Aliel: A mid-Holocene stone platform with cairn and single pillar in West Turkana, Kenya

No Thumbnail Available
Change log
Wilshaw, A 
Muwonge, H 
Rivera, F 
Lahr, MM 

In August 2016, the In-Africa Project, which focuses on the palaeo-environment and human occupation of West Turkana during the late Quaternary (, identified a stone platform and cairn whilst surveying an area between the Napudet Mountains and the Kerio River in Southwest Turkana. Different from other simple cairns in the area, this structure, locally known as Aliel, also exhibits: a) a single standing stone within the construction of the cairn; and b) a significant assemblage of pottery sherds (including Nderit ware) on the surface of the platform. Cairns, circles, platforms and stone structures are well-known features of the prehistory of the Turkana Basin (Robbins, 2006, Wright et al., 2016), including complex megalithic architecture in the form of ‘Pillar sites’ characterised by the presence of multiple stone pillars placed vertically on the ground within a constructed platform, such as Lothagam, Jarigole and Kalokol (Hildebrand et al. 2011, Grillo & Hildebrand 2013, Nelson, 1995; Figure 1). While stone cairns and structures continued to be built until recently throughout eastern Africa (Davies 2013), ‘Pillar sites’, often associated with ceramics decorated with ‘Nderit’ motifs, cluster chronologically between ~5,300 – 4,000 years BP (Grillo & Hildebrand 2013), overlapping chronologically with the first evidence for domestic cattle in Kenya (Marshall et al., 1984). Thus, the Turkana Basin is thought to have acted as the corridor for early pastoralist communities, economies and traditions expanding into East Africa during the mid-Holocene. As such, the area holds crucial information for understanding changes in population history and settlement dynamics. The site of Aliel is well placed both chronologically and geographically to provide further insights into this period of prehistory

Journal Title
Nyame Akuma
Conference Name
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Publisher DOI
Publisher URL
European Research Council (295907)
European Research Council