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This paper presents the result of an archaeological study on the first prehistoric rock paintings site discovered in Madagascar and the wider Southwestern Indian Ocean basin. It provides archaeological evidence that contributes to the understanding of the prehistory of Madagascar as well as the distribution of African rock art. Until recently, Madagascar was not known to have prehistoric rock art. Through field survey conducted in 2010, rock paintings of red, claret, reddish orange, black, and white in monochrome, bichrome and polychrome styles were encountered in the Ampasimaiky rockshelter, in the Upper Onilahy, Southwestern Madagascar. Paintings were recorded, drawn, counted, and photographed for comparative analysis. Shape typology demonstrated naturalistic depictions of cattle, mainly of zebus, anthropomorphic stick figures, and Schematic-Geometric-Amorphous signs. The latter are dominated by quadrangular, circular and elliptical shapes, lines of dots/strokes, and alphabet-like signs. Through comparative study, a vertical set of geometric signs encountered at Ampasimaiky rockshelter has been suspected to be a Libyco-Berber inscription. This would be the first evidence for early contact between Madagascar and Northern Africa during prehistoric times. Scanty materials such as potsherds and animal bones have been uncovered from the excavation of the shelter’s shallow deposits, but as yet no direct link has been established between this assemblage and the paintings.

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... The cultural history of southwest Madagascar is still based on limited historical documents, oral traditions, and archaeology, and the upper Onilahy area including the MSV has been terra incognita for archaeological research. Recent research by the author (Rasolondrainy 2012;Fieldworks 2014Fieldworks -2016, however, suggests the archaeological potential of the region is great. ...
... The survey revealed that sherds had a variety of rim profiles, including thickened, beveled, thinned and flared. They also had various decorations, including triangular impressions and lines of incisions similar to sherds from Ampasimaiky rock shelter, located 1.7 km northwest of Keliangebo in the Isalo massif (Rasolondrainy 2012 The distribution of archaeological remains at the site was uneven, with most materials concentrated in the south (Figure 6.4). This might be because the terrain slopes from the northwest towards the south, with a 24 m difference in elevation. ...
... To the west, the closest sites are some 140 km away around the mouth of Onilahy (Vérin 1971b) and some 170 km away around the mouth of Manombo (Radimilahy 2011). The first archaeological work done in the area was my 2010 MA field project on rock paintings atAmpasimaiky rockshelter(Rasolondrainy 2012). This thesis is the sequel of that endeavor. ...
In a paper titled ‘When Did the Swahili Became Maritime’ published in the American Anthropologist, authors are skeptical about accepting the idea that Swahili societies of the East African coast were fully maritime from their earlier settlement times (about 20,000–30,000 years ago). Instead, they argue that “despite their proximity to the sea and the use of it, they practically remained not maritime societies until after circa C.E. 1000 when the level of maritimity increased greatly and became fully realized.” Although tracing when a certain society becomes ‘maritime’ is problematic, the authors did not recognize the full maritime-ness of the Swahili societies that existed several centuries before 1000 C.E., hence this reply. This paper uses historical and archaeological data with the view that the maritime-ness of the Swahili communities of the East African coast is older than thought by authors. I hereby argue that from their earlier settlement, Swahili communities were not merely part of their maritime environment but they were fully maritime and interacted with the Indian Ocean. Movements of people between and among the islands of the Indian Ocean along the coast of East Africa, individuals navigating abroad to learn some aspects of a foreign culture which they later brought back home, and the day-to-day uses of resources from the ocean verify that the maritime-ness of the societies is before 1000 C.E.
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Researchers are divided about the relative importance of people versus climate in triggering the Late Holocene extinctions of the endemic large-bodied fauna on the island of Madagascar. Specifically, a dramatic and synchronous decline in arboreal pollen and increase in grass pollen ca 1000 yr ago has been alternatively interpreted as evidence for aridification, increased human activity, or both. As aridification and anthropogenic deforestation can have similar effects on vegetation, resolving which of these factors (if either) led to the demise of the megafauna on Madagascar has remained a challenge. We use stable nitrogen isotope (δ15N) values from radiocarbon-dated subfossil vertebrates to disentangle the relative importance of natural and human-induced changes. If increasing aridity were responsible for megafaunal decline, then we would expect an island-wide increase in δ15N values culminating in the highest values at the time of proposed maximum drought at ca 1000 yr ago. Alternatively, if climate were relatively stable and anthropogenic habitat alteration explains the palynological signal, then we would anticipate little or no change in habitat moisture, and no systematic, directional change in δ15N values over time. After accounting for the confounding influences of diet, geographic region, and coastal proximity, we find no change in δ15N values over the past 10 000 yr, and no support for a period of marked, geographically widespread aridification culminating 900-950 yr ago. Instead, increases in grasses at around that time may signal a transition in human land use to a more dedicated agro-pastoralist lifestyle, when megafaunal populations were already in decline. Land use changes ca 1000 yr ago would have simply accelerated the inevitable loss of Madagascar's megafauna.
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In the first issue of Azania Pierre Vérin outlined the state of research in Madagascar in 1966. He described three key areas: the nature and origin of human settlement, the influence of Islam and the Swahili world and the archaeology of the historically attested highland kingdoms. In this article we outline the state of archaeological knowledge today, demonstrating the continuing importance of these themes, but also showing how they have been expanded and reshaped through subsequent research. We finish by assessing the potential and challenges that the future holds for archaeology in Madagascar.
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