The 81st Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2012)


Human fossils from the Paleolithic of Buticha Cave, Ethiopia: results from excavations in 2008 and 2011 with a consideration of the taphonomical context

O. M. PEARSON1, Z. ASSEFA2, D. PLEURDEAU3, E. HOVERS4, A. ASRAT5, Y. M. LAM6, J.-J. BAHAIN3, A. LEPLONGEON3, F. DUQUESNOY7, J.-L. LE QUELLEC7 and C. T/TSION8.

1Department of Anthropology, University of New Mexico, USA, 2Department of Anthropology, Archaeobiology Program & Human Origins Program, National Museum of Natural History, USA, 3Institute de Paléontologie Humaine and Département de Préhistoire, Musée National d’Histoire Naturelle, France, 4Institute of Archaeology, Hebrew University, Israel, 5Department of Earth Sciences, Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia, 6Department of Anthropology, University of Victoria, Canada, 7LAMPEA/MMSH, Université Aix en Provence, France, 8retired, National Museum of Ethiopia

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Excavations in 2008 and 2011 at Buticha Cave (Goda Buticha) near Dire Dawa, Ethiopia, exposed a 2.5-meter-deep sequence of cultural strata, divided into two depositional complexes. The upper complex consists of a series of very fine-grained silts, often light in color, and contains pottery, domesticated fauna, and a lithic industry dominated by obsidian tools. The lower complex occupies the bottom 140-160 cm of the sequence, consists of fine brown silt and gravel, contains wild fauna and a LSA or MSA industry dominated by chert artifacts, and has yielded ten hominin specimens. Preliminary calibrated radiocarbon dates bracket nine of the hominin specimens at between 6.3 ka and 35 ka. The last, a fragment of cranial vault, is older than 35 ka. The hominins are represented by five permanent teeth or tooth fragments, two small fragments of cranial vault, a proximal pollical phalanx, a proximal pedal phalanx, and a metacarpal diaphysis. With one exception, the teeth are small in size compared to those of modern South African blacks, of A-Group Nubians, of Nubian samples from the terminal Paleolithic, and from MSA contexts at other sites in Africa, although this last sample does include some notably small individuals. The postcranial specimens are average to small relative to those of recent Africans. The lower complex also contains abundant microfauna and numerous hyena coprolites. Human occupations of Buticha Cave appear to have been ephemeral. The mode and agent of accumulation of the hominin specimens remain to be determined.

Work at Buticha was graciously supported by the National Geographic Society and the Wenner-Gren Foundation.

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