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The Aterian and its place in the North African Middle Stone Age

The Aterian and its place in the North African Middle Stone Age
The Aterian and its place in the North African Middle Stone Age
The Aterian is a frequently cited stone tool (‘lithic’) industry of the Middle Stone Age (MSA) (ca. 270-50,000-ka) of North Africa. Dating from at least 145 ka, the Aterian’s association with distinctive ‘tang’ hafted tools, the use of pigments, shell beads and other non-lithic artefacts is hypothesised to represent the earliest manifestations of identity and ethnicity, a reflection of ‘modern human cognition’. However, an alternative view contests the extent of the Aterian’s geographical, temporal and cultural integrity. This thesis is the first detailed study to quantitatively test both these hypotheses and establish the technological character of a region at the nexus of human dispersals. Nineteen spatially and temporally representative lithic assemblages from the North African MSA, together with one outgroup from the Arabian Middle Palaeolithic are compared. Building on the emerging evidence for North African population increases and climatic amelioration in Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 5, this research develops nested analytical models premised on cultural ecology and niche construction. Subsequent analysis explores the North African MSA as a landscape of population differentiation and/or isolation by distance. A suite of multivariate statistics is used to isolate uncorrelated sources of variability in the data. Principal Components, Correspondence and Regression Analyses suggest that the patterns of similarity and difference observed between assemblages do not simplistically articulate with traditional divisions between named industries. In particular, the Aterian is not defined by the presence of tanged tools. Results instead indicate technological convergence and isolation-by distance structure much of the variability. The identification of aggregation sites also attests the presence of social networks. It is argued that the existence of population structure in the North African MSA has important implications for the evolutionary dynamics of modern human dispersals. The methods and models used here are particularly relevant to further exploring the origins of cultural diversification.
Scerri, Eleanor
88ae55c4-d0cd-4797-af9a-5a7899a22800
Scerri, Eleanor
88ae55c4-d0cd-4797-af9a-5a7899a22800
Gamble, Clive
1cbd0b26-ddac-4dc2-9cf7-59c66d06103a

Scerri, Eleanor (2013) The Aterian and its place in the North African Middle Stone Age. University of Southampton, Faculty of Humanities, Doctoral Thesis, 630pp.

Record type: Thesis (Doctoral)

Abstract

The Aterian is a frequently cited stone tool (‘lithic’) industry of the Middle Stone Age (MSA) (ca. 270-50,000-ka) of North Africa. Dating from at least 145 ka, the Aterian’s association with distinctive ‘tang’ hafted tools, the use of pigments, shell beads and other non-lithic artefacts is hypothesised to represent the earliest manifestations of identity and ethnicity, a reflection of ‘modern human cognition’. However, an alternative view contests the extent of the Aterian’s geographical, temporal and cultural integrity. This thesis is the first detailed study to quantitatively test both these hypotheses and establish the technological character of a region at the nexus of human dispersals. Nineteen spatially and temporally representative lithic assemblages from the North African MSA, together with one outgroup from the Arabian Middle Palaeolithic are compared. Building on the emerging evidence for North African population increases and climatic amelioration in Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 5, this research develops nested analytical models premised on cultural ecology and niche construction. Subsequent analysis explores the North African MSA as a landscape of population differentiation and/or isolation by distance. A suite of multivariate statistics is used to isolate uncorrelated sources of variability in the data. Principal Components, Correspondence and Regression Analyses suggest that the patterns of similarity and difference observed between assemblages do not simplistically articulate with traditional divisions between named industries. In particular, the Aterian is not defined by the presence of tanged tools. Results instead indicate technological convergence and isolation-by distance structure much of the variability. The identification of aggregation sites also attests the presence of social networks. It is argued that the existence of population structure in the North African MSA has important implications for the evolutionary dynamics of modern human dispersals. The methods and models used here are particularly relevant to further exploring the origins of cultural diversification.

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Published date: January 2013
Organisations: University of Southampton, Archaeology

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 367294
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/367294
PURE UUID: 7e488603-4f1e-4e53-a675-d4816eb6dd06

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Date deposited: 23 Oct 2014 11:05
Last modified: 16 Dec 2019 20:24

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