Brook In collaboration with Dr. Lawrence Robbins, Dr. George Brook will conduct archaeological and paleoenvironmental research in the Kalahari Desert of Botswana. They will focus their work at the site of Tsidilo Hills, a rocky outcrop which has been inhabited intermittently for tens of millennia. In recent work, the investigators have discovered 13 prehistoric mines which are cut into these hills. Preliminary evidence indicates that these may be at least 1,000 years in age and that a number of minerals such as mica schist and coloring agents were obtained. In this multidisciplinary project the team will map and photograph all of the mines. They will excavate a series of one meter squares into the charcoal rich mine floors to recover dating samples and artifacts and they will also dig in mine tailings. Test excavations will be conducted in a large painted cave that is located next to one of the mines. A second phase of the project involves a program of paleoenvironmental study which will permit reconstruction of climate and climate change during the period that the mines were in operation. With this data it will be possible to study human-environmental interaction and examine the extent to which mining activities were influenced by climatic change. In situ sediment samples will be collected in the region and sediment texture and chemistry will be determined. Bucket auguring will be conducted to recover sediment samples in adjacent valleys and thin sections collected from stalagmites to measure annual layers. My this means it should be possible to obtain a 2,000 year record of layer thickness, a proxy of rainfall. This data will provide the longest high-resolution proxy record of rainfall for southern Africa and should allow the reconstruction of temporal variation in climate during the period under study. This research is interesting for several reasons. For the last 2,000 years both hunters and gatherers and agriculturalist- pastoralist have inhabited the Ka lahari. Anthropologists have been very interested in the long term relationships between these groups and wish to know whether the Bushman peoples - claimed by many researchers to be "pure hunter gatherers" - did in fact function this way. The study of mining will provide a basis for looking at interaction and trade. In particular it should be possible to determine which group in fact was associated with the mining activities. The environmental research will provide an excellent basis for examining human behavior in a natural context. Many anthropologists have postulated that changes in the extent and intensity of trade networks served to buffer environmental change and unpredictability.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences (BCS)
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Stuart Plattner
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University of Georgia
United States
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