Late pliocene hominid occupation in Central Africa: the setting, context, and character of the Senga 5A site, Zaire

J. W K Harris, P. G. Williamson, J. Verniers, M. J. Tappen, K. Stewart, D. Helgren, J. de Heinzelin, N. T. Boaz, R. V. Bellomo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Senga 5A is a late Pliocene archaeological occurrence discovered in 1985 on the eastern bank of the Semliki River in the Western Rift Valley of eastern Zaire. Excavations in 1985 and 1986 yielded stone artifacts of an Oldowan character, fossil mammal, reptile, fish, and mollusc remains, as well as coprolites and fossil wood. The site is situated in low-energy lacustrine deposits indicative of a shallow, littoral or paludal setting. Paleoenvironmental reconstruction indicates that a savanna mosaic existed in the Upper Semliki in the late Pliocene. Dating estimates based on faunal correlation indicate an age of about 2·0-2·3 million years B.P. making it the earliest archaeological site of its size and state of preservation currently known in Africa. As the westernmost Oldowan site known in Africa, Senga 5A significantly expands our knowledge of the geographic range of early tool using hominids.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)701-728
Number of pages28
JournalJournal of Human Evolution
Issue number7-8
StatePublished - 1987

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Many individuals assisted in the field and in the laboratory. We would like to thank Bill Sanders, Mzalendo Kibunjia, Dawn St. George, Leo Mastromatteo, Pote Nghanza, Nzabandora Ndi Mubanzi, and John Gatesy for assistance in the field. In addition we thank Mark O’Malley, Richard McClean, Selishi Semaw, Liz Wilson, Bengt Liljestrand, Elmer Pershall, and Ann Wasielewski for help in the laboratory. We would also like to acknowledge the help, cooperation and friendly discussion of all aspects of the field research with our senior scientific collaborators Professor Alison Brooks and Dr. Kinimba Misago. Special thanks go to Greg Laden for his insightful comments and help with editing and assembling this paper. We thank Eric Delson, Frank Brown and two anonymous referees for comments. This research was made possible by grants from the National Science Foundation, The National Geographic Society, The L. S. B. Leakey Foundation, The Holt Family Charitable Trust, The Graduate School of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and The Department of Anthropology at Harvard.


  • Late Pliocene
  • Oldowan artifacts
  • Western Rift
  • Zaire
  • climatic change


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