Ancient forager and herder mobility patterns during Mid Holocene climatic changes. Insights from Lake Turkana Basin, Kenya.

  • Author: Emmanuel K. Ndiema, Jack W.K. Harris, L. Dibble & P. Kiura
  • Topic: 2000 to 10,000 BP,Theory and method,Pottery studies,Zooarchaeology
  • Country: Kenya
  • Related Congress: 13th Congress, Dakar

This paper aims to illuminate archaeological relationships forager/header mobility patterns and climate change, specifically raw materials sourcing and subsistence systems. In Eastern Africa trajectories of food production, change in subsistence and resource intensification differ from global patterns; people used aquatic fauna and developed or adopted the use of ceramics before managed food production. Later, at about 6-4 kbp, pastoral economies spread south from the Sahara through the region. Both instances of subsistence change and resource intensification entailed major changes in settlement and mobility patterns. The earliest dates for domesticates in east Africa cluster around 4,000 BP, in sites from the Galana Boi formation in the LTB. These sites document the earliest evidence of herding in east Africa, and offer a rare opportunity to study the dynamics of early pastoralists’ and foragers mobility and subsistence lifestyles during periods of increased climatic variability.

Methods include field surveys, excavation, faunal analysis, obsidian sourcing and characterization using X-ray Florescence, Inductively Coupled Mass Spectrometry, and technological and typological analysis of obsidian artifacts. Findings demonstrate economic diversity and mobility patterns among Holocene foraging/ herder adaptations from what is seen today. The transition to food production in Lake Turkana basin and East Africa in general was complex, fluctuating and may have operated independently of one another. Abundance of aquatic and terrestrial fauna and non- local obsidian at archaeological sites indicate instances of high mobility patterns and exploitation of diverse food resource during times of nutritional stress. These data is important in informing our understanding on human capacities for responding to environmental challenges.

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