Melissa Miller, TU doctoral student in anthropology, will travel to Northern Cape Province, South Africa, for a field season at the site of Wonderwerk Cave. Wonderwerk Cave preserves almost 2 million years of habitation, including the earliest evidence of controlled fire and early stone engravings.
Miller will be focusing on the Acheulean material in the cave. The Acheulean stone tool industry is the longest technological period in human history, lasting 1.7 million years and spanning three continents. Her dissertation research involves use-wear on Acheulean tools. Use-wear studies use experimental and comparative evidence to interpret the causes of tool-edge damage, allowing researchers to determine how and on which kinds of materials a tool was used. These conclusions then inform larger questions about technological advancement, environmental utilization and cognitive capabilities.
In addition to excavation during the field season, Miller will collect raw stone material samples from outcrops near Wonderwerk Cave for export back to The University of Tulsa, where they will be turned into an experimental comparative collection. The field season lasts from early August to early September.