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Title: The Aterian and its place in the North African Middle Stone Age
Author: Scerri, Eleanor
Awarding Body: University of Southampton
Current Institution: University of Southampton
Date of Award: 2013
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The Aterian is a frequently cited stone tool (‘lithic’) industry of the Middle Stone Age (MSA) (ca. 270-50,000-ka) of North Africa. Dating from at least 145 ka, the Aterian’s association with distinctive ‘tang’ hafted tools, the use of pigments, shell beads and other non-lithic artefacts is hypothesised to represent the earliest manifestations of identity and ethnicity, a reflection of ‘modern human cognition’. However, an alternative view contests the extent of the Aterian’s geographical, temporal and cultural integrity. This thesis is the first detailed study to quantitatively test both these hypotheses and establish the technological character of a region at the nexus of human dispersals. Nineteen spatially and temporally representative lithic assemblages from the North African MSA, together with one outgroup from the Arabian Middle Palaeolithic are compared. Building on the emerging evidence for North African population increases and climatic amelioration in Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 5, this research develops nested analytical models premised on cultural ecology and niche construction. Subsequent analysis explores the North African MSA as a landscape of population differentiation and/or isolation by distance. A suite of multivariate statistics is used to isolate uncorrelated sources of variability in the data. Principal Components, Correspondence and Regression Analyses suggest that the patterns of similarity and difference observed between assemblages do not simplistically articulate with traditional divisions between named industries. In particular, the Aterian is not defined by the presence of tanged tools. Results instead indicate technological convergence and isolation-by distance structure much of the variability. The identification of aggregation sites also attests the presence of social networks. It is argued that the existence of population structure in the North African MSA has important implications for the evolutionary dynamics of modern human dispersals. The methods and models used here are particularly relevant to further exploring the origins of cultural diversification.
Supervisor: Gamble, Clive Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: CC Archaeology