Lithic technology has been central to human evolution, yet relatively little direct information is available about its use. What little exists comes from early accounts over a century ago, and in a few cases from older individuals who discussed and documented its use for trained anthropologists in isolated areas of Australia, New Guinea, and Africa. Knowledge of lithic use is in short supply and the technology is now largely thought to be extinct.

In the summer of 2018, while conducting ethnographic interviews in remote northern Kenya, one of us (Douglass) witnessed the previously undocumented use of lithics by Daasanach pastoralists. Further inquiry revealed that while lithic technology is still used by this community, its use is waning and is indeed endangered as access to metals has increased since the late 1960s. The Daasanach may well be among the last populations on earth to make regular use of lithic technology for varied activities. Our project seeks to document the breadth of its usage while there is still time. To accomplish this, we will utilise video to record interviews, focus groups, participant observation, and specific tasks with stone artefacts to document how this endangered material practice is situated within the broader cultural activities of this community. We will also utilise historic/modern aerial imagery and ethnoarchaeology, to study lithics in abandoned homesteads (covering the period when lithic use began to decline). Combined, these efforts will give a holistic perspective on changing circumstances of a deeply endangered technology.


Primary Applicant:
Matthew Douglass

Michael Moroto Lomalinga
Emmanuel Ndiema
Benjamin Davies

Location of Research:
East Turkana Basin, Marsabit County, Kenya

Host Institution:
University of Nebraska – Lincoln


Top Banner Image: Men producing stone flakes at a lithic source, Loborana River, East Turkana, Kenya, 2022 (Photo: Matthew Douglass)