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East African artifacts support evolution of symbolic thinking in Middle Stone Age

New finds from an open-air archaeological site in the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania have intriguing implications for the evolution of modern human behavior, including further indications that symbolic thinking developed in humans earlier than the currently accepted date of about 35,000 years ago.

Archaeologists studying the site say it may contain some of the strongest evidence yet for the early development of modern cultural behavior in humans, and is the first such discovery of its kind in East Africa, indicating that cultural modernity may have been widespread across Africa during the Middle Stone Age.

In a presentation to be delivered at the annual Paleoanthropology Society meeting on March 31 in Montreal, an international team of scientists will discuss recent findings at a site in the Loiyangalani River Valley in the Serengeti National Park. The researchers will report that preliminary excavation has yielded ochre pencils, bone artifacts, fish bones, mammal bones and two ostrich egg shell beads in association with an assembly of Middle Stone Age tools. There are other ostrich eggshell fragments that may represent debris from bead manufacture. The Middle Stone Age in East Africa originates as early as 280,000 years ago, and is replaced by the Later Stone Age at about 45,000 years ago, though none of the Loiyangalani finds have been precisely dated as of yet using advanced dating techniques.

Presenting the paper are J.C. Thompson from the Department of Anthropology at Arizona State University, project co-director J.R.F. Bower (Professor Emeritus, Department of Anthropology at Iowa State University and research associate in the Department of Anthropology at the University of California Davis), E.C. Fisher from the Department of Anthropology at the University of Florida, project co-director A.Z.P. Mabulla of the Archaeology Unit at the University of Dar es Salaam, C.W. Marean from the Institute of Human Origins and Department of
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Contact: James Hathaway
Hathaway@asu.edu
480-965-6375
Arizona State University
31-Mar-2004


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