Porc-Epic Cave

Porc-epic fauna and operculaThe Porc-Epic cave, located in the southern outskirts of the city of Dire-Dawa in southeastern Ethiopia, is one of the most important Middle Stone Age sites in eastern Africa, having produced dense concentrations of stone tools and fauna. It was first discovered in 1929 by a group of French prehistorians and, since then, several excavations have been carried at the site by different groups of researchers. The most extensive excavation was directed by Kent Williamson in the mid 1970’s. However, no systematic study of the material collected by this excavation was conducted until I began my dissertation research in 1997 into the large assemblage of faunal remains. My analysis of the Porc-Epic assemblage documented a pattern of bone representation that showed that the site occupants were effective hunters who likely chose this site due to its strategic location overlooking herbivore migration routes. While examining the materials excavated from Porc-Epic, I documented hundreds of gastropod opercula with central perforations. As described in a recent paper in Current Anthropology, I believe that these items likely represent personal ornaments used by the Middle Stone Age occupants of this site. These ornaments are among the earliest yet to be found in East Africa, with some falling beyond the range of radiocarbon dating.