Cultural change or continuity in the late MSA/Early LSA of southeastern Ethiopia? The site of Goda Buticha, Dire Dawa area

David Pleurdeau, Erella Hovers*, Zelalem Assefa, Asfawossen Asrat, Osbjorn Pearson, Jean Jacques Bahain, Yin Man Lam

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


Goda Buticha is a newly discovered cave site in southeastern Ethiopia, containing MSA and LSA cultural material, faunal remains, beads, and human skeletal remains. A 2.3m-deep sedimentary sequence records two occupational phases separated by a sharp chronological hiatus, in the Upper Pleistocene (~43-31.5 ka cal BP) and in the mid- Holocene (7.8-4.7kacalBP). Faunal remains suggest changes in paleoecological conditions that are in agreement with patterns documented in regional speleothem-based reconstructions. The lithic assemblage at the base of the sequence is clearly MSA, with Levallois production, unifacial and bifacial points, relatively large debitage and use of local raw materials, associated with a microlithic component. The overlaying LSA assemblage contains diagnostic artifacts (backed microliths and bladelet production), with ubiquitous use of obsidian and MSA elements that appear in the Holocene. In the absence of indications for post-depositional mixture, the apparent cultural continuity of MSA elements from the Upper Pleistocene into the Middle Holocene at Goda Buticha may represent yet another variation of the elusive MSA/LSA transition. Goda Buticha is a key site for reevaluating the dynamics and tempo of this transition in eastern Africa.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)117-135
Number of pages19
JournalQuaternary International
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank the Ethiopian Authority for Research and Conservation of Cultural Heritages (ARCCH) for permission to survey in the area and to excavate in Goda Buticha. This research was supported by grants to ZA from the National Geographic Society (grants # 8110-06 and 8510-08 ) and to ZA and DP from the Wenner-Gren Foundation (Grant # ICRG – 102 ). We would like to acknowledge the efforts of Tilahun G/Selassie, Workalemahu Bekele, Hadis, DeJene Dendana Gulti, Alice, as well as the local people living near the site for their assistance with the excavation. We are also very thankful to Cécile Chapon, Simon Puaud, Marion Hernandez and Chantal Tribolo, for their current support for sedimentological and OSL dating analyses, and to Sébastien Nomade for providing some radiocarbon analysis facilities. We are grateful to the French Center for Ethiopian Studies for providing logistical support and for funding part of the post-excavation analyses. We thank the Tourism and Culture Offices of the Eastern Harerghe, Western Harerghe, the Dire Dawa Administration, and Harari National Regional State for fieldwork administrative support. We are grateful to the reviewers of the paper for their very helpful suggestions and to Christian Tryon for discussions and for directing us to some important bibliographic references.


  • Eastern Africa
  • MSA-LSA transition
  • Microliths
  • Southeastern Ethiopia
  • Upper Pleistocene


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