What we’re about

Project Summary

MEMSAPThe Malawi Earlier-Middle Stone Age Project (MEMSAP) is a cross-disciplinary project aimed at understanding changes in human technology, subsistence, and demography across the time period known as the Middle Stone Age (MSA, from ~ 280 – 30 thousand years ago). This is only possible with the establishment of long archaeological and palaeoclimatic sequences embedded within a well-understood chronometric framework. Because individual sites do not cover this entire time period, MEMSAP uses a landscape approach to build a long sequence from different sites present within the exceptional archaeological record of northern Malawi. Ultimately, this sequence will be used to achieve four project goals:

Goal 1: Characterize significant attributes of technological behavior throughout the entire MSA.

Goal 2: Identify important changes in landscape and resource use (lithic raw materials and water sources).

Goal 3: Link demographics to climate variability by identifying if groups moved during periods of harsh climate.

 Goal 4: Test the following six hypotheses about the timing and mechanisms of behavioral/demographic change:

H1: There are detectable differences in stone tool manufacturing techniques over time in a single locality.
H2: Discernible behavioral change took place across the entire Middle Stone Age (rather than only at the end).
H3: Technological change occurred in concert with changed conditions for the availability of lithic raw material resource.
H4: Behavioral change was most rapid and punctuated during periods of harsh climate conditions.
H5: Northernmost Malawi became depopulated during Late Pleistocene megadroughts as lake levels shrank.
H6: Permanent lakeshores in Malawi acted as population refugia during these megadroughts.

Field School

Our team members include students and professional scientists from Africa, Australia, Europe, and the United States. Fieldwork opportunities with MEMSAP are available through an annual field school operated by the University of Queensland (Brisbane, Australia) which is open to students internationally.  To learn more about the 2014 MEMSAP field school, check out the informational flyer here and the course profile on the UQ website.

This Site

Our blog, MEMSAP: Dispatches from the Field, is the best way to follow MEMSAP research during our annual July-August excavation season in Karonga.  Whenever we have a team working on the ground in Malawi check in here for updates straight from the students, professional scientists, and volunteers conducting project fieldwork.  During the off season keep up with MEMSAP events, publications, and presentations and learn what archaeologists do the rest of the year when we’re in the lab or lecture hall.  You can also find us on Facebook here.

This website is maintained by Andrew Zipkin (amzipkin@gwmail.gwu.edu) and Dr. Jessica Thompson (jessica.thompson@emory.edu ), although our many guest bloggers really deserve most of the credit.  Please direct any comments or questions about memsap.org to Andrew and questions about opportunities with MEMSAP (field school, volunteering, donations, scientific collaborations) to Jess.  We look forward to hearing from you!

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