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2018-12-18 07:35:08   •   ID: 2060

MSA from the Shores of Lake Turkana

Figure 1
Figure 2
This is a 7 cm long and elongated partial bifacial MSA Point made from yellow brownish patinated Chert.

It was found by Professor Phillip Schupp in 1949 and was part of a collection, which included ESA and MSA from the Omo valley also.

This MSA tool is a surface find from the Northern Rift Valley, NW Kenya, Africa, at the confluence of Lake Turkana and the Omo River.

The Omo-Turkana basin is hypothesized to have been served as a major refugium and a center of human evolution during times of aridity and ecological stress during the Pleistocene.

Decennia ago L.S.B Leaky called ensembles, characterized by Levallois-technique and bifacial Points of Lake Naivasha Bassin, further South in Kenya: "Kenya Stillbay".

A similar nomenclature was used by Clark for bifacial MSA ensembles further North near the Horn of Africa ("Somaliland Stillbay"). The idea behind such designation was a suggested migration of People using these stools from S-Africa to the Horn of Africa - or the other way round

Today Archaeologists do not deny, that bifacial MSA points and even larger bifacial foliates are a nearly Pan-African phenomenon (see here: 2024 ), but beyond a cuture historical approach, alternative explanations, like diffusion of ideas, repeated invention, functional properties on such highly curated artifacts, reworking actions and specific mobility patterns of their makers are more convincing as explanations of tool morphology and have to be considered.

In addition, the broad umbrella of a continent wide Stillbay, ignores an enormous techno-typological variability of bifacial Points over the Continent.

There are limited absolute dates for the Kenia Stillbay. At Malewa Gorge in South Kenya this industry has been recovered from beneath a tuff, originally dated to 240 k.a. During a re-dating program a more reliable age of 102 ± 16 k.a. (MIS5) was obtained.

In 1965 Withworth described a "Kenya Stillbay" from the Lake Turkana, near the find-spot of the point shown here.

The 1965 Turkana ensemble is characterised by Leaf points in abundance, with facetted bases, suggestive of their production from Levallois blanks.

This technological trait brought the proposed unity of a pan-East / South African Stillbay ad absurdum.

The original Stillbay points of South Africa are made by façonnage and not by debitage techniques, and were produced by pressure flaking of heat treated material, often Silcrete. Levallois production was not part of the operational sequence.

Interestingly the 1965 ensemble was made from the same yellow-brownish flint, used for the specimen shown here.

The elongated point of this post was made from a blade- similar to examples from Omo Kibish- see 1668 and to the morphology of Jerzmanovician Leaf points of N/W- Europe.

Secondary retouching has removed the stiking platform and therefore it remains unclear if the original blank was Levallois or a product of uni- or bipolar blade technology, which is contested from the Kenyan MSA since its beginning (at ca 300-500 k.a.).

Suggested Reading:: Early reports of the Somali / Kenya "Stillbay". outdated but important by their illustrations...

L. S. B. Leakey: The Stone Age Cultures of Kenya Colony; Cambridge 1931.

Clark, J.D., 1954. The prehistoric cultures of the horn of Africa. Cambridge University Press.

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