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Atlas of African prehistory. Compiled by J. Desmond Clark. 38 acetate maps and overlays + 62 pp. gazetteer. University of Chicago Press Chicago. 1967. $32

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Book Reviews
by J. Desmond Clark. 38 acetate maps
and overlays .t62 pp. gazetteer. University of Chicago Press, Chicago. 1967.
This volume is a truly original publishing
venture in anthropology. A very useful
format is provided by the reproduction of a
series of acetate base maps and overlays,
enclosed in a hardboard folder which is
framed with wood to facilitate the accurate
superposition of the sheets. This permits
ready and direct study of the relationships
between each of the sets of data represented by the single maps.
The major feature of the atlas is a compilation of information on the find-spots of
recognized prehistoric industries in Africa
from the Lower Paleolithic through “Neolithic” as they were known early in 1966.
These industrial distributions are recorded
on 15 outline maps at a scale of 1:20 million (c. 43 X 37 cm) which serve as overlays to be viewed against the background
of each of eleven base maps showing topography, soils, geology, mean annual rainfall
and vegetation, as well as hypothetical
rainfall and vegetation under a variety of
different climatic circumstances. The overlays are prepared in a variety of colors designed to separate their information from
that of the base map and to separate distinct contemporary industries from each
Of special interest to physical anthropologists is an additional group of overlays
which include the present distribution oE
human and cattle trypanosomiasis and
malaria, and a set of three sheets showing
the localities which have yielded human
fossils; one including Early and Middle
Pleistocene sites, one showing Late Pleistocene, and the last showing Post-Pleistocene
sites. The Post-Pleistocene sheet is particularly valuable in that i t brings together considerable information otherwise available
only in scattered sources.
Also included in the 1 :20 million overlay
series are maps showing drainage systems,
AM. J. PHYs. ANTHROP.,33: 115-124.
Present political boundaries, and Early,
Middle, and Late Pleistocene faunal localities.
An additional series of maps at a scale
of 1 : 3 8 million (c. 19 X 22 cm) is provided, with a base map of contemporary
vegetation and 12 overlays showing the
habitats of modern mammals and birds
whose present discontinuous distribution
may give evidence of past climatic changes.
Among these are two primates (Euoticus
and Cercopitkecus mitis). The atlas is accompanied by a separately bound text
which includes an introductory statement
by the compiler and explanations and qualifications regarding each of the separate
base maps and overlays. Appendices provide detailed locations of the Pleistocene
faunal localities (to minute of latitude and
longitude) and lists of the mammalian
components of the faunas of North, East,
and South Africa in each of the major time
periods. The major part of this supplementary volume is the gazetteer, which lists
most of the prehistoric sites represented by
symbols on the overlays and gives the locus
to the nearest minute of latitude and longitude.
Altogether the Atlas is a most impressive
compilation of information imaginatively
designed for convenience of use. We have
nothing comparable for any other area of
the world.
As is usual in a pioneering endeavor,
there are several features of the present
work which, with hindsight, might have
been done more effectively. Most appropriate to the major purpose of the work, that
is, the demonstration of significant distributions, would have been the inclusion of
a 1:20 million base map showing intensity
of prehistoric research on the continent.
Such a map is included in the supplementary volume at a small scale, but it should
be available for direct comparison of site
concentrations to avoid misleading conclusions based on the abundance or absence of recorded sites in some areas. The
series of base maps showing hypothetical
changes in rainfall and vegetation under whether the presence of the particular indifferent climatic conditions designed to dustry was based on excavated or surface
approximate the range of climatic varia- evidence (this is of particular importance
tions in the Pleistocene is somewhat disap- in the definition of the simpler industries,
pointing. The rainfall maps showing 150% e.g., Oldowan); and coded reference in the
and 50% of present precipitation levels gazetteer to a bibliographic source for such
are based on a direct conversion of the sites as are represented in the literature.
present isohyets. The maps of vegetation This last would have added significantly to
patterns corresponding to these rainfall the size of this supplementary text, but
levels at present and lower annual tempera- probably not beyond practical limits, and
tures appear to be based on the same direct would have increased its already incomconversion of current rainfall and tempera- parable usefulness as a reference volume.
ture distributions. Karl W. Butzer, who Finally, the faunal lists might have been
compiled these sheets, defines their scope more effectively combined in a single table
in the following statement (p. 9 ) “It should with columnar references for time period
be emphasized in conclusion that these re- and coded symbols for presence in the
constructions of climatic-vegetation belts three geographical areas. In such a table
are theoretical in purpose and mechanical geographic relationships and temporal conin construction. They have not been tinuity would be easier to grasp than in the
adapted to conform in any way with the eleven separate lists of the present volume.
available empirical evidence, either bioPutting aside such hypothetical changes,
logical or physical.” Information on other the versatility of the work as published
variables allowing a more realistic recon- cannot be overrated. Both base maps and
struction cited by Butzer was available at overlays can be readily superimposed on
the time of the compilation in the work o€ the almost infinite range of data that can
Van Zinderen Bakker, which is published be recorded on simple outline maps of 1 :20
in summary in the volume Background t o million scale which should be commercially
Evolution in Africa, edited by W. W. Bishop available or easily manufactured from a
and J . D. Clark and issued 1967 as a com- drawing by photo-reproduction. It is diffipanion volume to the Atlas.
cult to convey an adequate impression of
While site data for Fossil Man localities the handsome and substantial construction
are presented in a most convenient form of this work and the carefully planned dewith site names printed adjacent to the sign which make it a pleasure to work with.
locus on all maps, the more abundant data The tenacity of the ink on the heavy acetate
€or industrial sites prohibit this practice. sheets (sufficient to withstand a deterThus, the only possible source of site names mined attempt at erosion with a fingernail
for localities indicated by symbols is the with no visible result) promises a period
gazetteer, in which sites are listed in al- of usefulness which should exceed the
phabetical order by industrial groups and normal printed page.
major time periods. Had these groups been
The abundance of data contained in this
ordered by coordinates of latitude and work and the flexibility of its format will
longitude and the atlas been provided with make the Atlas of African Prehistory a rea base map containing parallels and merid- quired item in every library with a serious
ians at 1 ’ intervals, the identification of African research interest. Both the comsites would be much easier. Some addi- piler, for whom this volume represents at
tional minor comments regarding format least a decade of research and coordinaand cartography would include the desira- tion, and the Wenner-Gren Foundation,
bility of presenting the map of drainage
systems as a base map rather than an over- which aided in its publication, have reason
to take pride in this outstanding contribulay; the shading of continuous distribution
tion to anthropology.
areas on all pertinent overlay maps for
easier interpretation; inclusion within the
site symbols of information indicating
University of Arizona
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overlay, desmond, gazetteer, university, atlas, chicago, 1967, clarke, maps, africa, prehistoric, compiled, pres, acetate
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