Spatial and chronological components of Middle Stone Age artifact assemblage variability in deeply buried alluvial fan contexts


Alluvial fan deposition characterizes the geological setting of many Stone Age sites in the East African Rift System. In these settings, researchers must consider multiple origins of technological variability, such as chronology, spatial trends, and depositional history. Because of logistical constraints, deeply buried artifacts in alluvial fans can only be examined through small excavation windows or where deposits have been heavily eroded. Under both scenarios, variability in in situ artifact attributes cannot be assessed over large areas. The Chaminade II (CHA-II) site in Karonga, northern Malawi, is situated within the Chitimwe Beds, a remnant alluvial fan dating to the Middle-to-Late Pleistocene. It preserves a Middle Stone Age (MSA) archaeological record whose interpretation is largely dependent on understanding the complex cycles of successive alluvial deposition, exposure, and erosion. By first mechanically removing 2m of largely archaeologically sterile fan deposit, a 32-x-2m trench containing over 15,000 in situ MSA artifacts was hand-excavated, screened and 5572 of the artifacts were plotted using a total station. Combined with excavated material from elsewhere in Karonga, the site demonstrates how both chronological and spatial factors affect the visibility of MSA technological variation—seen in lithic reduction patterns and site preservation—in this region of Africa.

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Spatial and chronological components of Middle Stone Age artifact assemblage variability in deeply buried alluvial fan contexts. Sheila Nightingale, Marina Bravo Foster, Jessica Thompson, Jeong-Heon Choi, David Wright. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 398173)

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min long: -18.809; min lat: -38.823 ; max long: 53.262; max lat: 38.823 ;