Survey and explorations of caves in southeastern Ethiopia: Middle Stone Age and Later Stone Age archaeology and Holocene rock art


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September 2014


The horn of Africa provides the setting for the evolution of early modern humans and their dispersal out of Africa as well as for the entry, many thousands of years later, of pastoralists who brought Near Eastern and, later, South Asian livestock into Africa. However, significant gaps remain in our understanding of the late Upper Pleistocene archaeological record of the horn of Africa, mainly due to the paucity of well-stratified sites from the period. The discovery in southeastern Ethiopia of a number of caves with rich Upper Pleistocene and Holocene archaeological deposits, many of which also had rock art depicting domestic animals, offers an unprecedented opportunity for exploring the later prehistory of the region. In 2007, 2008 our survey documented twenty-one cave sites and shelters with evidence of cultural deposits, including Middle Stone Age (MSA) and Later Stone Age (LSA) stone artifacts, faunal remains, and rock art. Active and fossil speleothems, important for paleoclimatic reconstructions and chronology, were found from two other caves in eastern and western Harerghe. Test excavations were conducted at three sites, with abundant archaeological material documented from stratified deposits at two of these sites – Gilbo Tate and Goda Buticha. The latter is a subject of another paper in this volume. Rock art was recorded at eighteen sites, three of which (in western Harerghe) had not previously been documented. At many of the sites, much of the art is faded and in a vulnerable state, and continued efforts to document and conserve this art are urgently needed.


Survey, Explorations, Caves, Caves In Southeastern Ethiopia, Middle Stone Age, Later Stone Age, Archaeology, Holoscene Rock Art

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Quaternary International, Vol. 343 (2014-09-01).