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Title: Africa,%20Asia%20and%20Australia:%20Middle%20and%20Late%20Stone%20Age

Africa, Asia and Australia Middle and Late Stone
  • African Cultures
  • SE Asia
  • Australia and Tanzania

Africa (40-15,000 B.P.)
  • Some time around the beginning of the Upper
    Paleolithic, or in the few centuries before it,
    the Mousterian Pluvial ended and desert once
    again reclaimed the Sahara region.
  • Fleeing the desert, many of the peoples settled
    in the area migrated closer and closer to the
  • The growing barrenness of the Sahara would
    obviously cause many of the settlements to die of
    starvation, and once again survival of the human
    race in this area depended on the Nile.
  • Naturally, some industries would survive and new
    ones would be created. These new industries show
    many similar trends, especially that of the
    miniaturization of tools, possibly as a desire to
    conserve resources.
  • Most of the data about this period in time comes
    from the famous site of Kom Ombo.

Time scale for the East African past
Cultural period Dates Characteristics
Iron Age 2,000 years ago to historic times first ceramics, domesticated plants and animals iron smelting and smithing village life origin and spread of Bantu speaking peoples
Later Stone Age or LSA 30/40,000 to around 2,000 years ago microlithic technology composite tools hunting and gathering
Middle Stone Age or MSA 200,000 to 30/40,000 years ago retouched flake tools such as scrapers and points with or without Levallois technology hunter/gatherers
Acheulean 1.5 million to 200,000 years ago large bifacial tools (handaxes and cleavers) later sites have flake tools made with Levallois technology hunter/gatherers
Oldowan 2.5 to 1.5 million years ago pebble and flake tools earliest evidence of technology foragers hunters or scavengers
Kom Ombo
  • Kom Ombo is located on the east bank of the Nile
    in the southern area of Upper Egypt.
  • Archaeologists know that this site is from the
    Upper Paleolithic because of the existence of
    burins, small, stubby, pointed tools made of
    flakes and characterized by long, narrow flakes
    forming a point.
  • The discovery of burins in Egyptian
    archaeological sites prompted Edmund Vignard, the
    discoverer of Kom Ombo, to label it a new
    industry the Sebilian.

Mumba Shelter
  • First Excavated in 1934
  • The site of Mumba cave is located on the present
    day border of Tanzania
  • and Zambia.
  • Mumba is a cave or rock shelter that is located
    on the shore of Lake Eyasi, near grasslands and
  • 130-45 kya

Mumba Shelter
Mumba Shelter
  • Species represented include "zebra, warthog,
    greater kudu, buffalo, tortoise, chimpanzee,
    rabbit, porcupine, leopard, cerval, aardvark,
    Grevy's zebra, black rhino, white rhino, bush
    pig, hippo, giraffe, bushbuck, eland, bush
    duiker, reedbuck, waterbuck, roan antelope, oryx,
    addax, steinbuck, dik-dik, impala, Thompson's and
    Grant's gazelles, also guinea fowl and catfish."
    (Mehlman, 1979)

Border Cave
Blombos Cave, S. Africa
Blombos Cave
Artifacts from Blombos Cave
Shell beads
Late Stone Age Tool Technology
  • The Halfan Industry, or rather, the Halfan
    people, flourished between 18,000 and 15,000 BC
    on a diet of large herd animals and fishing.
  • Fakhurian(17,000 - 15,000 BC), an industry based
    entirely on microlithic tools.
  • Silsillian (c. 13,000 BC) was a highly-developed
    microblade industry that included truncated
    blades, blades of unusual shapes made
    specifically for one task, and most significant
    of all, a wide variety of bladelets for mounting
    onto spears, darts, and arrows.

Migration to Asia
  • Ice Age sea levels were 300 feet lower than
    today. Dry land joined Sumatra and Borneo, which
    were connected to mainland Asia.
  • Basically, people could walk from Africa to the
    islands of SE Asia.

Land Exposed during last glacial maximum (ca.
18,000 B.P.)
Bonbongara, New Guinea
  • Waisted stone axes preserved under layer of
    volcanic ash dated to 38 kya.
  • Thought to represent tree clearing.

Waisted Stone Axe from New Guinea
Kilu, Buka Islands (Solomons)
  • Rock Shelter occupied ca. 26-18 kya.
  • Open water crossing would have been needed to
    settle Buka at this time (80-110 miles).
  • Would have needed sturdy craft, water and stored
    food for voyage.

SE Asian Islands
Kilu Rock shelter
  • Earliest settlement ca 35 kya, but some suggest
    even earlier-50 kya.
  • Open ocean travel of 65 kilometers from mainland
    SE Asia (at that time).
  • Typical early industry
  • unifacially or bifacially flaked pebbles
  • "horsehoof core" - high-domed retouched cores
    with edge angles near 90o
  • flake tools
  • edge-ground axes appear around 19,000-23,000
    years ago

Australia Colonization
  • Routes Into Australia.
  • Two main routes northern one trending towards New
    Guinea, and a southern route towards the
    northwest coast of Australia. 
  • Northern route water crossings of 65 km, southern
    one short water crossings except for the last
    which is more than 65km.
  • Boats A range of boat types suggested from
    accidental voyage by a pregnant woman on an
    upturned log through rafts of bamboo to full
  • Must have been large enough to carry populations
    to islands that were viable.  Simulation studies
    suggest that 8-9 people are needed.

  • Birdsells Model.
  • Population colonize adjacent unspoiled hunting
    territories prior to attaining a maximum carrying
    capacity. At migration when achieved 60 of
    carrying capacity the duration is 2,204 years for
    settlement of Australia.
  • Bowdlers Coastal Colonisation.
  • If Australia settled by people already adapted to
    coastal conditions most likely that their routes
    of diffusion would have been along Pleistocene
    coastlines. Earliest inland sites at Mungo -
    easiest access is up the major river systems from
    the south.

Australia Important early sites
  • Upper Swan River
  • 38,000 years old
  • is the oldest well-dated site
  • Devil's Lair Cave
  • Earliest date is 32,500 years ago and the site
    was used regularly after 23,000 years ago
  • Tool assemblage includes bone pins
  • Koonalda Cave
  • date to 20,000 years ago (range 24,000-15,000)
  • more cave paintings

Site Locations
Upper Swan site
  • The Upper Swan refers to the upper portion of the
    Swan River, a river feeding into the sea named
    for the indigenous black swans.
  • The Swan River runs right by the city of Perth, a
    major Australian city located in southwestern
    Australia. This area is referred to as the
    Bayswater area.
  • The major significance of the Upper Swan area is
    the remains of a campsite believed to be
    somewhere between 40,000 and 50,000 years old.
    This campsite was left by ancient aborigines, the
    original inhabitants of Australia.
  • The importance of this finding lies in the fact
    that campsites or permanent housings of ancient
    Australia are rare due to the fact that the
    aborigines, or at least their ancestors, kept
    moving from place to place.

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Devils Lair
  • Devil's Lair, located in western Australia, has
    been the site for many Archaeological surveys.
  • In the last twenty to thirty years it has been an
    area of many discoveries.
  • Devil's Lair is a cave, so it was a logical place
    for many mammals to go to for shelter. The cave
    was so called because bones of the extinct
    Tasmanian Devil were found there.
  • It has been discovered that the many incredible
    rock formations in Devils Lair have been dated
    to approximately 35,000 years ago. The cave wall
    markings may be the oldest rock art on the

Lake Mungo, Australia
  • In south-western New South Wales, not far from
    the Darling River, there are a series of large,
    relic Pleistocene lake beds.
  • On the eastern margin of these former lakes are
    extended, crescent shaped sand ridges called
  • In the Pleistocene, when these lakes contained
    water, people lived on the lunettes, fished and
    hunted near the lakes and occasionally buried
    their dead in the soft sand.
  • In 1968, Jim Bowler, who was researching the
    development of the lakes and their associated
    lunettes, came across the exposed calcrete block
    containing the Lake Mungo 1 cremation.

Lake Mungo today
Lake Mungo 1
  • Was found in situ deflating out of the Mungo
    stratigraphic unit at the southern end of the
    "Walls of China" lunette at Lake Mungo (Bowler et
    al. 1970).
  • Radiocarbon dating of bone fragments from the
    burial obtained an age of 19,030 1410 years
    (ANU-618A) on bone apatite and 24,700 1270
    (ANU-618B) on the collagen fraction. A further
    date of 26,250 1120 (ANU-375B) was achieved with
    charcoal from a hearth, stratigraphically
    equivalent to 15 cm above the burial (Bowler et
    al. 1972).
  • It was considered that the most reliable estimate
    for the age of LM1 was 24,500-26,500 years BP.
  • More recent reassessment of the radiocarbon dates
    from the Willandra Lakes by Richard Gillespie
    (1997, 1998) indicates that LM 1 is probably
    closer to 17,000 years in age. Even at this
    younger date LM 1 remains the oldest, reasonably
    well dated, human burial in Australia and
    possibly the earliest human cremation from
    anywhere in the world.

Lake Mungo 1
The Lake Mungo 1 cremation has recently been
returned to the Aboriginal community at Balranald
in south-western N.S.W. for safe keeping at the
Lake Mungo National Park.
  • Koonalda is a limestone cave located in the
    Nullarbor Plain of South Australia near a wide
    bay known as the Great Australian Bight. 
  • 19,000 years ago sea level was ninety meters
    lower than today.  Because the sea was lower,
    Koonalda might have been one hundred eighty
    kilometers from the coastal belt rather then the
    edge as is its present day position. 
  • Also, because the cave may have been located
    nearly one hundred eighty kilometers from the
    nearest habitable region, Koonalda is thought to
    have been used for rituals. 

Koonalda cave, Australia
Koonalda Art
  • In 1956 the Nullarbor expedition explored
    Koonalda and made two discoveries marking a major
    turning point both for archaeology and rock art
  • The expedition located Aboriginal rock art and a
    workshop where tools were made from rock found in
    the walls of the cave.  The Koonalda people left
    their marks over several thousand square feet of
    the cave. 
  • The drawings, known today as meanders, date back
    19,000 to 20,000 years.  Meanders are sets of
    engraved or finger-marked geometric lines
    parallel to one another. 
  • Ultraviolet light can be used to determine the
    new engravings from the old.  When ultraviolet
    light is shined on a meander, an older meander
    will not appear as bright because of the
    oxidization which has taken place over time. 

Koonalda Art Continued
  • Among the meanders adorning the cave, prehistoric
    torches and animal bones have also been
    recovered.  The Northwest Passage is garnished
    with meanders leading to the upper chamber
    believed to have been used for ritual purposes. 
  • Only animal skulls and vertebrae can be found in
    this location which is extremely difficult to
    reach even with modern day equipment. 
  • Koonalda Cave was abandoned nearly 19,000 years
    ago.  The reason is thought to be contributed to
    a massive rock fall within the upper chamber.

The Bradshaw Paintings
  • The Bradshaw Paintings are incredibly
    sophisticated, as you will see from the following
    digitally enhanced beautiful color images on this
    web site. They are not recent creations, but come
    from an unknown ancient culture and are believed
    to have flourished before the end of the Ice Age
    in the Kimberley region of North-West Australia
    some 40,000 years ago.
  • These paintings were first discovered by Joseph
    Bradshaw in 1891, when he and his brother became
    lost in the Kimberley.
  • The Bradshaw Paintings predate the art work of
    the present day Australian Aborigines of the
    Kimberley, who have stated that the Bradshaw
    images were "before our time", and referred to
    them as "rubbish paintings". According to
    Aborigine legends, the Bradshaws were painted by
    birds who pecked the rocks until their beaks
    bled, and then painted the images with their tail

Bradshaw Paintings
  • This art is of such antiquity that no pigment
    remains on the rock surface, making it impossible
    to use carbon dating technology. The composition
    of the original paints cannot be determined, and
    whatever pigments were used appear to have locked
    into the rock itself as shades of Mulberry red,
    and have become impervious to the elements.
  • Fortuitously, in 1996 Grahame Walsh discovered a
    Bradshaw Painting partly covered by a fossilized
    Mud Wasp nest, which scientists have removed and
    analyzed using a new technique of dating,
    determining it to be 17,000 years old. This
    discovery lends solid support to Grahame's
    theories about the true antiquity of these works
    of art.

This figure is one of the smaller examples of a
Ceremonial Tassel Bradshaws. It has the less
impressive Narrow Shoulders detail, and a Half
Tram Track feature aligned close over the
headdress and face.  
Their profile heads, decorated with large Dunce
Cap Headdresses hanging over the right shoulder,
almost invariably face left. This is one of the
few examples where the head silhouette suggests
facial detail, particularly the nose and receding
forehead line.
In this early Tassel Bradshaw Painting, the of
grace, vigor, and the joy of living, so often
expressed by man in the form of dance. This
painting shows the quite remarkable
sophistication of the culture of the Bradshaw
This fine Sash Bradshaw displays a wide range of
decorations. The long headdress has a single
feather mounted at the top. Other decorations
armpit, a cluster of four Chilli-shaped Armpit
Decorations beneath the left, a Three Point Sash,
and a Long Pubic Apron. Double Boomerangs are
held in each hand, with an additional Whisk in
the right.
This Stylized Bradshaw is a fine example from
headdress, waist and forearms. More intact
examples suggest these lines of dots are
surviving remnants of bichrome ribbon-like
appendages, of which the less stable main cord
forms have vanished.