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Mossel Bay Archaeology Project

Student researcher at Mossel Bay

The Mossel Bay Archaeology Project (MAP), led by Curtis W. Marean (ASU) and Peter Nilssen (Iziko South African Museums), is a long-term field study of the Middle Stone Age (MSA) in the Mossel Bay region. 

The MSA in South Africa has gained increasing attention due to the discovery of bone tools at Blombos Cave, the abundance of ochre suggesting artistic expression, the presence of a variety of lithic assemblages with advanced technological characteristics, and debates over the interpretation of the fauna.

Linked to these findings are debates over the antiquity of modern human behavior, with some researchers arguing that the South African evidence suggests an early origin of modern behavior, while others suggest a late origin. Resolution of these debates relies on two advances: improvements in our theoretical approach, and an improvement of the empirical record in Africa. We initiated fieldwork at Mossel Bay on the southern coast of the Cape to address the latter deficiency.

Publications: 
C. W. Marean, P. J. Nilssen, K. Brown, A. Jerardino, and D. Stynder. (2004). Paleoanthropological investigations of Middle Stone Age sites at Pinnacle Point, Mossel Bay (South Africa): Archaeology and hominid remains from the 2000 Field Season. Journal of Paleoanthropology 2: 14-83.

C. Henshilwood and C.W. Marean (2003). The origin of modern human behavior: A review and critique of the models and their test implications. Current Anthropology 44:627-651.

P.J. Nilssen and C.W.Marean (2002). Background and results from test excavations of Middle Stone Age sites at Pinnacle Point, Mossel Bay. Quaternary Research Centre Newsletter 10: 1-2.

Presentations and Events: 
Invited Speaker C. W. Marean (2003). "Pinnacle Point at Mossel Bay, South Africa: Recent Field Investigations at a New Hominid and Middle Stone Age Locality." University of Cape Town Archaeology Lecture Series, 11 November.

C. W. Marean, P. Nilssen, A. Jerardino and D. Stynder (2002). "Pinnacle Point at Mossel Bay, South Africa: Recent Field Investigations at a New Hominid and Middle Stone Age Locality." 16th Biennial Conference of Africanist Archaeologists, University of Arizona, May 18-24, 2002.

C. W. Marean, P. Nilssen, A. Jerardino and D. Stynder (2002). "Pinnacle Point at Mossel Bay, South Africa: Recent Field Investigations at a New Hominid and Middle Stone Age Locality." Annual Meeting of the Paleoanthropology Society, Denver, March 27-28. 

Funding Sources:
National Science Foundation
Hyse Family Trust
Iziko South African Museum
University of Cape Town
Dias Museum of Mossel Bay

Curtis Marean, Arizona State University School of Human Evolution and Social Change/Institute of Human Origins, Principal Investigator
Peter Nilssen, Principal Investigator, Iziko South African Museum
Erin Lassiter
Jocelyn Bernatchez, Arizona State University School of Human Evolution and Social Change
Lydia Pyne
Jessica Thompson