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Research reveals longstanding cultural continuity at oldest occupied site in West Africa

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Although knowledge of human evolution in West Africa is limited, recent findings suggest that the region exhibits distinct cultural developments when compared to other parts of the continent.

Shedding further light on this topic, a recent article published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution examines the oldest archaeologically-dated site in West Africa. The site shows technological continuity spanning roughly 140,000 years and offers insights into the ecological stability of the region.

Our species arose in Africa around 300,000 years ago, and during the period spanning approximately 30,000 to 60,000 years ago, it commonly utilised Middle Stone Age toolkits and associated techniques for tool-making.

During this period, unique Later Stone Age toolkits began appearing in northern, eastern, and southern Africa. Although recent findings indicate that Middle Stone Age toolkits continued to be used in West Africa until around 10,000 years ago, the antiquity of these technologies is poorly understood.

The new study, led by scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Geoanthropology, Université Cheikh Anta Diop de Dakar, University of Sheffield, and University of South Florida, extends the timeframe in which Middle Stone Age toolkits are known from West Africa to 150 thousand years ago, based on excavations from the near-coastal site of Bargny 1.

“The stone tool assemblage dating from 150 thousand years ago shows classic features of the Middle Stone Age, with the use of Levallois and discoidal reduction methods and the use of small retouched flake tools rather than larger implements,” says Dr Khady Niang, lead author of the study. “The assemblage from Bargny 1 is closely comparable to those of a similar age from across the continent, and is the first site from West Africa dating to the Middle Pleistocene, prior to the onset of substantial technological regionalization elsewhere in Africa.”

The site itself is located close to the modern coastline, south of Dakar, Senegal. While no artefacts indicating direct human engagement with coastal resources were recovered at the site, study of the associated environments offer a wider perspective.

“We found mangrove and brackish wetland plant microfossils associated with the site’s occupation,” adds Dr Chris Kiahtipes of the University of South Florida, co-author on the study. “This is particularly interesting because it shows that the site was located near an estuary and demonstrates how important these habitats are to humans past and present.”

The study highlights long-term durability of core elements of Middle Stone Age toolkits in West Africa without evidence for the appearance of specialized technological developments observed elsewhere.

“Middle Stone Age populations adapted to a wide range of habitats and engaged with climatic changes across Africa. But in West Africa, we see considerable environmental stability over the past 150 thousand years,” adds Dr Jimbob Blinkhorn. “One explanation for the enduring cultural continuity we observe is that it was a stable behavioural adaptation to stable environmental conditions, whilst potential isolation from other populations across Africa may have led to demographic stability too. Ultimately, our study helps illustrate the persistent utility of Middle Stone Age technologies to inhabit the diverse habitats found across Africa.”

Max Planck Institute of Geoanthropology

Header Image Credit : Khady Niang

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Archaeology

Excavation uncovers traces of the first bishop’s palace at Merseburg Cathedral Hill

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Archaeologists from the State Office for Monument Preservation and Archaeology (LDA) Saxony-Anhalt have uncovered traces of the first bishop’s palace at the southern end of the Merseburg Cathedral Hill in Merseburg, Germany.

Construction of the early Romanesque Merseburg Cathedral was begun by Bishop Thietmar of Merseburg in 1015.

It was consecrated in 1021 in the presence of Emperor Heinrich II (Henry II), however, following a series of collapses in the eastern part of the structure, the cathedral wouldn’t be formally consecrated and opened until 1042 by Bishop Hunold.

The Merseburg Cathedral of St. John and St. Lawrence is today considered one of the most important cathedral buildings in Germany.

The LDA team were excavating the basement of the so-called Martinikurie, a two-story residential building from the Baroque period. Excavations revealed the remains of the first bishop’s palace, dating from from the time of the second consecration of Merseburg Cathedral.

According to the LDA: “We found the almost completely preserved basement-like lower floor of a hall building, whose 1.75 metre thick foundation walls are still preserved up to a height of 3.40 metres. Steps in the masonry and a pillar from the time of construction inside the building prove that at least one hall-like upper floor once stood on top of this.”
The palace was constructed by Bishop Hunold, who headed the diocese of Merseburg between 1036 and 1050.

“This finding makes it possible to locate one of the most important buildings of the episcopal see in Merseburg – a building that, with its location and size, clearly expresses the self-confidence of the diocese, which was re-founded in 1004 by King Henry II of Germany” added the LDA.

Header Image Credit : LDA

Sources : State Office for Monument Preservation and Archaeology (LDA)

This content was originally published on www.heritagedaily.com – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

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Archaeology

Archaeologists find ancient papyri with correspondence made by Roman centurions

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Archaeologists from the University of Wrocław have uncovered ancient papyri that contains the correspondence of Roman centurions who were stationed in Egypt.

The papyri were discovered in Berenice Troglodytica, an ancient seaport of Egypt on the western shore of the Red Sea. The city was founded by Ptolemy II Philadelphus (285–246 BC), who named it after his mother, Berenice I of Egypt.

During the Roman period, Berenice Troglodytica was one of the main waystations for the trade in war elephants and exotic goods, imported from India, Sri Lanka, Arabia, and Upper Egypt.

Excavations of an animal cemetery located on the western outskirts of the city have uncovered an accumulation of ceramics originating from the Mediterranean, Africa and India.

Image Credit : Instytut Archeologii Uniwersytetu Wrocławskiego

Among the accumulation, the team found Roman coins, a fibula, ostracons (fragments of texts on ceramics), and several papyri.

The papyri contains the correspondence of centurions, naming Haosus, Lucinius and Petronius. Centurions were soldiers who were promoted to command a centuria or “century”, a military unit consisting of between 80 to 100 men.

“In the correspondence, Petronius asks Lucinius (stationed in Berenice Troglodytica) about the prices of individual exclusive goods. There is also the statement: “I am giving you the money, I am sending it by dromedarius (a unit of legionnaires moving on dromedaries). Take care of them, provide them with veal and poles for their tents.”

Dr. Marta Osypińska from the Institute of Archaeology of the University of Wrocław, said: “For Egyptologists and other scientists dealing with antiquity, this is an extremely rare and high-calibre discovery.”

“In this part of the world, there are very few sites from the Roman period. The Egyptians tend to leave little historical accounts from this time in history, because it is the moment when they were conquered.” added  Dr. Osypińska.

Header Image Credit : Instytut Archeologii Uniwersytetu Wrocławskiego

Sources : PAP

This content was originally published on www.heritagedaily.com – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

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