The chronology of hominin occupation in the northern Luangwa Valley, Zambia, during the Plio-Pleistocene

Projet Innovation du Geotop


The Luangwa Valley, Zambia, forms part of the Zambezi drainage and is strategically located between the East African Rift system and the Central African Plateau. The Luangwa is known for its rich paleontological deposits which contributed significantly to our understanding of vertebrate evolution during the Permian-Triassic transition. Despite its proximity to the East African rift, which has a long history of paleoanthropological and archaeological investigation, the archaeological record of the Luangwa Valley is still largely unexplored, however. And yet, this region is critical to our understanding of the dynamics of human evolution in Africa, particularly during the Plio-Pleistocene when global climate cycles greatly affected rainfall patterns in sub-Saharan Africa. Large river systems such as the Zambezi (and by extension, the Luangwa) may have acted as refugia for hominin populations driven off the Central African Plateau by arid conditions (Barham and Brown 2001, Burrough, Thomas, et al. 2019) but this hypothesis remains untested. Recent archaeological explorations in northeastern Luangwa uncovered several concentrations of Early and Middle Stone Age tools in the piedmont region (Burke et al., in press). Unfortunately, we lack the chronological control required to fully understand the history of hominin occupation of the region. This research, therefore, is designed to date archaeological deposits in northeastern Luangwa, using a combination of OSL, paleomagnetism and U/Th dating methods with the aim of producing a sound chronostratigraphic framework with which to test the refugium hypothesis.