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Journal Article

Explanations of variability in Middle Stone Age stone tool assemblage composition and raw material use in Eastern Africa

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Blinkhorn,  James
Archaeology, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Max Planck Society;
Lise Meitner Pan-African Evolution Research Group, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Blinkhorn, J., & Grove, P. M. (2021). Explanations of variability in Middle Stone Age stone tool assemblage composition and raw material use in Eastern Africa. Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences, 13(1): 14. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1007/s12520-020-01250-8.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0007-AD91-2
Abstract
The Middle Stone Age (MSA) corresponds to a critical phase in human evolution, overlapping with the earliest emergence of Homo sapiens as well as the expansions of these populations across and beyond Africa. Within the context of growing recognition for a complex and structured population history across the continent, Eastern Africa remains a critical region to explore patterns of behavioural variability due to the large number of well-dated archaeological assemblages compared to other regions. Quantitative studies of the Eastern African MSA record have indicated patterns of behavioural variation across space, time and from different environmental contexts. Here, we examine the nature of these patterns through the use of matrix correlation statistics, exploring whether differences in assemblage composition and raw material use correlate to differences between one another, assemblage age, distance in space, and the geographic and environmental characteristics of the landscapes surrounding MSA sites. Assemblage composition and raw material use correlate most strongly with one another, with site type as well as geographic and environmental variables also identified as having significant correlations to the former, and distance in time and space correlating more strongly with the latter. By combining time and space into a single variable, we are able to show the strong relationship this has with differences in stone tool assemblage composition and raw material use, with significance for exploring the impacts of processes of cultural inheritance on variability in the MSA. A significant, independent role for terrain roughness for explaining variability in stone tool assemblages highlights the importance of considering the impacts of mobility on structuring the archaeological record of the MSA of Eastern Africa.