. We compare this sample to an Arctic-specific model of population structure in order to identify and estimate segments of the population missing from the sample. The settlement-specific population estimates from the human remains are combined with population estimates derived from settlement data to give an island-wide population projection. The pre-famine population estimates indicate that the 1878–1880 famine mortality was over 90%. This tragic reduction in human population necessitated adoption of new hunting strategies that changed settlement patterns on the island. Migration of Yup’ik families from the Chukotka Peninsula after the famine is correlated with changes in house designs. This study suggests that cultural change was a significant feature of recovery from the famine and is an important factor in understanding cultural change in the archaeological record in the arctic.
Smith (1998) uses the relationship between Maasai pastoralists and so-called Dorobo hunter-gatherers in East Africa as part of a framework for understanding archaeological finds on the Vredenberg Peninsula in South Africa. We argue that this relationship may be less marked by subservience, hierarchy, marginalization, and dependence than Smith's sources indicate, and we explore the implications of a fuller understanding of Maasai–“Dorobo” relations for the interpretation of African pastoralist and hunter-gatherer archaeological sites.
The middle centuries (200 B.C.-A.D.600) of the Woodland period in the central riverine region of North America witnessed significant changes in the amount of decorative effort that people invested in their household pottery. Such historical phenomena raise the usually unasked question, why do people decorate their utilitarian household goods at all? More specifically, why might people in a particular historical setting decorate their utilitarian household objects at one time but not at another? This paper argues that the answer to such questions must always be different for each historical setting, and not predictable from any cross-cultural regularities. The Woodland case also illustrates a need to take into account relationships minimally among (a) construction practices, (b) decorative practices, (c) the physical uses of utilitarian objects, and (d) household-scale social relations in any social analysis of decoration on household objects.
My intention in this paper is to outline the main features and principal aspects of contact and exchange among the later prehistoric hunter–gatherers (late Mesolithic and post-Mesolithic) in the Baltic Sea basin, which covers the southern and eastern reaches of Northern Europe, and to summarise the main advances in current research. The area broadly covered includes the Baltic Sea basin that has provided effective routes for communication between the coastal regions surrounding the Baltic Sea, central Baltic islands, and regions further away in the north European Plain, inland regions of Fennoscandia and Russia that could be reached by an extensive network of major rivers and lakes. Effective transport for negotiating these routes both in the summer and winter existed already from the early Mesolithic. Goods moved along these routes included a wide range of artefacts discussed in the paper. Geographically, exchange was organised at three levels: regionally, inter-regionally, and over long distances. Each mode of exchange was probably organised along different lines socially, and each served to implement wide-ranging social strategies for the general purposes of social reproduction, mate exchange and biological reproduction, as well as the spread of innovations. In the concluding section, I discuss the nature of contacts and consequences of exchanges between the early farming communities and the hunter–gathering groups within the framework of the core-periphery relations.
Concepts of refuse behavior and site abandonment have been developed that show potential to distinguish degrees of mobility and sedentism among past human communities. Whereas much of this work had been conducted in ethnographic situations or on recent sites, this study makes an initial attempt to apply this body of theory to the archaeological record of humanity's most fundamental settlement transition: from mobile hunter-gatherer to settled village farmer. The centerpiece of the study is an analysis of artefact distribution patterns in the Natufian site of Wadi Hammeh 27 (ca. 12,000 years BP), which is combined with a diachronic overview of data from earlier and later sites, dating from 20,000 to 8000 years BP. We conclude that human communities in the Natufian period had not yet tailored their indifferent household refuse disposal practices to the long-term requirements of sedentary living. Subsequently, there occurs a punctuated gradient of change in the Levantine sequence, towards higher rates of secondary refuse disposal. Elementary efforts at refuse disposal begin in the Pre-Pottery Neolithic A period (ca. 10,300–9200 years BP), and some form of consistent garbage cycling was probably a standard feature in many villages by the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B period (ca. 9200–8000 years BP).
This paper reviews the issue of the peopling of the Dogon Country (Mali) and surrounding regions over the past 3000 years, taking into account the influence of Sahelian paleoclimatic variations as well as archaeological, ethnoarchaeological, and historical data. The integration of all these elements is important in order to understand the conditions of settlement in this region now listed as part of UNESCO’s natural and cultural world heritage. The new archaeological, ethnohistorical, and ethnoarchaeological data presented here were gathered through the international pluridisciplinary research program “Paleoenvironment and Human Population in West Africa” begun in 1997. This program is centered on the study of Ounjougou, an area located in the Yamé valley on the Bandiagara Plateau. It includes numerous archaeological sites exposed by recent erosion processes, indicating the presence of human populations from the Lower Paleolithic to present times.
Animal bones in human burials may reveal aspects of the relationship between animals and humans. This article describes the roles of birds in mortuary practices and in the ideology of Stone Age northern Europe. Bird bones from two large burial sites, Middle Neolithic Ajvide (Gotland, Sweden) and Mesolithic and Neolithic Zvejnieki (Latvia) are investigated with osteological methods. Beads and pendants were fashioned from the wing bones of waterbirds, and used in the decoration of the body or the burial dress. The jay was found in three Neolithic burials at Zvejnieki, and it may have been a totem animal for the Middle Neolithic people at Zvejnieki, and its wings or feathers were presumably attached to dresses and costumes for the dead. Bird remains in burials at Ajvide, Zvejnieki and some other Stone Age cemeteries may indicate similar features in the way of perceiving birds, especially the possible symbolic roles of waterbirds and wings. The findings are discussed from the perspective of the cosmology of historical hunter–gatherer (and herding) groups in modern Russia.
This article assesses residential architecture at the site of Yayno, Pomabamba, north central highlands of Peru. Mapping and sampling excavations show the primary occupation of the site dates to cal AD 400–800, by groups of the Recuay tradition. The results are described in relation to three forms of local dwellings. Considerable variability characterizes their size, construction quality and contents, although the present evidence suggests their inhabitants were largely coeval and used similar material culture. Also, some of the circular and quadrangular compounds are of monumental character. The imagery of Recuay artworks allows further understanding of the compounds, specifically as mimetic forms of chiefs, both representational and metaphorical. The research concludes that the development of chiefly political centers in the high Andes coincided with strong internal differentiation at the community level, and that Recuay elite practices and monumentalism emerged out of local corporate traditions.
This paper is an analysis of socioeconomic and symbolic meaning associated with rock carvings of boats which were carved on rock surfaces between 4200 and 500 calendric years B.C. in the Alta fjord, arctic Norway. The carvings, which are divided into four diachronic phases, change in form and partly in content, approximately contemporaneous with the general archaeological record. The analysis of the human figures associated with the boats indicates that there were functional and possibly status differences, in the real as well as in the mythological world. There are also diachronic changes in the activities in which the boats are depicted. The changes in the carvings might be associated with other cultural transformations such as in material culture and socioeconomic and religious systems, among northern hunters and fishers. Some of the changes could be influenced by ideologies associated with Neolithic and Bronze Age socioeconomic systems further south in Scandinavia.
The site of Les Pradelles has an important mousterian stratigraphic sequence. In the lower levels, the very low density of artefacts as well as the carnivores scavenging of carcasses abandoned by the neanderthals point to short-term human occupations; the introduction of finished tools (made on non-local, good quality flint) later highly curated, together with an expedient strategy on strictly local flint, suggest a task-specific location, within a low mobility pattern. The large faunal sample (mainly reindeer) underlines the preponderance of hunting activities. A range of butchering activities took place on the site and the abundance of filleting marks may be an indication of the processing of meat for transport to another settlement. The hypothesis of “specialized hunting” during Middle Palaeolithic is assessed with this new data set.
Although Monte Albàn I in the Valley of Oaxaca (500–100 B.C.) is widely recognized as a period of major political change, researchers have found it difficult to establish whether the key institutions of the Zapotec state emerged during this or the succeeding Monte Albàn II period (100 B.C.–A.D. 200). Also unresolved has been the issue of when the three major subregions of the Oaxaca Valley (Etla, Tlacolula, Ocotlàn/Zimatlàn) all became integrated into a single polity under the rule of Monte Albàn, the state capital. This paper presents recent theoretical and empirical contributions that have not yet been brought to bear on the problem of Monte Albàn I. Concepts drawn from multilevel selection theory and evolutionary trend theory are utilized in an analysis of Oaxaca Valley regional settlement pattern data. The analysis provides a multilevel context for a discussion of recent survey and excavations at San Martı́n Tilcajete, the results of which are clarifying the sequence of institutional development in Oaxaca. Taken together, the regional analysis and the discoveries at Tilcajete indicate that: (1) the Zapotec state emerged during Late Monte Albàn I (300–100 B.C.) in a context of intensifying competition—including violent conflict—among rival polities within the Oaxaca Valley; and (2) even though the early Zapotec state began a campaign of territorial expansion during Late Monte Albàn I, political unification of all three major subregions of the Valley was not achieved until Monte Albàn II.
Cahokia Mound 72 contains 272 human burials dating to the Lohmann and early Stirling phases (ca. 1050–1150 AD) of the Mississippian period. Substantial status- and gender-related differences in burial style are apparent. Some burials are associated with large quantities of prestigious grave goods, suggesting high status. Mass graves of young adult females with skeletal indicators of poor health suggest low status and nutritional stress. Nitrogen isotope ratios of bone collagen show that high status individuals ate much more animal protein, but carbon isotope ratios of collagen suggest these individuals ate only ca. 10% less maize than lower status individuals. Apatite carbon isotopes show low status females ate ca. 60% more maize than high status individuals, which confirms the large nitrogen isotope difference of females in mass graves. These results indicate high and low status individuals had significantly different diet compositions and nutritional qualities. The stable isotope evidence supports paleopathological data for status-related differences in health, and dental morphological data for presumed genetic differences in origin. These data also provide insights into the nutrition- and health-related dimension of regional hierarchical organization of settlements and social inequality of this complex chiefdom in the greater Cahokia region.
Warfare, whaling, and participation in long distance trade intensified in the Bering Strait region 600–1000 A.D. The development of complex social organization involved the control of resource hot spots from coastal promontories and access to iron from distant East Asian centers. Stylistic similarities, recognized as early as the 1920's, provide the basis to recognize peer polity interaction. Despite >800 excavated burials from Point Hope, St. Lawrence Island and East Cape (Siberia), only a variable data base is available for establishing contemporaneity, the extent of interaction, the functioning of societies and the intensity of warfare. Burials do show pronounced internal status differences at Point Hope and Ekven/Uelen at East Cape. Radiocarbon ages reveal a disjunct pattern in settlement histories; Cape Krusenstern settled most densely at 400–650 A.D., Point Hope at 400–900 A.D., while Ekven peaked between 800–1200 A.D. and at NW Cape, St. Lawrence Island, population was greatest between 1000 and 1200 A.D. The relationship of East Cape to Point Hope suggests a close alliance that dominated the Bering Strait region and controlled access to metal and technological innovations from East Asia. Physical evidence of warfare in burials is greater in the NW Cape area, but the extent and contemporaneity of conflict is uncertain. The Birnirk culture controlled only marginal locations, often in very close proximity to Ipiutak sites. The development of whaling is sporadically documented but appears associated with technological innovations in Old Bering Sea and Birnirk polities while the influence of Ipiutak was achieved without a reliance on whaling.
Red abalone middens, common on the Northern Channel Islands during the Middle Holocene, have often been interpreted as relatively specialized foraging camps. To test the degree of subsistence specialization of one such site, we compared faunal data from a 6400-year-old red abalone midden (CA-SMI-557) and an historic “Chinese” black abalone midden (CA-SMI-558) located along the same drainage on San Miguel Island. The historic assemblage, resulting from highly specialized abalone harvest, drying, and export activities, provides a baseline for evaluating the degree of subsistence specialization at the red abalone midden, where a wider range of economic and subsistence activities is represented. We illustrate how detailed comparative study of faunal remains, artifacts, site structure, and archival sources can help elucidate the economic function of both historic and prehistoric sites.
Our present understanding of discard and abandonment behaviors as well as other cultural activities structuring the archaeological record is inadequate. Although some research is progressing toward such an understanding, much of what is known about these processes still tends to be grounded on weak assumptions and untested propositions. However, a number of historically documented gold rush sites in the Kluane region, Yukon Territory, appear to provide a unique opportunity for formulating and testing hypotheses relevant to a better understanding of site abandonment behavior. Abandonment processes for these and other sites are reviewed and their effects are discussed in an effort to determine how two major variables of abandonment behavior, the manner under which sites are abandoned and whether or not return is planned, contribute to the formation of the archaeological record.
Two "abandonments" structure conventional views of Puebloan prehistory: the first of Chaco Canyon at about A.D. 1150 and the second of the migrations out of the Mesa Verde region (and the larger Four Corners area) about A.D. 1300. Rather than abandonment and collapse of the Chacoan regional system, we suggest that what ended in A.D. 1150 was the role of Chaco Canyon as central place. The broader regional pattern of Chacoan communities continued for at least half a century. The former monumental functions of the Chacoan Great Houses changed and they became village-sized residences. Early forms of kachina ceremonialism facilitated the transformation of Great Houses into highly aggregates settlements, a form that remains part of Puebloan architectural traditions. Kachina ceremonialism was not adopted in the Mesa Verde region and, therefore, aggregated settlement failed there; outmigration ensued. Traditional knowledge among many modern Pueblo groups includes Chaco Canyon (and Mesa Verde), suggesting that the Chacoan regional system was a pan-Pueblo reality and informing on its historical importance in Pueblo history.
Three main hypotheses are commonly employed to explain diachronic variation in the relative abundance of remains of large terrestrial herbivores: (1) large prey populations decline as a function of anthropogenic overexploitation; (2) large prey tends to increase as a result of increasing social payoffs; and (3) proportions of large terrestrial prey are dependent on stochastic fluctuations in climate. This paper tests predictions derived from these three hypotheses through a zooarchaeological analysis of eleven temporal components from three sites on central California’s Pecho Coast. Specifically, we examine the trade-offs between hunting rabbits (Sylvilagus spp.) and deer (Odocoileus hemionus) using models derived from human behavioral ecology. The results show that foragers exploited a robust population of deer throughout most of the Holocene, only doing otherwise during periods associated with climatic trends unfavorable to larger herbivores. The most recent component (Late Prehistoric/Contact era) shows modest evidence of localized resource depression and perhaps greater social benefits from hunting larger prey; we suggest that these final changes resulted from the introduction of bow and arrow technology. Overall, results suggest that along central California’s Pecho Coast, density independent factors described as climatically-mediated prey choice best predict changes in the relative abundance of large terrestrial herbivores through the Holocene.
Archaeological analyses of faunal assemblages often rely on rationale derived from the prey choice model to explain temporal and spatial changes in taxonomic measures of diversity and/or abundances. In this paper, we present analyses of ethnoarchaeological observations and bone assemblages created by Central African Bofi and Aka forest foragers which show that different small prey hunting technologies target specific suites of prey and that hunters vary their technological choice depending on their foraging goals. Analysis of ethnoarchaeological bone assemblages produced by the Bofi and Aka shows that variability in target prey can create spatially distinct, but contemporaneous, faunal assemblages with different diversity values and abundance indices. These data reveal important variation in how individuals within a contemporary human population rank prey and challenge current assumptions about the meaning of diversity and abundances measures in archaeological contexts. We argue that the use of diversity and abundance indices can obscure important intrasite variability in prehistoric foraging effort and suggest strategies that might enhance current techniques.
Archaeologists working in western North America have recently demonstrated temporal declines in the relative abundances of large mammals in archaeofaunal assemblages and have argued that these declines indicate resource depression, or reductions in the prey capture rates of prehistoric human hunters resulting from increases in harvest pressure. In the Mimbres-Mogollon region of southwestern New Mexico, evidence for resource depression has been controversial. Here, I employ a larger number of assemblages from this area than has been considered previously and show that large mammals are significantly more abundant at sites located in more mesic, wooded habitats. By taking this spatial patterning into account and by employing a model from foraging theory which indicates that temporal increases in large mammal relative abundance might also result from local resource depression in certain situations, I show that sites with samples large enough to produce statistically significant results do show temporal trends in large mammal relative abundance that are consistent with the hypothesis that they are due to changing intensities of human harvest pressure. This research has important implications for our understanding of prehistoric human impacts on biotic communities and may help to explain the increased reliance on agriculture that developed in the Mimbres-Mogollon region during the Pithouse and Pueblo time periods.
The origins and development of pastoralism in Saharan North Africa involves societies and economies that, subjected to profound climatic changes and progressive desertification, came to be based on the movement of people and resources. The extreme conditions to which these groups were subjected made mobility a ‘resource’ in itself. Through the first analysis of Sr isotopes (87Sr/86Sr) in dental enamel of human skeletons from prehistoric burials of the Fezzan (southwestern Libya), we begin to investigate how mobility patterns changed with the onset of the desert. In combining our results with the archaeological evidence, we find that, the transformation in the economy of prehistoric groups correlated with a shift in mobility and possibly kinship systems.
The archaeological record is the empirical record of human cultural evolution. By measuring rates of change in archaeological data through time and space it is possible to estimate both the various evolutionary mechanisms that contribute to the generation of archaeological variation, and the social learning rules involved in the transmission of cultural information. Here we show that the recently proposed accumulated copying error model [Eerkens, J.W., Lipo, C.P., 2005. Cultural transmission, copying errors, and the generation of variation in material culture and the archaeological record. Journal of Anthropology archaeology 24, 316–334.] provides a rich, quantitative framework with which to model the cultural transmission of quantitative data. Using analytical arguments, we find that the accumulated copying error model predicts negative drift in quantitative data due to the proportional nature of compounded copying errors (i.e., neutral mutations), and the multiplicative process of cultural transmission. Further, we find that the theoretically predicted rate of drift in long-lived technologies is remarkably close to the observed reduction of Clovis projectile point size through time and space across North America.
Interpretation of archaeological sites with predominantly freshwater fish and reptile remains has been impeded by lack of documentation of how humans process such vertebrates, of bone modifications resulting from such handling, and of physical characteristics of sites produced by these activities. We report on 19 contemporary foraging camps on the shore of Lake Turkana, Kenya, with the creation, abandonment, and resulting faunal assemblages of 7 of these more closely described. Variable processing activities created a range of site structures but cross-assemblage regularities in patterns of bone surface modification and element frequencies are perceptible. Most sites were very large, with special-purpose activity areas peripheral to the main residential area. Site structure and size depended mainly on specific subsistence activities carried out and features of the camp locale rather than upon the number of occupants or duration of occupation. Sites can be classified as base camps or as fish production camps, with consistent differences in site structure and bone assemblage characteristics.
The genesis of agriculture is one of the recurring themes of Chinese archaeology. However, while questions about the origins of domesticated plants and animals and the date of their domestication have received much recent attention, anthropologically oriented research on early sedentary communities is a less developed field. This paper contributes to such research by focusing on the structure of early sedentary communities in northeast China and addressing such issues as their economic adaptation, the internal organization of households, economic activities and sharing strategies of household members, and mechanisms of community integration. Analysis of data from the Zhaobaogou site, the only early Neolithic site from northeast China for which a comprehensive excavation report was published, suggests that households were relatively independent production and consumption units with little sharing and exchange among households. The integration of the community was probably associated with non-economic activity such as religious rituals. Comparison of the patterns observed in the Zhaobaogou data with patterns from contemporaneous sites in the Wei River area highlights differences in the social organization of the early sedentary communities in the two areas. Those differences are meaningful for our understanding of the different socio-political trajectories of the two areas and may serve for cross-cultural comparisons with other parts of the world.
Food storage economies among hunter–gatherers have been fundamentally important in research within anthropological archeology. It is well recognized that food storage was a key element in the evolution of hunter–gatherer societies. This paper examines storage facilities utilizing a digital planimeter to evaluate the volume and morphology of storage pits in the Jomon period (ca. 13,750–500 cal. BC). Quantitative analysis of Jomon storage pits shows temporal and spatial variability in terms of size. This research demonstrates that the quantitative analysis of storage pits is an effective way to improve our understanding of storage and its role in the Jomon economy in particular and subsistence adaptations in general. Thus, this approach has potential applications to other storage economies worldwide.
There is a growing tendency to conceive of hunter-gatherer adaptations as points on a yardstick, with foragers at one end and collectors on the other. Such a view limits our perspective and may trap anthropologists into seeing these categories as steps in an evolutionary progression. It is more productive to think of human adaptation as an N-dimensional space, with individual cases occurring at the intersections of the various dimensions. When this viewpoint is taken, it becomes clear that a search for a single dimension in archaeological data that can be used to characterize all prehistoric adaptations is unlikely to be fruitful. This paper explores the multidimensionality of hunter-gatherer adaptive behavior and reviews those archaeological manifestations that are empirically or logically linked with various dimensions of three components of adaptation: mobility, predation, and technology. Those manifestations with the greatest potential for characterizing prehistoric hunter-gatherer adaptive strategies are identified as measures of mobility type, frequency, stability, scheduling, demography, and range; predation mode, breadth, and scheduling; and the time budgeting and storage dimensions of technology. A subset of these measures is evaluated by comparing assemblages from the late prehistoric Columbia Plateau with expectations derived from ethnographies written on the same local area.
Mortality patterns in archaeofaunas can be informative of prehistoric human foraging habits, land use, and, ultimately, evolutionary changes in hominid sociality and ecological niche. The analytical value of mortality patterns is only as great, however, as archaeologists' understanding of the full range of possible causes for patterns in these data. Here, the relationships between mortality patterns in death assemblages and their documented causes are examined. Interspecific comparisons reveal that, while mortality patterns alone cannot diagnose cause, these data are potentially powerful tools for studies of hominid subsistence if supported by taphonomic analyses of bone assemblage formation. Mortality analyses are particularly effective if age frequency data are divided according to life history characteristics of prey species. Comparisons of known modern cases to ungulate assemblages created by Holocene and Pleistocene hominids of westcentral Italy present new information on humans as predators and evolutionary changes therein. These data indicate significantly greater strategic variation in the Middle Paleolithic cases than for all subsequent cultural periods combined. The variation certainly corresponds to two or more distinct foraging/land use strategies, scavenging and ambush hunting—the latter of which became more specialized with time.
Frozen meat, “stinking meat,” powdered eggs, and storage caches were means of nutritional insurance among early historic Innu and Inuit of the Labrador–Quebec peninsula and among the Beothuk of the island of Newfoundland. This paper suggests that food storage was compatible with mobile societies in the form of strategically placed caches in a seasonally revisited landscape as well as in the form of transportable processed foods. The ethnohistoric evidence provides a reasonable analogy for understanding adaptation among prehistoric forager groups in the northeastern subarctic. Current models of adaptation are limited by a singular focus on food procurement; however, the storage of food resources is an equally critical component of subarctic cultural continuity and warrants greater consideration in the discussion of adaptation.
Environmental perturbations and social unrest are thought to have led to the reconstitution of traditional belief systems and hierarchical political relations on Peru’s North Coast during the Late Moche Period (550–800 AD). Ideological transformations are thus commonly interpreted as adaptive or reactive responses to social, political, and ecological disruptions. Nevertheless, religious practices directly shaped the formation of alternative power structures and ecological systems on the North Coast during the Late Moche Period. This is especially evident in Late Moche Jequetepeque, which witnessed the proliferation of non-elite ceremonial sites and small-scale agricultural facilities throughout the rural hinterland of the valley. Moche-inspired ritual performances orchestrated in the countryside created distinctive new forms of political order which structured economic activities and ecological behavior. In this article, the Jequetepeque case study is mobilized to reassess normative interpretations of the role of religious ideology in cultural adaptation and sociopolitical realignment.
Successfully interpreting levels of permanence at archaeological sites is frequently hampered by the difficulty of correlating sedentary or mobile behavior with specific material culture traits. Owing to the diversity of occupation strategies, which can combine varying levels of permanence with any number of economic subsistence strategies and behavioral characteristics, archaeologists have remained divided over which methodological approaches are the most suitable. In the southern Levant, sedentary and mobile groups enjoyed a close and persistent relationship, which stimulated a flexible approach to occupation strategies, and allowed for fluctuations in levels of permanence among the same social groups through time. Such fluctuations have generated a problematic material record that can contain signs of both sedentary and mobile behaviors. Examination of the agriculturally marginal Middle Bronze II settlement of Zahrat adh-Dhra‘ 1, located on the Dead Sea Plain of Jordan, illustrates the difficulties associated with interpreting occupation strategies for southern Levantine sites. The material culture record from the site, comprising evidence for economic subsistence, trade, settlement and behavior, provides at times conflicting signals for a sedentary, semi-sedentary (transhumant), or possibly non-sedentary occupation. Due to a lack of clearly prescribed indices for interpreting the permanence levels of sites, interpretations must rely on a flexible, inductive approach, which seeks to balance suites of evidence in preference to a rigid correlation with ethnographically derived models.
The Cuetlaxtlan (Cotaxtla) province, at the eastern edge of the Aztec empire, provides an interesting case for examining imperial administrative strategies and their material implications. Prior research at Cuetlaxtlan, coupled with recent archaeological survey and surface artifact collection, reveal Aztec style sculpture, pottery, figurines, and architectural elements. Considered collectively, these data indicate a relatively strong degree of imperial intervention and material investments, possibly including colonization, and underscore a key role for imperial ideology in provincial maintenance. Although a model of indirect administration has generally characterized Aztec provincial rule, imperial strategies were likely spatially and temporally more dynamic, with some provinces, like Cuetlaxtlan, requiring more intensive forms of administration.
I use Later Stone Age artifacts and faunal remains from Blydefontein Rock Shelter in the eastern Karoo, South Africa to investigate the interaction between risk and hunter–gatherer technological organization. Modifications in stone-tool repair and replacement are influenced by changes in past environments, resources, and the economic and settlement strategies of these Later Stone Age hunter–gatherers. The technological approaches range from time-minimization tactics to resource-maximization tactics. Time-minimization tactics favor the intense curation of extractive tools and the expedient use of maintenance tools, while resource-maximization tactics employ a more rapid replacement of extractive tools coupled with intense curation of maintenance tools. Time-minimization tactics occur with lower risk wetter conditions and the selection of larger animals for prey, while resource-maximization tactics correspond to higher risk conditions during drier periods and the more intensive exploitation of smaller animals. Efficient technologies were also employed for the rapid production of backed microlithic tools, but this does not appear to be in response to economic or environmental factors.
This paper discusses land use patterns of hunter–gatherers inhabiting arid grasslands of later Pleistocene East Africa, inferred from an analysis of raw material economy in five Later Stone Age (LSA) lithic assemblages from Lukenya Hill, southern Kenya. Later Stone Age lithic assemblages at Lukenya fall into two groups, one based predominantly on the use of quartz to manufacture scrapers and other flake tools, and the second using greater amounts of rarer chert and obsidian lithic materials to manufacture microliths. Aspects of raw material use, coupled with ethnographic data on how food and water abundance affects Kalahari forager land use, indicate that the first group of sites had longer occupations by groups with smaller home ranges. The second group of sites had shorter occupations by more mobile groups with larger home ranges. The paper compares the land use patterns of arid grassland LSA foragers, like those at Lukenya Hill, with those in woodland and forest areas of Central and Southeastern Africa. Improvements in the ability to procure food, such as the development of fishing and fowling technologies or better hunting projectiles, allowed grassland groups to become more mobile in the later LSA, while foragers in wetter parts of Africa, including woodlands, riverine areas, and lakeshores, seem to have intensified the procurement of fish and plant foods. The processes of economic specialization taking place in both grassland and woodland areas of Later Stone Age Africa may have parallels in other parts of the Old World.
C.K. Brain documented two interesting patterns in the Pleistocene faunas of Swartkrans Cave, South Africa: (1) The earliest depositional units, Members 1 and 2, preserve high numbers of hominid fossils, while the numbers drop sharply in the more recent Member 3. (2) Burned bone specimens, which seem to have been altered in fires tended by hominids, appear for the first time in Member 3. It was suggested that mastery of fire provided a “shift in the balance of power”, allowing hominids to carry out activities in the cave for the first time unmolested by predators. A lack of butchered bones in Members 1 and 2 and their presence in Member 3 provided support for the hypothesis. However, we have now identified butchered bones in all three units. Further, our findings reveal a lack of variability in butchery patterns through time at Swartkrans; in all cases hominids appear to have been proficient carcass foragers. The real “shift” at Swartkrans does not appear to be one of eventual hominid dominance over carnivores, but rather one of a predominance of leopards at Swartkrans in Member 1 times to the alternating presence of leopards and hyenas in Members 2 and 3. Consistent leopard presence in Member 1 seems to have discouraged hominid activity in the vicinity of the cave. In contrast, by the time Members 2 and 3 were forming hominids may have temporarily used the cave, taking advantage of those periods of carnivore absence.
This article discusses the development of economies based on nonindigenous domestic cattle, sheep, goats, and donkeys in eastern Africa from the Lake Turkana basin south. It specifically addresses a previously noted delay of over a millennium in development of pastoral economies in the region. It argues that this lag could have been caused by novel epizootiological challenges encountered by pastoralists who had thrived in the Lake Turkana basin during the 5th millennium B.P. as they moved south into the Central Rift of Kenya. It reads the archaeofaunas, lithics, and ceramics in early “Neolithic” sites in Kenya and Tanzania as responses by immigrating pastoral groups and indigenous hunter–gatherers to an exceptionally dynamic environment, in which both climatic and veterinary factors made intergroup social alliances and exchange crucial.
This paper deals with the question of human dispersals out of Africa. Some hypotheses concerning dispersals for both Mode 1 and Mode 2 technologies are presented. We suggest that early humans were technically split into at least two groups, those producing Oldowan (Mode 1) and those producing the more advanced Acheulean (Mode 2). Environmental changes caused a major faunal dispersal at around 1 my, which may have facilitated the first human dispersal toward Eurasia. However, this first dispersal involved only Mode 1 technology, although Mode 2 was already well developed. Therefore, we suggest that the main cause for this dispersal must have involved differential subsistence strategies, such as the competition for resources between Mode 1- and Mode 2-producing populations, which drove the former, but not the latter populations out of the Rift System to other areas. Although Mode 1 technology was highly effective in successfully facing the new Eurasian environments, when the African areas with Mode 2 became saturated, this technical system started to spread, replacing Mode 1 technology in Eurasia long after its initial settling.
Early travelers in the southwest and south of the Cape Colony, and later explorers in the north, saw Khoikhoi pastoralists making and using large, reddish or black, coil-built cooking vessels with shoulder lugs and incised necks with everted rims. In these, they boiled meat and used some as drums. Smaller serving bowls were also seen. Travelers on the east and north frontiers of the Colony saw Bushman hunter–gatherers using flat-bottomed cooking bowls tempered with grass and decorated with punctate motifs. They boiled meat, soups, bones, skins, locusts, and seed mush in these, converted some to drums, and used others in gift exchanges. Few later sherd collectors made full use of these ethnohistoric sightings, but developed their own labeling systems. Most thought that the Bushmen of the interior learned pot-making through contact with coastal Khoikhoi. Why the two wares differed in every respect, however, could not be explained. Recent multidisciplinary studies in the northeast frontier area verify those differences, but also show that both wares were introduced together before 700 A.D., by herders. Thereafter the use of Khoi ware dwindled, then disappeared when the herding economy collapsed, leaving only grass-tempered bowls in general use. Thus “Bushman” pottery in the northeastern Cape appears to have its prehistoric roots in ancestral Khoi technology.
Evidence for livestock found in West African Holocene sites are considered in relation to patterns of settlement distribution in the context of changing climatic circumstances. The development of livestock husbandry appears to coincide with the advent of a drier Middle Holocene climatic, followed by a relatively fast expansion all over West Africa. Pastoral–nomadic strategies developed in the northern Saharan part are hardly distinguishable from Late Stone Age settlement–subsistence traditions, while genuine agro-pastoral systems emerged in the south, along the Sahara–Sahel margins. In all the cases, stone tumuli burials, rock art stations, and intermittent or permanent settlements were used asde factoterritorial markers, effective signposts of West African Collector, herder, and peasant territoriality.
Hunter–gatherer adaptations to moist tropical grasslands are not well known from either the ethnographic or the archaeological record. This is unfortunate as grassland adaptations are clearly significant to human biological and behavioral evolution. The most effective strategy for remedying this problem is to develop models for grassland exploitation based on strong understandings of the ecological similarities and differences between cold, temperate, and tropical grasslands. Cold, temperate, and tropical grasslands are similar in that water and raw materials are often scarce and the most abundant large mammals are gregarious and mobile. Tropical grasslands differ from cold and temperate grasslands by having a greater diversity and biomass of edible above-ground plants and plants with underground storage organs, making carbohydrate availability greater and less seasonal. Large mobile mammals and resident large mammals are more diverse and have greater biomass in tropical grasslands. Overall, tropical grasslands are a richer and less seasonally punctuated environment than either cold or temperate grasslands. A comparison of ethnographic data regarding variation in foraging strategies in different cold, temperate, and tropical settings lead to the construction of three models for hunter–gatherer exploitation of tropical grasslands: a Generalized Grassland Model (no specialized tactical hunting—considered the favored model given modern African grassland conditions), a Seasonal Grassland Model (only seasonal use of specialized tactical hunting techniques—considered unlikely for Africa), and a Specialized Grassland Model (regular use of specialized tactical hunting strategies—considered highly unlikely for Africa). A preliminary test of these models shows the Athi-Kapiti Plains Holocene archaeological evidence is most consistent with the Generalized Grassland Model. The Last Glacial Maximum is most consistent with the Seasonal Grassland Model. A single MSA occupation also suggests that specialized tactical hunting strategies were used. These differences in hunting strategies were probably due to the differences in ecological conditions between the Holocene and the Last Glacial Maximum.
Ethnoarchaeology offers some ability to transform contemporary forms of social constitution into a method for interpreting prehistoric social patterns and for understanding the coevolution of symbolic and utilitarian technologies. In north-central Kenya, one social caste of Lokop pastoralist actors (warriors) interacts with another (blacksmiths) to build a technology for socially constituting gender and social age. Three aspects of this process can help to direct analogous archaeological research in prehistoric contexts. First, this case reiterates that symbols for and symbolic acts of gender and social age continually help actors to constitute or negotiate their places within varied social fields. It is clear, however, that the connection between social prestige—essentially the goal of Lokop personal adornment—and real economic or political power is not necessarily direct. For Lokop herders, foreign traits of spear morphology are the stylistic raw material for constituting internally defined social fields. Ethmic distinctions are more pasively constituted, almost as an epiphenomenon. Second, the constituative significance of material symbols may be grasped without appealing to or understanding the cultural meaning of forms (in an emic sense) from only the archaeological evidence. In fact, prehistorians should not concern themselves with attempts to reconstruct the meaning of cultural phenomena. Rather, archaeological inquiry should attempt to infer the meaningfulness of formal traits within a specific social context, based on significant material patterns in the archaeological record. Third, the items of meaning themselves are constituted with their own material means of production, and these systems may be interpreted through economic models more familiar to archaeology. The Lokop case encompasses producers and users both as specialists. Blacksmiths rely on their marginal positions in herding society to make them the brokers of morphological traits. Warriors, also accustomed to marginal status, effectively collaborate with blacksmiths to set up their own future place as elders. For archaeological applications in prehistory, the exchange and processing of raw materials should reconstitute economic hierarchy in a very clear manner.
Zooarchaeological analyses often draw inferences on socioeconomic status from the composition of bone assemblages associated with houses and other structures in residential sites. In this paper, we test how well faunal assemblages reflect socioeconomic differences among contemporary farmer households in two rural villages in the Central African Republic. Independent measures of wealth are tallied and ranked for six households in each village, including complete inventories of the types and numbers of material goods and the sizes of residential structures and agricultural fields. These data are compared against the associated food bones collected from household trash middens and activity areas, including skeletal abundances, large mammal body part representation, and taxonomic diversity. In most instances larger and more taxonomically diverse faunal assemblages are associated with houses of means and the faunas do, in fact, reflect differences in socioeconomic status. However, faunal “wealth” may be linked to factors unrelated to social or economic inequalities, notably the presence of active hunters. Our analyses suggest that small animals provide useful and important data in assessing socioeconomic means, and comparative studies of wealth in archaeological contexts should not be based on bones alone.
Nadung’a 4 is one of the single carcass pachyderm sites recorded in East Africa during the Lower and Early Middle Pleistocene. The site has yielded an abundant lithic assemblage in close association with the partial carcass of an elephant. Conjoined pedological, geoarchaeological, spatial, technological, and taphonomical analyses have been carried out to address the relationship between hominids and elephant. The resulting data are consistent with a non-fortuitous association between both categories of remains. The lithic artefacts do not match a classical Acheulean tool-kit, as would be expected for the time period ascribed to the site, and the functional patterns inferred from their analysis make this site radically different from other purported butchery sites. The implications of these original features are discussed.
The late prehistoric archaeological sequence from Dakhleh Oasis, South Central Egypt, is examined for evidence on the origins and development of pastoralism in northeastern Africa, under the dry but fluctuating environmental conditions of the early to mid-Holocene. Around 8800 B.P., relatively sedentary groups of theMasaracultural unit have a broad-based subsistence system but no sign of food production. Herding appears ca. 7000 B.P., at a time of increased and possibly less seasonal rainfall, on large lateBashendi Asites with stone-built structures and a still-diversified food economy. With the drying trend after 6500 B.P., mobileBashendi Bcattle and goat herders continue to aggregate in the oasis for a millennium, still utilizing a variety of resources. More settledSheikh Muftahgroups occupy the oasis lowlands until Old Kingdom times. Throughout the sequence, the early pastoralism of Dakhleh seems more African than West Asian in character.
Nabta Playa basin offers an unprecedented longitudinal view on the emergence, consolidation and complexification on human–livestock relationships, from the early stage of the Early Holocene (c. 11,000 cal. B.P.) to 6000 B.P. The problem of cattle domestication in Northeastern Africa is considered and hopefully “solved” in the light of new mtDNA evidence which suggest an early late Pleistocene split between African, Asian, and Eurasian wildBospopulations. The paper presents a contextualized analysis of almost all the components of archaeological investigation, including climatic change, culture history of Early to Mid-Holocene Nabta-Playans, the development of social differentiation, and probably ranking with “labor-consuming” megalithic features with the emergence of characteristic features of pastoral ideology and religions. As far as the emergence and adoption of new foodways are concerned, the cultural development outlined with the Nabta Playa archaeological record is important for the understanding of the Holocene prehistory of Africa as a whole.
The potential of a particular category of artifacts, Levallois flakes, with regard to the explanation of Middle Palaeolithic lithic variability is examined in this paper. After an assessment of the way in which Levallois reductions operate in different site contexts, 45 Levallois flake samples representing different taxonomic groups in the Northern African Middle Palaeolithic are treated in an attribute analysis. In attempts to explain the observed variability pattern, which is largely concordant with the traditionally recognized assemblage groups, environmental, chronological, and stylistic factors must be taken into account. Two important points emerge. First, diachronic changes are evident in various aspects of Levallois flake samples. Second, the apparent equation between Levallois style groups and traditional taxonomy may indicate that the latter at least partly represents culturally different groups.