Larry Barham of the University of Liverpool and international collaborators have a field project in Zambia examining the “Deep Roots of Human Behavior”, investigating the beginning of compound tools and the transition to the Middle Stone Age. Last year the project disseminated its fieldwork by a very successful blog.
Earlier this month, the first post of the new field season details some of their research aims as they try to understand the MSA of the Victoria Falls area.
Much of the 2017 season was spent looking for sites recorded by Desmond Clark in the 1940s and earlier. We have his maps but those were the days before GPS and there just wasn’t enough detail to re-locate most of the key sites. By way of a recap, we’re looking for sites that preserve stone artefacts from a time period roughly 600,000 to 200,000 years ago. Over this period our species, Homo sapiens, evolved, but there were at least two other human ancestors in the region that we know of, Homo naledi and Homo heidelbergensis. So we can’t be sure who made the tools we’re finding and it’s the tools we’re interested in, because they document a basic change in the way humans thought about technology.
I think it’s great that they are explicitly including multiple species as possible makers of MSA artifacts. If there were biogeographic boundaries among hominin species in Africa during the last half million years, the Zambezi basin is a key area to understand.