Coupled natural human systems on the West Coast of South Africa: Preliminary models
David Braun
Tue, 10/11/2020 - 18:00
Western Cape

Coupled natural human systems on the West Coast of South Africa: Preliminary models. 
By: Professor David Braun
Link to YouTube Live event:
Despite advances in our understanding of the geographic and temporal scope of the Paleolithic record, we know remarkably little about the evolutionary and ecological consequences of changes in human behavior. Recent inquiries suggest that human evolution reflects a long history of interconnections between the behavior of humans and their surrounding ecosystems (e.g. niche construction). Developing expectations to identify such phenomena is remarkably difficult because it requires understanding the multi-generational impacts of changes in behavior. These long-term dynamics require insights into the emergent phenomena that alter selective pressures at time scales which are not possible to observe, and are also not intuitive based on the ethnographic record. Generative models show promise for probing these potentially unexpected consequences of human-environment interaction. Changes in the uses of landscapes may have long term implications for the environments that hominins occupied. We explore these proxies of behavior in a series of archaeological sites on the West Coast of South Africa and examine how modelling may provide expectations for a variety of phenomena.

David Braun is a Professor of Anthropology at the Department of Anthropology at the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences in Washington DC and he is an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Archaeology at UCT.  He received a doctoral degree in Anthropology (Rutgers University), and was a post-doctoral fellow at the National Museums of Kenya (NSF-IRFP) before taking up his post at UCT in 2007. He was an Alexander von Humboldt Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.
Dr. Braun’s  research interests centre around the basic question of how the production and use of stone artifacts relates to the ecology of our earliest ancestors. This research has three main foci: 1) The experimental determination of the signature of different behaviours as they are reflected in artifact and bone accumulations. This incorporates actualistic methods to parse out the meaning behind patterns in stone artifacts 2) The provenance of stone material collected by hominins for the production of stone artifacts. This research involves the collection and sampling of numerous rock outcrops and using geochemical methods to link sources to archaeological specimens 3) The excavation of large collections of prehistoric stone tools in various ecological settings.  This research is driven by the question of how and why stone artifacts vary through time and across space. Further, what does this variation mean for the selective pressures driving early hominin behaviour and cognition? Most of this research has been focused on some of the earliest occurrences of stone artifacts in East Africa. My research has focused on two major localities in Kenya  (Koobi Fora, Turkana Basin and Kanjera, Kavirondo Basin) as well as research in in South Africa in the Early Pleistocene (Elandsfontein, Western Cape, South Africa) and Ethiopia (Gademotta, Main Ethiopian Rift; Ledi-Geraru, Afar).

Link to YouTube Live event: