Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Giant Stone-age Axes Found In African Lake Basin

Date:
September 14, 2009
Source:
University of Oxford
Summary:
A giant African lake basin is providing information about possible migration routes and hunting practices of early humans in the Middle and Late Stone Age periods, between 150,000 and 10,000 years ago. Researchers have documented thousands of stone tools on the lake bed, which sheds new light on how humans in Africa adapted to several substantial climate change events during the period that coincided with the last Ice Age in Europe.

Four giant stone hand axes were recovered from the the dry basin of Lake Makgadikgadi in the Kalahari Desert.
Credit: Image courtesy of University of Oxford

A giant African lake basin is providing information about possible migration routes and hunting practices of early humans in the Middle and Late Stone Age periods, between 150,000 and 10,000 years ago.

Related Articles


Oxford University researchers have unearthed new evidence from the lake basin in Botswana that suggests that the region was once much drier at certain times and wetter at other times than it is today.

They have documented thousands of stone tools on the lake bed, which sheds new light on how humans in Africa adapted to several substantial climate change events during the period that coincided with the last Ice Age in Europe.

Researchers from the School of Geography and the Environment at the University of Oxford are surveying the now-dry basin of Lake Makgadikgadi in the Kalahari Desert, which at 66,000 square kilometres is about the same size of present day Lake Victoria.

Their research was prompted by the discovery of the first of what are believed to be the world’s largest stone tools on the bed of the lake. Although the first find was made in the 1990s, the discovery of four giant axes has not been scientifically reported until now. Four giant stone hand axes, measuring over 30 cm long and of uncertain age, were recovered from the lake basin.

Equally remarkable is that the dry lake floor where they were found is also littered with tens of thousands of other smaller stone-age tools and flakes, the researchers report.

Professor David Thomas, Head of the School of Geography and the Environment at the University of Oxford, said: ‘Many of the tools were found on the dry lake floor, not around its edge, which challenges the view that big lakes were only attractive to humans when they were full of water.

'As water levels in the lake went down, or during times when they fluctuated seasonally, wild animals would have congregated round the resulting watering holes on the lake bed. It’s likely that early human populations would have seen this area as a prolific hunting ground when food resources in the region were more concentrated than at times when the regional climate was wetter and food was more plentiful and the lake was full of water.’

This work is part of an ongoing project investigating the complex history of major changes in climate in Africa. Co-researcher Dr Sallie Burrough has dated the sediment and shorelines of the lake basin, which has shown that the mega lake was filled with water on multiple occasions in the last 250,000 years. The research team has also investigated islands on the floor of the lake – remnants of former sand dunes – which suggest the region’s climate has also been both windier and markedly drier than it is today.

Professor Thomas said: ‘The interior of southern Africa has usually been seen as being devoid of significant archaeology. Surprisingly, we have found and logged incredibly extensive Middle Stone Age artefacts spread over a vast area of the lake basin.

'The record the basin is revealing is one of marked human adaptation in the past. Early humans saw the opportunity to use the lake basin when it was not full of water, but at least seasonally dry. It shows that humans have adapted to climate change and variability in a sustained way.'

Many archaeologists believe that equivalent lakes in the North African Sahara desert played an important part in the ‘Out of Africa’ human expansion theory, as the ancestors of all modern humans would have chosen a wet route out of Africa. The new research is the first time that this giant Botswanan lake basin in southern Africa has been the focus of scientific research, and these findings could provide new evidence to support the theory about a hominid migration through and expansion from Africa.

Professor Thomas and Dr Burrough are planning further research into how the lake was formed and how it came and went. They say that the most likely explanation is that sustained periods of greater rainfall in the Angolan Highlands resulted in much greater flow in the Zambezi River, with the water being diverted into the lake basin due to a quirk of geology.

New research, beginning in 2010 and funded by the Leverhulme Trust, will investigate possible links between the lake basin and the Zambezi River, while initial discussions are in hand for setting up a major international geo-archaeologist programme to further unravel the complexities of human-climate-environment interactions in this important and under-researched region.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Oxford. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Oxford. "Giant Stone-age Axes Found In African Lake Basin." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 September 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090911134624.htm>.
University of Oxford. (2009, September 14). Giant Stone-age Axes Found In African Lake Basin. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090911134624.htm
University of Oxford. "Giant Stone-age Axes Found In African Lake Basin." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090911134624.htm (accessed October 30, 2014).

Share This



More Fossils & Ruins News

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Dracula's Dungeon May Have Been Found in Turkey

Dracula's Dungeon May Have Been Found in Turkey

AP (Oct. 29, 2014) — Historians think they may have discovered a dungeon in Turkey where the Romanian prince who inspired Count Dracula was once held captive. (Oct. 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Study Doesn't Prove Megalodons Are Extinct, Never Needed To

Study Doesn't Prove Megalodons Are Extinct, Never Needed To

Newsy (Oct. 27, 2014) — How and why a study about when the giant prehistoric shark Megalodon went extinct got picked up as "proof" that it is. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
One-of-a-Kind BMW 507 Boat Found After 6 Decades

One-of-a-Kind BMW 507 Boat Found After 6 Decades

Buzz60 (Oct. 27, 2014) — BMW made just one BMW 507 boat, but it was lost for decades until a young man found and restored it. TC Newman (@PurpleTCNewman) shows the gorgeous boat! Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Deep Sea 'mushroom' Could Be Early Branch on Tree of Life

Deep Sea 'mushroom' Could Be Early Branch on Tree of Life

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 24, 2014) — Miniature deep sea animals discovered off the Australian coast almost three decades ago are puzzling scientists, who say the organisms have proved impossible to categorise. Academics at the Natural History of Denmark have appealed to the world scientific community for help, saying that further information on Dendrogramma enigmatica and Dendrogramma discoides could answer key evolutionary questions. Jim Drury has more. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

    Environment News

    Technology News



    Save/Print:
    Share:  

    Free Subscriptions


    Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

    Get Social & Mobile


    Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

    Have Feedback?


    Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
    Mobile iPhone Android Web
    Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
    Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
    Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins