Title of the session

THE GENERIC MSA: FACT OR FICTION?

Session Organizer(s)

Dr. Manuel Will,
Department of Early Prehistory and Quaternary Ecology,
University of Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany.
Email: Manuel.Will@uni-tuebingen.de


Prof. Dr. Eleanor Scerri,
Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History,
Pan African Evolution Research Group, Jena, Germany.
Email: scerri@shh.mpg.de

Delivery format

Podium

Nature of a session

Podium (there is already have a large number of contributions, so we would be restrictive)

Session abstract

Recent decades have seen a surge of interest in the Middle Stone Age (MSA) as it constitutes the archaeological background to the early evolution of Homo sapiens. However, research primacy has typically been given to rare regional and temporal signatures of MSA technological diversity and material culture. These include, for example, the Still Bay, Howiesons Poort, Lupemban and Aterian. In contrast, archaeological assemblages apparently lacking these features have received little attention and are often subsumed under the catch-all term of ‘generic MSA’. The marginalization of this material culture record is problematic. Firstly, it dominates the MSA archaeological record. Secondly, there has been no quantitative study to justify subsuming ~250.000 years of spatial and temporal variability into a single category. This symposium gathers together researchers working in different African regions with the aim to scrutinize apparently ‘non-specific’ MSA lithic assemblages across time and space, evaluating their commonality on different chronological and geographical scales. The session invites comparative quantitative studies within and across regions, methodological advances to reach these goals, and the integration of contextual, paleoecological, and paleoanthropological data to understand the validity of the term ‘generic MSA’ and alternative hypotheses in the wider framework of modern human cultural and biological evolution.

Keywords: Middle Stone Age; Stone tools; Comparative analyses; Population structure; Quantitative studies

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