Chilga Kernet: An Acheulean Landscape on Ethiopia's Western Plateau. (News & Notes)

By Todd, Lawrence; Glantz, Michelle et al. | Antiquity, September 2002 | Go to article overview

Chilga Kernet: An Acheulean Landscape on Ethiopia's Western Plateau. (News & Notes)


Todd, Lawrence, Glantz, Michelle, Kappelman, John, Antiquity


In the closing days of the British Abyssinian campaign, J. Desmond Clark spent a hurried hour at a Fauresmith site east of Gondar, Ethiopia, collecting artefacts that are now described as Acheulian bifaces. He then left to participate in the military assault on the town (Clark 1945) and the next day, 27 November 1941, witnessed the fall of Gondar and the final liberation of Ethiopia from Italian rule. Shortly thereafter, Moysey excavated a small rock shelter near the former Italian military station at Gorgora (Moysey 1943) and L.S.B. Leakey (1943) described the collections. This pioneering work represents the entire published corpus on Palaeolithic archaeology in the Gondar, Gojam and Welega Regions of Ethiopia (FIGURE 1). Although these two reports are among the earliest published records of archaeological sites for the country, their significance has been eclipsed by more recent palaeoanthropological study of the Rift Valley of eastern Ethiopia, particularly of the Afar and Awash localities.

[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]

Since 1998 the Blue Nile Basin Survey Project has focused on Oligocene vertebrate palaeontology and palaeobotany west of Gondar. In 2002, investigations began at a location in the Chilga district that is similar to Clark's Gondar Fauresmith site. This preliminary work suggests that Clark's Gondar site may be part of a much more extensive Acheulean record on the Plateau. At Chilga Kernet (12[degrees]31'56.33"N, 36[degrees]07'31.83"E), as at Gondar, the raw material is predominately fine-grained basalt and surface-collected artefacts are so weathered that `all evidence of their human origin except their shape has been lost' (Clark 1945: 22).

The distribution of the Acheulian techno-complex has been interpreted as the result of palaeo-climatic and ecological factors, such as the glaciation and desertification of the Sahara (Clark 1994; Rogers et al. 1994). Given its unique location on the western plateau of Ethiopia and its proximity to the Saharan desert of Sudan, continued work at Chilga Kernet will contribute to our understanding of the factors affecting the hominid colonization of Africa and adjacent parts of the Old World.

Chilga Kernet's surface is littered with several thousand hand axes and other heavily weathered basalt implements. Documentation began by establishing control points using fixed GPS receivers and post-processing geodetic triangulation (FIGURE 2). Then a sub-centimetre accuracy GPS system was used to create a contour map, to map sample collection areas, to lay out three test trenches and to document a subset of the surface artefacts. Surface collections were made in 2x5-m blocks situated on three distinct topographic surfaces. …

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