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The findings from the paleolithic age in africa

Personal use only; commercial use is strictly prohibited for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice. Part of this process has included shedding the methodologies and nomenclatures of narrative approaches to focus on more quantified, scientific descriptions of artifact variability and context. Together with a growing number of chronometric age estimates and environmental information, understanding the West African Stone Age is contributing evolutionary and demographic insights relevant to the entire continent.

Undated Acheulean artifacts are abundant across the region, attesting to the presence of archaic Homo. Although the presence of MSA populations in forests remains an open question, technological differences may correlate with various ecological zones.

The Stone Age Archaeology of West Africa

Later Stone Age LSA populations evidence significant technological diversification, including both microlithic and macrolithic traditions. The limited biological evidence also demonstrates that at least some of these populations manifested a unique mixture of modern and archaic morphological features, drawing West Africa into debates about possible admixture events between late-surviving archaic populations and Homo sapiens.

As in other regions of Africa, it is possible that population movements throughout the Stone Age were influenced by ecological bridges and barriers. West Africa evidences a number of refugia and ecological bottlenecks that may have played such a role in human prehistory in the region. By the end of the Stone Age, West African groups became increasingly sedentary, engaging in the construction of durable monuments and intensifying wild food exploitation.

Geography and Environment West Africa is defined by the United Nations as consisting of 18 countries: This region consists of seven vegetation biomes: In the wetter regions, the savannahs are dominated by African oak Afzelia africanawild syringa Burkea africanabushwillows Combretum sppand large trees of the Terminalia genus. These grade to Sudanian Isoberlinia woodland in the south.

In the more arid, northern regions, the savannahs are more open and are dominated by medium-sized trees such as acacias, thorn trees Balanites aegyptiaca, Ziziphus mucronataAfrican myrrh Commiphora africanaAfrican mesquite Prosopis africanaTamarinds Tamarindus indicaand various shrubs Combretum glutinosum.

Rainfall reaches up to 3000 mm in regions of rainforest. However, strong evidence of past rainforest retreat into refugia interspersed by open savannah and even desert in the north is today reflected in the current distribution of vegetation and faunal subspecies. This is because the Sahara appears to be a discrete entity with respect to the Stone Age past, which can be differentiated from the Western Sahel and tropical West Africa on both archaeological and palaeoenvironmental grounds.

The use of the Africanist terms was officially abandoned in 1965 to revise and standardize the terminology of African prehistory. This is the case despite the recognition of geographically the findings from the paleolithic age in africa material culture similarities see, e. Although, again problematic, for the sake of this review the LSA is taken to end as a cultural phase with the emergence of semisedentary societies engaged in the beginning of food production.

Rapid Overview There has been a long history of research in West Africa. As in other regions of Africa and the world, the history of research has greatly influenced the construction of the archaeological record and the the findings from the paleolithic age in africa of research themes and narratives.

Currently, the record is primarily constructed using artifact typologies and named industries. These typologies are broadly used to address research themes concerning human evolution in the Pleistocene and the emergence of politically complex, food-producing societies in the early Holocene.

However, the lithic industries underpinning much of the archaeological sequence often come from undated sites in disturbed or surface contexts.

This is particularly the case for the earlier, Pleistocene, part of the record see below. Acheulean ESA artifacts are well documented across West Africa, although they may be absent from the most tropical regions. None are currently dated. The environmental context of many of these sites is not yet well understood. At present, there is no concrete evidence that MSA populations lived in closed canopy forests. Many questions also remain concerning the taxonomic identity of MSA stone tool producers, particularly as late hybridization processes between archaic populations and Homo sapiens is increasingly considered possible.

The persistence of fossil, and possibly genetic, diversity into the Terminal Pleistocene and early Holocene has resulted in the recognition that, until recently, West Africa was more culturally and biologically complex than has been typically considered. Such late-persisting biological and cultural complexity has also fed into narratives of later prehistory, which attempt to understand the mosaic-like emergence and character of the Later Stone Age LSA.

This emergence, its relationship with the population expansions, and the social and cultural changes associated with the emergence of food-producing societies, is a major topic of research.

However, the limited fossil data do not support this hypothesis. These features may represent social networks or some form of cultural diffusion allied to changing ecological conditions.

African archaeology

Microlithic industries with ceramics became common by the Mid-Holocene, coupled with an apparent intensification of wild food exploitation. This record and its palaeoenvironmental context are considered in detail below, together with its construction and political and cultural milieu.

Major questions emerging from the record are evaluated in the conclusion as an outcome of the available data. Although interpretation of the record is still strongly affected by its research history, new research programs are starting to reconstruct the record from more neutral, scientific perspectives through chronometric dating programs and environmental reconstruction.

While this research on the West African Stone Age is still in its very early stages, existing research points to a rich and varied record, which is beginning to contribute to pan-African debates on human origins ranging well into the Holocene.

The Role Of Climate On African Stone Age Technology

In the first half of the 20th century, research interest was equivalent to other regions of Africa. In the early the findings from the paleolithic age in africa century, however, there is a growing recognition that all of Africa played a role in recent human origins, thanks to advances in genetic research and the discovery that the earliest fossils of our species are located in northwest Africa.

French West Africa consisted of most of the countries that today form West Africa, with the addition of Algeria. Preceded by Portuguese colonization, the British colonization movement began in West Africa in the 1780s, while the French movement began almost a century later, during the so-called scramble for Africa. The two movements were fundamentally different in that French colonial policy was to centralize and assimilate its African territories into a single political and sociocultural entity.

In contrast, Britain administered its West African territories as separate and distinct colonies. In French West Africa, the colonial period saw the collection of surface artifacts by various soldiers, merchants, explorers, and administrators, who sent their collections to France for study by contemporary authorities who had never set foot in West Africa.

However, implicit racism characterized this prehistory, like the more recent past, as stagnant and primitive.

The geological context of research meant that any archaeological finds were situated within an appreciation of past climatic variation and geomorphological shifts, even if the archaeology itself was only incompletely recorded. However, unlike the Maghreb region further north, there were no speculations regarding any direct relationships between the West African Stone Age and the European Palaeolithic. Instead, the sub-Saharan African past was very clearly linked to its present, fitting well with the concurrent justification of colonialism.

Stone Age cultures were perceived as having been influenced by those in North Africa, which were in turn linked to the European peripheries. The first sponsored excavations, which took place in Conakry, Guinea, between 1883 and 1907, attempted to set an early interest in the region for its own sake, framed in terms of understanding African populations and arguing for continuity between past and present.

Furthermore, as these finds were mostly recovered from surface localities, they were concentrated in arid regions of high visibility. Few artifact collections or fieldwork investigations took place in forested savannah and tropical regions. The creation of these museums also established professional archaeologists in both Dakar and Bamako for the first time.

In Dakar, Mauny was prolific and produced a significant body of research on West African prehistory, including synthetic contributions on the state of knowledge of rock art, ceramic analysis, and the origin of copper and metallurgy as well as bone and stone tools.

These syntheses were paralleled in Anglophone West Africa by Oliver Davies, who also attempted to present an overview of the non-Francophone regions. In Nigeria, another professional archaeologist, Bernard Fagg, became an assistant district officer within the Nigerian Administrative Service, and a Nigerian Antiquities Service was established in 1943. Both Shaw and Fagg were interested in Stone Age archaeology, although both also significantly contributed to the understanding of later periods of West African prehistory and history.

Despite his shifting interest toward later time periods, Fagg did contribute to recording the Stone Age record in Nigeria, particularly at its most famous sites, Nok and Zenabi see Table 1. Although such fossils were never found, Davies logged the locations of hundreds of prehistoric sites of various types across Ghana. Such important challenges during the first decades of independence resulted in an increase in excavations across West Africa, with a major focus on exploring the origins of West African civilizations and towns.

By the 1970s, university-based history departments were created in Togo, Benin, Niger, and Burkina Faso. Anglophone West Africa paralleled these developments. With independence, new governments focused on indigenous archaeology and national heritage. Museum networks opened across Nigeria, a national museum opened in Ghana, and University departments were established in both countries. However, in Liberia, the Gambia, and Sierra Leone, development of an African archaeological community has been limited.

Despite these advances, Stone Age archaeology lagged behind in a general drive to understand the indigenous origins of West African civilizations. Other factors stalling development include the difficulty of locating sites and associated taphonomic problems. Compared to East Africa, for example, which is a zone of tectonic uplift, much of West Africa is low lying and often flooded during the rainy season, contributing to significant sediment accumulation.

Methodological issues also compounded taphonomic ones. Bordesian systematics never penetrated West Africa. In Anglophone West Africa, focus also remained fixed on later prehistoric, protohistoric and historic periods, leading to a comparable state of research with regard to the Stone Age. Research in the Late 20th and Early 21st Centuries By the late 20th century, the Stone Age record in West Africa was still largely known from surface sites, usually from disturbed contexts.

Most of these sites were discovered through mining activities in West Africa and were often found out of stratigraphic context. While typology is a useful heuristic, without further technological and contextual detail it can lead to an overformalization, which obfuscates variability.

In West Africa, these considerations have resulted in three typological categories: For example, sites in the arid, northern regions of West Africa tend to be linked to North Africa e. All these problematic typological considerations have led to numerous new industrial assignations that lack chronological or stratigraphic assessment.

The record is further problematized by spatial biases. Both amateur and scientific archaeological work has largely taken place in the open and more arid regions of northern West Africa, particularly where public works or mining activities occurred. Knowledge remains extremely limited in the forested areas of the south, in which visibility is limited and working conditions difficult. Liberia was briefly investigated in the late 1960s, with a more comprehensive survey carried out in the 1970s by a team from Boston The findings from the paleolithic age in africa.

The southern regions of Cameroon, the gateway to West Africa, was also investigated by the Tokyo Metropolitan University Geographical Expedition to Cameroon, which identified numerous Stone Age sites described as Sangoan and Lupemban see Allsworth-Jones, 198635 for a synthesis.

North Africa

Similar sites have also been reported in Nigeria, the Ivory Coast and Ghana. As a result, previous statements about the West African record are all open to reevaluation. The challenges of constructing a record from so little has meant that it is not always clear which cultural designation to give the few dated stone tool assemblages from sites spanning MIS 5 to the Terminal Pleistocene. Ultimately, only significant new fieldwork will be able to shed light on the West African sequence and its character, particularly in the different ecological zones.

This is because the significant differences between the northerly and southerly ecological areas of West Africa problematize any broad-scale extrapolations made from single sites to the entire region. There is a recognition that many past inferences are problematic, an outcome of research biases and inconsistent analyses affected by past sociohistoric and political milieus. Research is now instead concerned with situating Stone Age archaeological evidence within its geomorphological, chronological, and environmental context in order to begin to construct models of the Stone Age past based on a robust body of data.

As noted above, much of this new research is in its early stages. However, it is already contributing to constructing a new record for West Africa, which emphasizes uniqueness, antiquity, and complexity.

~ Beyond bones & stones

The major questions relating to the record concern 1 the earliest human occupation of closed-canopy forests see, e. The end of the Stone Age in West Africa is difficult to delineate, but it is generally thought to end with the rise of advanced technical traits and increased sedentism immediately preceding the discovery and use of metals. Offshore sediment records from the Gulf of Guinea and the tropical Atlantic indicate that patterns of forest expansion occurred repeatedly, coinciding with interglacial periods in the latter half of the Quaternary.