The Archaeology of Konso-Gardula

Session Date: 
May 31, 2019

Early Pleistocene archaeological sites of East Africa have provided us with a wealth of data that is unparalleled anywhere else. The earliest Oldowan and Acheulean industries have been respectively dated to circum 2.6 Ma and 1.75 Ma. The “transition” between the Oldowan and Acheulean technologies and the dynamics that are associated with it are addressed through paleontological and paleoecological studies. At Konso, both Homo erectus and Australopithecus boisei remains are found at the circum 1.4 Ma level, suggesting divergent adaptive strategies of the two species lineages.

The shift from the simple core-flake technology called the Oldowan to the knapping of large flake blanks off from large boulders is evidenced at least at two sites, notably at Konso-Gardula in south Ethiopia and at Kokiselei, west of Lake Turkana, Kenya. At Konso-Gardula, it was demonstrated that the knapping of large flakes from mega-cores and shaping of large cutting tools (LCT) had started by 1.75 Ma and showed important technological changes thereafter. This is seen at various localities until 0.8 Ma, spanning the crudest forms of LCT shaping to the finely made 3D symmetric bifaces.

Acheulean assemblages were recovered from four major time periods at Konso, demonstrating considerable technological changes across time. At 1.75 Ma, the earliest LCTs are represented by large flakes, picks, unifacial handaxes and cleavers; a more typical early Acheulean first occurs at 1.6 Ma and diversifies by circum 1.4 Ma; finally, classical Acheulean assemblages with finely made bifaces emerge by 0.8 Ma. Excavations made in the earlier Konso succession (1.75 – 1.4 Ma) have resulted in the discovery of both Mode I and Mode II assemblages suggesting the coexistence of both technologies at Konso, while, at the same time, development of the Acheulean technology was in full action.