The cool, moist, tropical highlands of southwest Ethiopia contrast dramatically with arid environments in the rest of the Horn of Africa. They have seen little archaeological research due to their remote location, wet conditions, and acidic soils and volcanic rocks thought to harbor few shelters or open-air sites capable of organic preservation. In 2004–2005, the Kafa Archaeological Project documented 27 shelters of diverse height, configuration, and formation processes; ten merited test excavations. Three have late Holocene cultural deposits, while another has high densities of ceramics, lithics, bone, and dried plant remains extending back to the middle Holocene. These sites suggest that the tropical highlands of Kafa contain numerous previously occupied caves and rockshelters with good organic preservation. Therefore, they have the potential of 1) establishing the region’s first Holocene cultural chronology that can be compared with better-studied areas of the Horn and eastern Africa; 2) contributing to a regional environmental record; and 3) reconstructing hunter-gatherer, farming and/or herding economics and social organization during a period of increasing socio-political complexity.
Journal of African Archaeology – Brill
Published: Oct 25, 2010
Keywords: Holocene; Later Stone Age; Southwest Ethiopia; rockshelters; highlands