Researchers will be taking samples of sediment around handaxes that were used by ancient human ancestors for butchering animals.
Using state-of-the-art dating methodology, the researchers hope they will be able to accurately date the site for the first time and, by doing so, to reveal more information about the handaxes.
Dr James Cole, archaeologist and lecturer in the University of Brighton’s School of Environment and Technology, said: “This is a really exciting expedition that will help contextualise these handaxes, to determine how old they are, help shed light on what species made them and for what purpose.
“The behaviour of our human ancestors is far more complex than often thought. People today use material culture – the clothes we wear, for instance – to tell others something about us, and it may be possible that these handaxes, apart from their practical use, may have been used by our ancestors to say something about them.”
Dr Cole leaves on 27 August for the eight-day dig in Tanzania’s highland region of Iringa where he will be joined by two collaborators: Dr Pastory Bushozi from the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzani, and Dr Martin Bates, from the University of Wales Trinity Saint David.
They will force metal tubes into the ground and then seal each end when they are removed. A third collaborator, Dr Phillip Toms from the University of Gloucestershire, will process grains of sediment taken from the centre of each tube. Using a new method called ‘Optically Stimulated Luminescence’ he will be able to determine the last time the grains were exposed to light.
Dr Cole said: “For first time, using this technique, we will be able to place our site within the chronology of East African prehistory. Giving it a date will act as a springboard for conducting larger multi-national and multi-institutional research projects in the future.”