Throughout the Holocene, Lake Turkana has been subject to drastic changes in lake levels and the subsistence strategies people employ to survive in this hot and arid region. In this paper, we reconstruct the position of the lake during the Holocene within a paleoclimatic context. Atmospheric forcing mechanisms are discussed in order to contextualize the broader landscape changes occurring in eastern Africa over the last 12,000 years. The Holocene is divided into five primary phases according to changes in the strand-plain evolution, paleoclimate, and human subsistence strategies practiced within the basin. Early Holocene fishing settlements occurred adjacent to high and relatively stable lake levels. A period of high-magnitude oscillations in lake levels ensued after 9,000 years BP and human settlements appear to have been located close to the margins of the lake. Aridification and a final regression in lake levels ensued after 5,000 years BP and human communities were generalized pastoralists-fishers-foragers. During the Late Holocene, lake levels may have dropped below their present position and subsistence strategies appear to have been flexible and occasionally specialized on animal pastoralism. Modern missionary and government outposts have encouraged the construction of permanent settlements in the region, which are heavily dependent on outside resources for their survival. Changes in the physical and cultural environments of the Lake Turkana region have been closely correlated, and understanding the relationship between the two variables remains a vital component of archaeological research.
Original Publication Information
Wright D., Forman S., Kiura P., Bloszies C. and Beyin A. "Lakeside View: Socio-cultural Responses to Changing Water Levels of Lake Turkana, Kenya." 2015 African Archaeological Review 32: 335-367.
Wright, David K.; Forman, Steven L.; Kiura, Purity; Bloszies, Christopher; and Beyin, Amanuel, "Lakeside View: Sociocultural Responses to Changing Water Levels of Lake Turkana, Kenya" (2015). Faculty Scholarship. 798.