Publications by authors named "Mary E Prendergast"

12 Publications

  • Page 1 of 1

Collagen fingerprinting traces the introduction of caprines to island Eastern Africa.

R Soc Open Sci 2021 Jul 28;8(7):202341. Epub 2021 Jul 28.

School of Social Science, The University of Queensland, St Lucia, Queensland, Australia.

The human colonization of eastern Africa's near- and offshore islands was accompanied by the translocation of several domestic, wild and commensal fauna, many of which had long-term impacts on local environments. To better understand the timing and nature of the introduction of domesticated caprines (sheep and goat) to these islands, this study applied collagen peptide fingerprinting (Zooarchaeology by Mass Spectrometry or ZooMS) to archaeological remains from eight Iron Age sites, dating between 300 and 1000 CE, in the Zanzibar, Mafia and Comoros archipelagos. Where previous zooarchaeological analyses had identified caprine remains at four of these sites, this study identified goat at seven sites and sheep at three, demonstrating that caprines were more widespread than previously known. The ZooMS results support an introduction of goats to island eastern Africa from at least the seventh century CE, while sheep in our sample arrived one-two centuries later. Goats may have been preferred because, as browsers, they were better adapted to the islands' environments. The results allow for a more accurate understanding of early caprine husbandry in the study region and provide a critical archaeological baseline for examining the potential long-term impacts of translocated fauna on island ecologies.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rsos.202341DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8316820PMC
July 2021

Earliest known human burial in Africa.

Nature 2021 05 5;593(7857):95-100. Epub 2021 May 5.

UMR 5199 CNRS De la Préhistoire à l'Actuel: Culture, Environnement, et Anthropologie (PACEA), Université Bordeaux, Talence, France.

The origin and evolution of hominin mortuary practices are topics of intense interest and debate. Human burials dated to the Middle Stone Age (MSA) are exceedingly rare in Africa and unknown in East Africa. Here we describe the partial skeleton of a roughly 2.5- to 3.0-year-old child dating to 78.3 ± 4.1 thousand years ago, which was recovered in the MSA layers of Panga ya Saidi (PYS), a cave site in the tropical upland coast of Kenya. Recent excavations have revealed a pit feature containing a child in a flexed position. Geochemical, granulometric and micromorphological analyses of the burial pit content and encasing archaeological layers indicate that the pit was deliberately excavated. Taphonomical evidence, such as the strict articulation or good anatomical association of the skeletal elements and histological evidence of putrefaction, support the in-place decomposition of the fresh body. The presence of little or no displacement of the unstable joints during decomposition points to an interment in a filled space (grave earth), making the PYS finding the oldest known human burial in Africa. The morphological assessment of the partial skeleton is consistent with its assignment to Homo sapiens, although the preservation of some primitive features in the dentition supports increasing evidence for non-gradual assembly of modern traits during the emergence of our species. The PYS burial sheds light on how MSA populations interacted with the dead.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41586-021-03457-8DOI Listing
May 2021

The Middle to Later Stone Age transition at Panga ya Saidi, in the tropical coastal forest of eastern Africa.

J Hum Evol 2021 04 11;153:102954. Epub 2021 Mar 11.

Department of Archaeology, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Kahlaische Strasse 10, 07745, Jena, Germany; Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, 600 Maryland Ave SW, Washington, D.C., USA; School of Social Science, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD, 4072, Australia.

The Middle to Later Stone Age transition is a critical period of human behavioral change that has been variously argued to pertain to the emergence of modern cognition, substantial population growth, and major dispersals of Homo sapiens within and beyond Africa. However, there is little consensus about when the transition occurred, the geographic patterning of its emergence, or even how it is manifested in the stone tool technology that is used to define it. Here, we examine a long sequence of lithic technological change at the cave site of Panga ya Saidi, Kenya, that spans the Middle and Later Stone Age and includes human occupations in each of the last five Marine Isotope Stages. In addition to the stone artifact technology, Panga ya Saidi preserves osseous and shell artifacts, enabling broader considerations of the covariation between different spheres of material culture. Several environmental proxies contextualize the artifactual record of human behavior at Panga ya Saidi. We compare technological change between the Middle and Later Stone Age with on-site paleoenvironmental manifestations of wider climatic fluctuations in the Late Pleistocene. The principal distinguishing feature of Middle from Later Stone Age technology at Panga ya Saidi is the preference for fine-grained stone, coupled with the creation of small flakes (miniaturization). Our review of the Middle to Later Stone Age transition elsewhere in eastern Africa and across the continent suggests that this broader distinction between the two periods is in fact widespread. We suggest that the Later Stone Age represents new short use-life and multicomponent ways of using stone tools, in which edge sharpness was prioritized over durability.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhevol.2021.102954DOI Listing
April 2021

Do human butchery patterns exist? A study of the interaction of randomness and channelling in the distribution of cut marks on long bones.

J R Soc Interface 2021 01 27;18(174):20200958. Epub 2021 Jan 27.

Institute of Evolution in Africa (IDEA), Alcalá University, Covarrubias 36, 28010 Madrid, Spain.

Bone surface modifications (BSMs) in faunal assemblages are frequently used to infer past agency and actions of hominins and carnivores, with implications for the emergence of key human behaviours. Patterning of BSMs has mostly been defined as a combination of the intensity of marks per bone portion and sometimes per element. Numerous variables involved in butchery can condition cut mark anatomical distribution, so much so that these variables are widely assumed to be stochastic. Here, we present a new methodological approach using a novel geospatial tool (Ikhnos) which combines the three-dimensional spatial documentation of cut mark patterns with spatial statistics based on wavelets, applied to three experimental and ethnoarchaeological faunal assemblages. We use wavelets to identify patterning of multiple longitudinal series of cut mark distributions on bones, and to establish similarities or differences in patterning within and across different assemblages. This method demonstrates the existence of general and behaviour-specific butchery patterns. It can also be used to effectively assess the proportion of mark clustering that is due to randomness, versus that which is conditioned by the butchery process.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rsif.2020.0958DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7879749PMC
January 2021

Molecular and isotopic evidence for milk, meat, and plants in prehistoric eastern African herder food systems.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2020 05 13;117(18):9793-9799. Epub 2020 Apr 13.

Organic Geochemistry Unit, School of Chemistry, University of Bristol, BS8 1TS Bristol, United Kingdom.

The development of pastoralism transformed human diets and societies in grasslands worldwide. The long-term success of cattle herding in Africa has been sustained by dynamic food systems, consumption of a broad range of primary and secondary livestock products, and the evolution of lactase persistence (LP), which allows digestion of lactose into adulthood and enables the milk-based, high-protein, low-calorie diets characteristic of contemporary pastoralists. Despite the presence of multiple alleles associated with LP in ancient and present-day eastern African populations, the contexts for selection for LP and the long-term development of pastoralist foodways in this region remain unclear. Pastoral Neolithic ( 5000 to 1200 BP) faunas indicate that herders relied on cattle, sheep, and goats and some hunting, but direct information on milk consumption, plant use, and broader culinary patterns is rare. Combined chemical and isotopic analysis of ceramic sherds ( = 125) from Pastoral Neolithic archaeological contexts in Kenya and Tanzania, using compound-specific δC and ΔC values of the major fatty acids, provides chemical evidence for milk, meat, and plant processing by ancient herding societies in eastern Africa. These data provide the earliest direct evidence for milk product consumption and reveal a history of reliance on animal products and other nutrients, likely extracted through soups or stews, and plant foods. They document a 5,000-y temporal framework for eastern Africa pastoralist cuisines and cultural contexts for selection for alleles distinctive of LP in eastern Africa.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1920309117DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7211989PMC
May 2020

Ancient West African foragers in the context of African population history.

Nature 2020 01 22;577(7792):665-670. Epub 2020 Jan 22.

UCL Genetics Institute, University College London, London, UK.

Our knowledge of ancient human population structure in sub-Saharan Africa, particularly prior to the advent of food production, remains limited. Here we report genome-wide DNA data from four children-two of whom were buried approximately 8,000 years ago and two 3,000 years ago-from Shum Laka (Cameroon), one of the earliest known archaeological sites within the probable homeland of the Bantu language group. One individual carried the deeply divergent Y chromosome haplogroup A00, which today is found almost exclusively in the same region. However, the genome-wide ancestry profiles of all four individuals are most similar to those of present-day hunter-gatherers from western Central Africa, which implies that populations in western Cameroon today-as well as speakers of Bantu languages from across the continent-are not descended substantially from the population represented by these four people. We infer an Africa-wide phylogeny that features widespread admixture and three prominent radiations, including one that gave rise to at least four major lineages deep in the history of modern humans.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41586-020-1929-1DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8386425PMC
January 2020

Ancient DNA reveals a multistep spread of the first herders into sub-Saharan Africa.

Science 2019 07 30;365(6448). Epub 2019 May 30.

Department of Anthropology, California State University, San Bernardino, CA 92407, USA.

How food production first entered eastern Africa ~5000 years ago and the extent to which people moved with livestock is unclear. We present genome-wide data from 41 individuals associated with Later Stone Age, Pastoral Neolithic (PN), and Iron Age contexts in what are now Kenya and Tanzania to examine the genetic impacts of the spreads of herding and farming. Our results support a multiphase model in which admixture between northeastern African-related peoples and eastern African foragers formed multiple pastoralist groups, including a genetically homogeneous PN cluster. Additional admixture with northeastern and western African-related groups occurred by the Iron Age. These findings support several movements of food producers while rejecting models of minimal admixture with foragers and of genetic differentiation between makers of distinct PN artifacts.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.aaw6275DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6827346PMC
July 2019

Publisher Correction: 78,000-year-old record of Middle and Later Stone Age innovation in an East African tropical forest.

Nat Commun 2018 06 5;9(1):2242. Epub 2018 Jun 5.

Department of Archaeology, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Kahlaische Strasse 10, Jena, D-07745, Germany.

The originally published version of this Article contained an error in Fig. 3, whereby an additional unrelated graph was overlaid on top of the magnetic susceptibility plot. Furthermore, the Article title contained an error in the capitalisation of 'Stone Age'. Both of these errors have now been corrected in both the PDF and HTML versions of the Article.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41467-018-04753-0DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5988799PMC
June 2018

78,000-year-old record of Middle and Later stone age innovation in an East African tropical forest.

Nat Commun 2018 05 9;9(1):1832. Epub 2018 May 9.

Department of Archaeology, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Kahlaische Strasse 10, Jena, D-07745, Germany.

The Middle to Later Stone Age transition in Africa has been debated as a significant shift in human technological, cultural, and cognitive evolution. However, the majority of research on this transition is currently focused on southern Africa due to a lack of long-term, stratified sites across much of the African continent. Here, we report a 78,000-year-long archeological record from Panga ya Saidi, a cave in the humid coastal forest of Kenya. Following a shift in toolkits ~67,000 years ago, novel symbolic and technological behaviors assemble in a non-unilinear manner. Against a backdrop of a persistent tropical forest-grassland ecotone, localized innovations better characterize the Late Pleistocene of this part of East Africa than alternative emphases on dramatic revolutions or migrations.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41467-018-04057-3DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5943315PMC
May 2018

Reconstructing Prehistoric African Population Structure.

Cell 2017 Sep;171(1):59-71.e21

McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, Cambridge CB2 3ER, UK; British Institute in Eastern Africa, Nairobi 30710, Kenya.

We assembled genome-wide data from 16 prehistoric Africans. We show that the anciently divergent lineage that comprises the primary ancestry of the southern African San had a wider distribution in the past, contributing approximately two-thirds of the ancestry of Malawi hunter-gatherers ∼8,100-2,500 years ago and approximately one-third of the ancestry of Tanzanian hunter-gatherers ∼1,400 years ago. We document how the spread of farmers from western Africa involved complete replacement of local hunter-gatherers in some regions, and we track the spread of herders by showing that the population of a ∼3,100-year-old pastoralist from Tanzania contributed ancestry to people from northeastern to southern Africa, including a ∼1,200-year-old southern African pastoralist. The deepest diversifications of African lineages were complex, involving either repeated gene flow among geographically disparate groups or a lineage more deeply diverging than that of the San contributing more to some western African populations than to others. We finally leverage ancient genomes to document episodes of natural selection in southern African populations. PAPERCLIP.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2017.08.049DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5679310PMC
September 2017

Reconstructing Asian faunal introductions to eastern Africa from multi-proxy biomolecular and archaeological datasets.

PLoS One 2017 17;12(8):e0182565. Epub 2017 Aug 17.

Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Jena, Germany.

Human-mediated biological exchange has had global social and ecological impacts. In sub-Saharan Africa, several domestic and commensal animals were introduced from Asia in the pre-modern period; however, the timing and nature of these introductions remain contentious. One model supports introduction to the eastern African coast after the mid-first millennium CE, while another posits introduction dating back to 3000 BCE. These distinct scenarios have implications for understanding the emergence of long-distance maritime connectivity, and the ecological and economic impacts of introduced species. Resolution of this longstanding debate requires new efforts, given the lack of well-dated fauna from high-precision excavations, and ambiguous osteomorphological identifications. We analysed faunal remains from 22 eastern African sites spanning a wide geographic and chronological range, and applied biomolecular techniques to confirm identifications of two Asian taxa: domestic chicken (Gallus gallus) and black rat (Rattus rattus). Our approach included ancient DNA (aDNA) analysis aided by BLAST-based bioinformatics, Zooarchaeology by Mass Spectrometry (ZooMS) collagen fingerprinting, and direct AMS (accelerator mass spectrometry) radiocarbon dating. Our results support a late, mid-first millennium CE introduction of these species. We discuss the implications of our findings for models of biological exchange, and emphasize the applicability of our approach to tropical areas with poor bone preservation.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0182565PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5560628PMC
October 2017

Continental Island Formation and the Archaeology of Defaunation on Zanzibar, Eastern Africa.

PLoS One 2016 22;11(2):e0149565. Epub 2016 Feb 22.

Research Laboratory for Archaeology and the History of Art, School of Archaeology, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom.

With rising sea levels at the end of the Pleistocene, land-bridge or continental islands were formed around the world. Many of these islands have been extensively studied from a biogeographical perspective, particularly in terms of impacts of island creation on terrestrial vertebrates. However, a majority of studies rely on contemporary faunal distributions rather than fossil data. Here, we present archaeological findings from the island of Zanzibar (also known as Unguja) off the eastern African coast, to provide a temporal perspective on island biogeography. The site of Kuumbi Cave, excavated by multiple teams since 2005, has revealed the longest cultural and faunal record for any eastern African island. This record extends to the Late Pleistocene, when Zanzibar was part of the mainland, and attests to the extirpation of large mainland mammals in the millennia after the island became separated. We draw on modeling and sedimentary data to examine the process by which Zanzibar was most recently separated from the mainland, providing the first systematic insights into the nature and chronology of this process. We subsequently investigate the cultural and faunal record from Kuumbi Cave, which provides at least five key temporal windows into human activities and faunal presence: two at the end of the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), one during the period of post-LGM rapid sea level rise and island formation, and two in the late Holocene (Middle Iron Age and Late Iron Age). This record demonstrates the presence of large mammals during the period of island formation, and their severe reduction or disappearance in the Kuumbi Cave sequence by the late Holocene. While various limitations, including discontinuity in the sequence, problematize attempts to clearly attribute defaunation to anthropogenic or island biogeographic processes, Kuumbi Cave offers an unprecedented opportunity to examine post-Pleistocene island formation and its long-term consequences for human and animal communities.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0149565PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4763145PMC
July 2016
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