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After the long period of arid conditions in the terminal Pleistocene, the global climate turned to wet and humid at the onset of the Holocene Interglacial ~10 ka BP (Gasse 2000; Hassan 1997). Under the wet and intermittently dry conditions of the early Holocene (10-6 ka BP), lakeshores, seashores and rivers became attractive for human exploitation in many parts of the world (Erlandson 2001). In Africa, sites associated with aquatic intensification have been reported in the Sahelian-Saharan belt, dating roughly from 9500-5000 years BP (Holl 2005). The Turkana Basin in northern Kenya became a mega-lake in the early Holocene, with abundant aquatic resources and lush grasslands for hunter-fishers to exploit (Abel 1982; Butzer 1980). Early Holocene sites containing microliths, bone harpoons and pottery have been documented in the basin, the majority of them from the east side of the lake ( Barthelme 1985; Phillipson 1977; Robbins 1974). The first evidence for early Holocene human settlement in West Turkana was reported from the Dilit area (formerly described as Kabua, Figure 1) in the early 1960s by a Durham University expedition (Whitworth 1965). The Durham team located extensive lacustrine deposits bearing harpoon points, lithics and pottery. Although the Durham expedition established the Dilit area as a promising place, no archaeological research has been carried out in the region since. Lothagam was the second locality to be discovered after Dilit, and is the only well described lakeshore site in West Turkana (Robbins 1974). The importance of the Lothagam site is that it suggests lakeshore “intensification”, possibly in response to increased aridity toward the middle Holocene. West Turkana experienced over 25 years of research hiatus in Holocene archaeology since the conclusion of Larry Robbins’ work at Lothagam and other localities in the early 1980s. A renewed archaeological exploration of West Turkana has resumed since 2007 by the Later Prehistory of West Turkana (LPWT) team (Shea and Hildebrand 2010). In Fall 2010, the present researcher, an affiliate of the LPWT, conducted archaeological exploration around the Greater Kalokol Area, West Turkana (Figure 1). This is part of a long-term project aiming at locating early Holocene lakeshore settlements and examining their cultural and ecological contexts. The recent fieldwork documented ten sites, two of which were test excavated. This report briefly describes the preliminary archaeological findings from the sites.


This article was originally published in Nyame Akuma, no. 75, in 2011.

Original Publication Information

Beyin, A. "Recent Archaeological Survey and Excavation Around the Greater Kalokol Area, West Side of Lake Turkana (Northern Kenya)." 2011. Nyame Akuma 75: 40-50.