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Lake Turkana (2009 - Present)

Project Title: Predecessors to Food Production: Examining Early Holocene Hunter-Gatherer-Fishers Adaptations in West Turkana (Northern Kenya).

While a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Turkana Basin Institute between 2009 - 2011, I developed this project aimed at investigating Early Holocene lakeshore adaptations around Lake Turkana through documentation of new sites and ascertaining their age and archaeological contents. This is a long-term project with multiple collaborators, operating under the umbrella of the Later Prehistory of West Turkana (LPWT) project directed by Elisabeth Hildebrand of Stony Brook University.


Some of the archaeological questions that my Turkana project is poised to investigate include:


§ Given the fact that the global climate turned to wet and humid at the onset of the Holocene Interglacial (~10,000 years ago), how did foragers of the terminal Pleistocene respond to early Holocene ecological changes around Lake Turkana, specifically on the west side of the lake?

§ What were the short and long-term cultural changes associated with lakeshore intensification?

§ How were human mobility and settlement systems organized with respect to the lake margins and inland landscape– were occupations around the lake more seasonal or permanent?


Lake Turkana became a mega-lake in the early Holocene, with abundant aquatic resources and lush grasslands for hunter-fishers to exploit. For this reason, the region offers unprecedented opportunity to investigate the cultural contexts and consequences of early Holocene human aquatic intensification. Although a few archaeological studies in 1960s have recorded lakeshore settlements containing the regions earliest pottery, diverse types of harpoon points and microlithic technology, little is known about the spatial distribution of early Holocene sites and the exact economic role of aquatic resources in the broader landscape of the Basin. In particular, the west side of the lake has remained largely underinvestigated when it comes to Holocene archaeology.


In the first stage of my five-year research plan in West Turkana, I obtained funding from the Wenner-Gren Foundation that enabled me to conduct two months of fieldwork in the Greater Kalokol area in fall 2010. The project documented ten sites, two of which were test excavated. One of the excavated sites (GcJh11) yielded a calibrated radiometric age (AMS), ranging 11,217 ± 16 - 10,227 ± 13 BP.  Harpoon points and fish remains were recovered from the excavated sites suggesting human exploitation of lakeshore habitats (aquatic resources) in the early Holocene. In documenting several sites in a region that had seen little prior research, and generating a secured date for one of the sites, this work has so far contributed important information to the Holocene archaeology of the Turkana Basin.




To view more photos check the slideshow below.