Chronology of the later stone age and food production in East Africa

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Evidence from several archaeological sites in sub-Saharan Africa suggests that the transition to modern human technology, marked by the change from the Middle to the Later Stone Age (LSA), occurred first in East Africa. Enkapune Ya Muto rockshelter, in the central Rift Valley of Kenya, contains the oldest known archaeological horizons spanning this transition. Radiocarbon and obsidian hydration dates from this 5·6-m deep cultural sequence show that the Later Stone Age began substantially earlier than 46,000 years ago. Ostrich eggshell beads were made 40,000 years ago. Early dates for the LSA and beads may have implications for the origin and dispersal of modern human behaviour and modern humans out of Africa. This site also contains the only known occurrences dating to the Middle Holocene dry phase in highland Kenya and Tanzania, as well as occurrences that span the transition from hunting and gathering to food production, and from the Neolithic to the Iron Age. The adoption of domestic animals by indigenous Eburran hunter-gatherers in highland East Africa occurred gradually between 4900 and 3300 uncorrected radiocarbon years BP and the Neolithic/Later Iron Age transition occurred around 1300 BP.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)377-392
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1998


  • Cosmogenic Nuclides
  • East Africa
  • Human Evolution
  • Iron Age
  • Later Stone Age
  • Middle Stone Age
  • Neolithic
  • Obsidian Hydration
  • Paleolithic Ornaments
  • Radiocarbon

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology


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