Geoarchaeological Investigations of Late Pleistocene Physical Environments and Impacts of Prehistoric Foragers on the Ecosystem in Northern Malawi and Austria

DSpace Repository


Dokumentart: PhDThesis
Date: 2023-01-17
Language: English
Faculty: 7 Mathematisch-Naturwissenschaftliche Fakultät
Department: Geographie, Geoökologie, Geowissenschaft
Advisor: Junginger, Annett (Prof. Dr.)
Day of Oral Examination: 2022-10-28
DDC Classifikation: 000 - Computer science, information and general works
300 - Social sciences, sociology and anthropology
500 - Natural sciences and mathematics
550 - Earth sciences
930 - History of ancient world to ca. 499
Keywords: Middle stone age , Malawi , Geoarchäologie , Mikromorphologie
Other Keywords:
Middle Stone Age , Malawi , geoarchaeology , alluvial fan , paleoenvironments , micromorphology , stable carbon and oxygen isotopes , cathodoluminescence microscopy
Show full item record


A growing body of research shows that not only did environmental changes play an important role in human evolution, but humans in turn have impacted ecosystems and landscape evolution since the Late Pleistocene. This thesis presents collaborative work on Late Pleistocene open-air sites in the Karonga District of northern Malawi, in which new aspects of forager behavior came to light through the reconstruction of physical environments. My work has helped recognize that late Middle Stone Age (MSA) activity and tool production occurred in locally more open riparian environments within evergreen gallery forest, surrounded by a regional vegetation dominated by miombo woodlands and savanna. Additionally, MSA hunter-gatherers exploited the confluence of river and wetland areas along the shores of Lake Malawi, which likely served as important corridors for the dispersal of biota. By comparing data from the archaeological investigations with lake core records, we were able to identify effects of anthropogenic burning on vegetation structures and sedimentation in the region as early as 80 thousand years ago. These findings not only proved it possible to uncover early impacts of human activity on the ecosystem, but also emphasize the importance of fire in the lives of early foragers. Publications contained within this dissertation: A. Wright, D.K., Thompson, J.C., Schilt, F.C., Cohen, A., Choi, J-H., Mercader, J., Nightingale, S., Miller, C.E., Mentzer, S.M., Walde, D., Welling, M., and Gomani-Chindebvu, E. “Approaches to Middle Stone Age landscape archaeology in tropical Africa”. Special issue Geoarchaeology of the Tropics of Journal of Archaeological Science 77:64-77. B. Schilt, F.C., Verpoorte, A., Antl, W. “Micromorphology of an Upper Paleolithic cultural layer at Grub-Kranawetberg, Austria”. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 14:152-162. C. Nightingale, S., Schilt, F.C., Thompson, J.C., Wright, D.K., Forman, S., Mercader, J., Moss, P., Clarke, S. Itambu, M., Gomani-Chindebvu, E., Welling, M. Late Middle Stone Age Behavior and Environments at Chaminade I (Karonga, Malawi). Journal of Paleolithic Archaeology 2-3:258-397. D. Thompson, J.C.*, Wright, D.K.*, Ivory, S.J.*, Choi, J-H., Nightingale, S., Mackay, A., Schilt, F.C., Otárola-Castillo, E., Mercader, J., Forman, S.L., Pietsch, T., Cohen, A.S., Arrowsmith, J.R., Welling, M., Davis, J., Schiery, B., Kaliba, P., Malijani, O., Blome, M.W., O’Driscoll, C., Mentzer, S.M., Miller, C., Heo, S., Choi, J., Tembo, J., Mapemba, F., Simengwa, D., and Gomani-Chindebvu, E. “Early human impacts and ecosystem reorganization in southern-central Africa”. Science Advances 7(19): eabf9776. *equal contribution E. Schilt, F.C., Miller, C.M., Wright, D.K., Mentzer, S.M., Mercader, J., Moss, Choi, J.-H., Siljedal, G., Clarke, S., Mwambwiga, A., Thomas, K., Barbieri, A., Kaliba, P., Gomani-Chindebvu, E., Thompson, J.C. “Hunter-gatherer environments at the Late Pleistocene sites of Bruce and Mwanganda´s Village, northern Malawi”. Quaternary Science Reviews 292: 107638. [untranslated]

This item appears in the following Collection(s)