Archaeology

A massive cemetery at Lake Turkana

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Science  28 Sep 2018:
Vol. 361, Issue 6409, pp. 1351
DOI: 10.1126/science.361.6409.1351-a

A view of Lothagam North Pillar, Kenya, built by eastern Africa's earliest herders ∼5000 to 4300 years ago

PHOTO: KATHERINE GRILLO

The oldest monumental architecture in eastern Africa was built about 5000 years ago. Apparently, these are commemorative structures built by pastoralists. Hildebrand et al. report a detailed excavation and ground-penetrating radar survey at the Lothagam North Pillar Site in Kenya. A massive mortuary was revealed, containing the skeletal remains of nearly 600 individuals buried over several centuries. Associated personal ornamentation included beads, colored stone, tusks, and a headpiece with over 400 teeth from more than 100 gerbils. There appeared to be no differentiation by hierarchy, gender, or age. The authors suggest that this site and others like it would have been stable landmarks at which mobile communities could gather and interact.

Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 115, 8942 (2018).

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