Recently David Sánchez (of Noticias de Prehistoria – Prehistoria al Día[es]
me to collaborate in a series at his blog on the early prehistory and expansion of Homo sapiens, from the viewpoints of both archaeology and population genetics. I gladly accepted, of course. The first articles will be published in the next days/weeks at his blog (I plan to make synthesis of them in English here but not full translations – too much work). The bulk of the archaeological materials will be done by David, while I am taking responsibility mostly for the genetic aspects.
As he has been preparing the first article on the African Middle Stone Age, David stumbled upon a quite fascinating curiosity that was unknown to both and is probably of interest for the readers of this blog: the existence of well-finished proto-harpoons in the MSA of Katanda (North Kivu, D.R. Congo, near Uganda – not to be confused with another larger town named Katanda in the Kasaï-Oriental province) dated to some 110-80,000 years ago.
I can only imagine that this quite unknown but fascinating materials should be of interest to the readers of this blog.
The main direct reference for this unusual finding is:
J.E. Yellen et al., A middle stone age worked bone industry from Katanda, Upper Semliki Valley, Zaire. Science 1995. Pay per view → LINK [doi:10.1126/science.7725100]
Three archaeological sites at Katanda on the Upper Semliki River in the Western Rift Valley of Zaire have provided evidence for a well-developed bone industry in a Middle Stone Age context. Artifacts include both barbed and unbarbed points as well as a daggerlike object. Dating by both direct and indirect means indicate an age of approximately 90,000 years or older. Together with abundant fish (primarily catfish) remains, the bone technology indicates that a complex subsistence specialization had developed in Africa by this time. The level of behavioral competence required is consistent with that of upper Paleolithic Homo sapiens sapiens. These data support an African origin of behaviorally as well as biologically modern humans.
Regardless of the speculations about the so-called “modern human behavior”, what it clearly means is that those ancient Africans produced well-finished barbed proto-harpoons (not known of otherwise until Magdalenian times in Europe) and used them to fish in the Semliki river (being one of the earliest documented cases of this kind of economy).