Renewed investigations into the Middle Stone Age of northern Malawi



Publication Details

Thompson, J. C., Mackay, A., Wright, D. K., Welling, M., Greaves, A., Gomani-Chindebvu, E. & Simengwa, D. (2012). Renewed investigations into the Middle Stone Age of northern Malawi. Quaternary International, 270, 129-139.


J. Desmond Clark and his colleagues were first to investigate the rich Middle Stone Age (MSA – from ca. 285 to 30,000 years ago) deposits in the Karonga District of northern Malawi in the 1960s. This work demonstrated the enormous potential of the area to inform about Middle to Late Pleistocene hominin lifeways, but further studies were hindered by difficulties in dating the sites and understanding their fine-scale depositional and paleoenvironmental contexts. With the advances that have been made in the fields of geoarchaeology, lithic analysis, palaeoenvironments, and geochronology over the last fifty years, the time is ideal to renew these investigations. Recent survey and excavation in Karonga, Malawi show that MSA lithic artifacts are preserved in a variety of stratified sedimentary contexts and that they exhibit limited weathering or other indications of post-depositional transport. These deposits are in close proximity to the high-resolution paleoenvironmental records derived from sediments at the bottom of nearby Lake Malawi, which provide context for the human behavior recorded by the artifacts. Results of excavations at one of these stratified sites – the Airport Site – are detailed here. This provides a renewed example of the site formation and behavioral data available in the region.

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