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Terminal Pleistocene Later Stone Age Human Remains from the Mlambalasi Rock Shelter, Iringa Region, Southern Tanzania

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Abstract

This paper introduces research at the Mlambalasi rock shelter in the Iringa Region of southern Tanzania. The deposits are composed of a historic and Iron Age occupation, a microlithic Holocene Later Stone Age (LSA), and then a macrolithic Late Pleistocene LSA. Middle Stone Age deposits are also present on the slope in front of the rock shelter. Excavations in A.D. 2002, 2006, and 2010 yielded fragmentary human remains as well as pottery, iron, stone tools, faunal bone, and glass and ostrich eggshell beads. Among the human remains, four individuals are present: two adults and a juvenile were found in the same LSA context, and another adult associated with the Iron Age/historic period. The most complete skeleton is an adult of indeterminate sex that was found in situ in an LSA deposit. Charcoal in proximity to the bone was AMS radiocarbon dated to 12,925 cal BC (OxA-24620), which is consistent with radiocarbon dates on giant land snail shells from above and below the remains. The skeleton exhibits a series of pathological changes such as extensive dental wear and carious lesions, as well as damage most likely caused by termites, post-mortem. The most striking aspect of this individual is its small size; stature and body mass estimations place it in the range of historic Khoesan from southern Africa. Consequently, this research adds to the discourse regarding the existence of small-bodied people in the East African LSA. Findings from this new skeletal sample will contribute to studies of human biology and variation in Africa during the terminal Pleistocene and Holocene. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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