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Welcome to African Archaeology!

The Journal of African Archaeology is an international peer-reviewed periodical appearing half-yearly since 2003. It publishes original papers addressing recent research and developments in African archaeology and related disciplines. The journal's main purpose is to provide scholars and students with a new pan-African forum for discussing relevant topics on the cultural dynamics of past African societies.

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Journal contents:


Vol. 13 (2) 2015

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L. Barham, S. Tooth, G.A.T. Duller, A.J. Plater & S. Turner

Excavations at Site C North, Kalambo Falls, Zambia: New Insights into the Mode 2/3 Transition in South-Central Africa

Journal of African Archaeology, Volume 13 (2), 2015, pages 187-214, DOI 10.3213/2191-5784-10270

Open Access

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


Abstract


We report on the results of small-scale excavations at the archaeological site of Kalambo Falls, northern Zambia. The site has long been known for its stratified succession of Stone Age horizons, in particular those representing the late Acheulean (Mode 2) and early Middle Stone Age (Mode 3). Previous efforts to date these horizons have provided, at best, minimum radiometric ages. The absence of a firm chronology for the site has limited its potential contribution to our understanding of the process of technological change in the Middle Pleistocene of south-central Africa. The aim of the excavations was to collect samples for luminescence dating that bracketed archaeological horizons, and to establish the sedimentary and palaeoenvironmental contexts of the deposits. Four sedimentary packages were identified with the oldest containing Mode 2 and Mode 3 horizons. In this paper we consider the implications of the luminescence ages for the archaeological record at Kalambo Falls, and place them in a regional context. The reworking and preservation of the archaeological horizons is interpreted as the result of successive phases of meander migration and aggradation. Limited pollen evidence suggests a persistent floodplain palaeoenvironment with intermittent swamp forest and adjacent valley woodland, while mineral magnetic susceptibility data support an interpretation of river flow variability without any significant change in sediment provenance. The dynamics of the fluvial system cannot as yet be linked directly with regional climate change. The age range of ~500–300 ka for the oldest sedimentary package places the Mode 2/3 succession firmly in the Middle Pleistocene, and contributes to an expanding African record of technological innovation before the evolution of Homo sapiens.


Résumé

Nous présentons ici les résultats de fouilles réduites du site de Kalambo Falls, en Zambie du nord. Le site est connu depuis longtemps pour sa stratigraphie paléolithique, surtout pour ses niveaux attribués à l'Acheuléen supérieur (Mode 2) et au Paléolithique moyen (Mode 3). Les démarches entreprises précédemment pour dater ces niveaux n'ont livré que des âges radiométriques minimums. L'absence d'une bonne chronologie a limité la contribution de ce site à notre compréhension des processus de changement technologique au cours du Pléistocène moyen en Afrique australe. L'objectif des dernières fouilles était de collecter des échantillons pour la datation par luminescence qui encadrent les horizons archéologiques et pour établir les contextes sédimentaire et paléo-environnemental des dépôts. Nous avons identifié quatre ensembles sédimentaires, le plus ancien contenant des niveaux du Mode 2 et du Mode 3. Cet article considère les implications des datations obtenues par luminescence pour le gisement de Kalambo Falls et son contexte régional. Les pédoturbations et la préservation des horizons archéologiques sont interprétées comme le résultat de phases successives de migration de méandres et d'alluvionnement. Les données palynologiques limitées suggèrent que le paléo-environnement était composé d'une plaine d'inondation persistante avec des forêts marécageuses intermittentes et des forêts en vallée contigües, tandis que les données de susceptibilité magnétique viennent appuyer l'hypothèse d'un débit fluvial variable, sans modification significative dans la provenance des sédiments. La dynamique du système fluvial ne peut pas encore être directement mis en rapport avec le changement climatique régional. L'âge des ensembles sédimentaires, entre 500 et 300 ka, place clairement la succession Mode 2/3 dans le Pléistocène moyen. Cette étude renforce le corpus des données archéologiques africaines qui montre des innovations technologiques avant l'émergence de Homo sapiens.



Keywords: Acheulean, luminescence dating, Middle Stone Age, palaeoenvironment, sedimentology, South-central Africa


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