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Chronology of the Acheulean to Middle Stone Age transition in eastern Africa

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Science  15 Mar 2018:
eaao2216
DOI: 10.1126/science.aao2216

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Abstract

The origin of the Middle Stone Age (MSA) denotes the transition from a highly persistent mode of stone toolmaking, the Acheulean, to a period of increasing technological innovation and cultural indicators associated with the evolution of Homo sapiens. Here we use 40Ar/39Ar and U-series dating to calibrate the chronology of Acheulean- and early MSA-rich sedimentary deposits in the Olorgesailie Basin, South Kenya Rift. We establish the age of late Acheulean tool assemblages from 615 to 499 ka, after which a large technological and faunal transition occurred, with definitive MSA lacking Acheulean elements beginning most likely by ~320 ka, but at least by 305 ka. These results establish the currently oldest repository of MSA in eastern Africa.

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