Welcome once again from Luangwa.

As promised last month I did manage to have that glass of wine with Larry (well a few glasses) and I will defer to Larry’s skilled writing abilities to give you an insight into what he has been up to (a man of many talents – Harrison Ford has nothing on this man )

Archaeologists in the mist

Every July and August for the past five years an usual species of human has been observed descending on the campsite bar each evening to watch the sunset and drink a Mosi or three. Homo archaeologensis, recognised by its dust covered clothes and distinctive conversation about ‘flakes’ and ‘cores’, has been researching the prehistory of the Luangwa Valley under the guidance of pack leader Professor Larry Barham from the University of Liverpool. Larry and his troop of students have been piecing together a long and previously unknown archaeological record from their base at Wildlife Camp. So what have they found so far? Stone tools and broken pottery mostly, which is what might be expected in this part of Africa, but with the added interest that they can now date the presence of early humans in the Valley to at least 1.1 million years ago. Tools of the Early Stone Age litter parts of the Valley and in rare cases they are deeply buried under deposits that can be dated using the latest in scientific techniques.

Evidence of more recent humans in the Valley (Middle and Later Stone Age hunter-gatherers) has also been found, usually near the Luangwa River or along its many seasonal tributaries. To the untrained eye most of stone the artefacts look like nothing more than broken rock, but to Homo archaeologensis they are the essential clues to how our distant ancestors lived and coped with the many periods of climate change that have affected this region in the past.

The last 2,000 years – now the target of investigations – saw the arrival of the first farmers in the region, the gradual assimilation of hunter-gatherers, and the later arrival of the Bisa and Kunda peoples. Excavations this season at Kakumbi springs, an early farmers village in the foothills of the Nchideni, produced unexpected finds such as the well-preserved skull of a monitor lizard sandwiched between potsherds – was this a roast dinner or an offering to the spirits of the spring at a time of uncertain rainfall?

We now know that drought affected the region between 800-1100 AD and the village site was abandoned for hundreds of years. Did the spring simply cease to flow and the farmers left, perhaps settling closer to the main river? Geographers from the universities of Liverpool and London are busy analysing sediment cores from the site to reconstruct the impact of climate change on water and vegetation here and across the Valley. Perhaps their work might tell us if January’s floods are part of a much longer history of climate instability or indeed the harbinger of things to come in the wake of global warming.

Archaeological research in the Luangwa Valley has only just begun, and we hope the annual migration will long continue of dust covered, thirsty researchers returning to the campsite bar. If you are interested in learning more about this project and of proposed plans to build a Heritage Centre in Mfuwe please contact Professor Barham at l.s.barham@liv.ac.uk or through the School of Archaeology, Classics and Egyptology (SACE)  www.liv.ac.uk/sace

It was also good to see many return guests back in camp this last month – thanks for all who managed to get the wine through the border!

Kind regards

Comments from Colleen (resident school teacher and Jill of all trades!)

We have had a good month in camp and the days are beautifully warm and our swimming pool is getting lots of use. Nothing better than to soak your body in our plunge pool, after a drive, with a Mosi (local beer) in one hand, while watching the elephants cross the river.
The month has been action packed as far as sightings go. This would have to be the best month so far this year for game viewing, especially the cats. The lions and leopards have been out and about and have almost been seen every day. There has been a new litter of lion cubs born. We had guests see the very pregnant female the day before she dropped her cute little bundles and then a few days later they got a glimpse of the little babies, still with there eyes closed. The older cubs have also been spotted, they are growing up fast and hopefully soon, we will see them getting ready for their first hunt.
Andrew Jnr, has been in the right spot at the right time this month, he managed too find 4 leopards together, 2 cubs and 2 adults. One cub and adult on the ground and the other 2 up a tree. Hyenas, ambushed the 2 leopards on the ground, the cub ran into the bush and up a tree, as the mother fought off the hyenas, giving her cub a good chance to escape.

Andrew then again with his great timing, managed on a whole day drive, to come across a male lion stalking impalas, the large male managed to take down one impala and drag it into the bush. Andrew proceeded to move into a better position for photos, and a large male leopard walked into the Lion and his kill. All chaos broke loose and the lion chased the leopard off its kill. The leopard, barely escaped the claws of the large male lion. If this was not enough excitement, the leopard after recovering from its close shave with the lion began to stalk down the same herd of impala that the lion had just made a kill from; he too was successful and made a kill too
Andrew Snr. Had a very rare sighting this month as well, while out on a GMA (game management area) walk, he came across a pair of mating African Civets, during the day. This is highly unusual as these are not only nocturnal, they are also solitary animals, so to find a 2 during the day and mating was a huge thrill.

Philemon, determined not to be left out, gave his guests a thrill as they spotted 3 different leopards in one night.

All in all a wonderful month!

Have a great September everyone.
Kind regards

Patsy and the Wildlife Team