Early MIS 3 occupation of Mochena Borago Rockshelter, Southwest Ethiopian Highlands: Implications for Late Pleistocene archaeology, paleoenvironments and modern human dispersals

Steven A. Brandt, Erich C. Fisher, Elisabeth A. Hildebrand, Ralf Vogelsang, Stanley H Ambrose, Joséphine Lesur, Hong Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Between 70 and 50 ka BP, anatomically modern humans dispersed across and out of Africa to eventually populate all inhabitable continents. Knowledge of paleoenvironments and human behavioral patterns in Africa prior to and during these dispersals is crucial for understanding how and why hunter-gatherers were able to adapt rapidly to the new environments they encountered. However, few well-dated sites from this time period are known from the Horn of Africa, one of the purported staging areas for population movements into southern Arabia and Asia. Excavations at Mochena Borago Rockshelter, situated on the western slopes of a dormant volcano where the SW Ethiopian Highlands meet the Ethiopian Rift, have yielded the first securely dated archaeological sequence for later periods of the dispersal. Three major lithostratigraphic groups incorporating occupational episodes have yielded charcoal radiocarbon ages ∼53-38 ka calBP; deeper deposits have been tested but remain undated. Archaeological assemblages consist mainly of obsidian flaked stone artifacts manufactured from small, minimally prepared, single- to multi-platform flake cores; radially prepared cores are rare and blade cores are absent. Small unifacial to bifacial points from non-radial cores dominate the earliest shaped tool assemblages, and backed pieces first appear by ∼45 ka calBP. By ∼43 ka calBP, scrapers and backed pieces are predominant, rather than points. However, there is little evidence for technological change other than the appearance of bipolar technology. Mochena Borago's archaeological sequence thus cannot be neatly classified as Middle Stone Age, Later Stone Age or "transitional" and calls into question some of the principles by which archaeologists have attempted to classify African toolmaking traditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)38-54
Number of pages17
JournalQuaternary International
Volume274
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 1 2012

Keywords

  • ISGS

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth-Surface Processes

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