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Malawi Earlier-Middle Stone Age Project

The Middle Stone Age (MSA), from ~315,000-25,000 years ago, is an archaeological description of the stone tool technology that dominated the record of sub-Saharan Africa during the time period when our species – Homo sapiens – first emerged and spread throughout and outside of Africa. Although the majority of researcher have focused on the southern and eastern African records, there is growing information from northern Africa and the Horn. However, in spite of reports as early as the 1920s of stone artifacts numbering in the millions from northern Malawi, there was no information about how old these artifacts were or how they related to MSA  artifacts in other regions. 



The Malawi Earlier-Middle Stone Age Project (MEMSAP) was a collaboration from 2009-2016 between Dr. Jessica Thompson, the Malawi Department of Museums and Monuments (formerly Antiquities), and many other international scientists. It had the primary aim of characterizing and dating the rich Middle Stone Age record of northern Malawi.

Outreach and Media

Yale News – Early ecosystem change in southern-central Africa

The Conversation: co-written with David Wright and Sarah Ivory

Academic Outputs

(2022) Schilt, F.S., Miller, C. M, Wright, D.K., Mentzer, S.M., Mercader, J., Moss, P., Siljedal, G., Clarke, S., Mwambwiga, A., Thomas, K., Kaliba, P., Gomani-Chindebvu, E., and Thompson, J.C.* “Hunter-gatherer environments at the Late Pleistocene sites of Mwanganda´s Village and Bruce, northern Malawi”. Quaternary Science Reviews 292:107638. *Senior author.

(2021) Thompson, J.C.*, Wright, D.K.*, Ivory, S.J.*, Choi, J-H., Nightingale, S., Mackay, A., Schilt, F., Otárola-Castillo, E., Mercader, J., Forman, S.L., Pietsch, T., Cohen, A.S., Arrowsmith, J.R., Welling, M., Davis, J., Schiery, B., Kaliba, P., Malijani, O., Blome, M.W., O’Driscoll, C., Mentzer, S.M., Miller, C., Heo, S., Choi, J., Tembo, J., Mapemba, F., Simengwa, D., and Gomani-Chindebvu, E. “Early human impacts and ecosystem reorganization in southern-central Africa”. Science Advances 7(19): *equal contribution

(2021) Thompson, J.C., Wright, D.K., and Ivory, S.J. “The emergence and intensification of early hunter-gatherer niche construction”. Evolutionary Anthropology 30: 17-27.

(2019) Nightingale, S., Schilt, F., Thompson, J.C., Wright, D.K., Forman, S., Mercader, J., Moss, P., Clarke, S., Itambu, M., Gomani-Chindebvu, E., and Welling, M. “Late Middle Stone Age behavior and environments at Chaminade I (Karonga, Malawi)”. Journal of Paleolithic Archaeology 2(3): 258–297.

(2018) Thompson, J.C., Mackay, A., Nightingale, S., Wright, D., Choi, J-H., Blackmore, H., Welling, M., and Gomani-Chindebvu, E. “Ecological risk, demography, and technological complexity in the Late Pleistocene of northern Malawi: Implications for geographical patterning in the Middle Stone Age”. Journal of Quaternary Science 33(3):261-284.

(2017) Wright, D.K., Thompson, J.C., Schilt, F., Cohen, A., Choi, J-H., Mercader, J., Nightingale, S., Miller, C., Mentzer, S., Walde, D., Welling, M., and Gomani-Chindebvu, E. “Approaches to Middle Stone Age landscape archaeology in tropical Africa”. Special issue Geoarchaeology of the Tropics of Journal of Archaeological Science 77: 64-77.

(2015) Zipkin, A., Hanchar, J., Brooks, A., Grabowski, M.W., Thompson, J.C., and Gomani-Chindebvu, E. “Ochre fingerprints: Distinguishing among Malawian mineral pigment sources with homogenized ochre chip LA-ICPMS”. Archaeometry 57(2): 297-317.

(2014) Thompson, J.C., Mackay, A., De Moor, V., and Gomani-Chindebvu, E. “Catchment survey in the Karonga District: A landscape-scale analysis of core reduction strategies during the Middle Stone Age of northern Malawi”. African Archaeological Review 31(3): 447-478.

(2014) Wright, D.K., Thompson, J.C., Mackay, A., Welling, M., Forman, S., Price, G., Zhao, J-x., Cohen, A., Malijani, O., and Gomani-Chindebvu, E. “Renewed geoarchaeological investigations of Mwanganda’s Village (Elephant Butchery Site), Karonga, Malawi”. Geoarchaeology 29(2):98-120.

(2012) Thompson, J.C., Mackay, A., Wright, D., Welling, M., Greaves, A., Gomani-Chindebvu, E., and Simengwa, D. “Renewed Investigations into the Middle Stone Age of northern Malawi”. Quaternary International 270:129-139.

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