You are here: Past Lectures > J. Desmond Clark > Biographical Information > "J. Desmond Clark," by Fred Wendorf

Anthropology Emeritus Lecture Series at U.C. Berkeley

HomeLectureBiographical InformationExhibitPublished Works

"J. Desmond Clark," by Fred Wendorf

"J. Desmond Clark," by Fred Wendorf.
In: Encyclopedia of Archaeology: The Great Archaeologists. Vol. II. Edited by Tim Murray.
Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO Inc., 1999, pp. 743-757.

J. Desmond Clark b. 1916

J Desmond Clark is preeminent among archaeologists who have worked in Africa during the twentieth century. Clark, more than any other individual, has shaped African prehistory, and his vision has established or structured almost all of the prehistoric research now under way in the continent.

John Desmond Clark was born in London on 10 April 1916. When his father returned from the war in France, he moved his family to the small hamlet of Northend, some 40 miles west of London in the Chiltern Hills. Clark spent his early childhood in this wooded landscape and here developed his regard for the environment. His father's father was a successful chemist with a keen interest in history and antiquities, a pursuit he passed on to his son, who frequently took young Desmond on trips to Roman villas, hill-forts, castles, and monasteries.

At six, Clark was sent to school near Bristol. From there, he went to preparatory school in Buckinghamshire, and finally to Monkton Combe School at Bath. At Monkton, Clark's growing interest in archaeology was stimulated by his mathematics teacher, who was an antiquarian. From Monkton, he went up to Christ's College, Cambridge, where he studied history for two years. He then went on to study archaeology and anthropology under Miles Burkitt and GRAHAME CLARK, focusing on prehistory and particularly the Paleolithic. While Miles Burkitt developed his interest in prehistory generally, it was Grahame Clark, who taught him the importance of the paleoenvironment to archaeology and demonstrated how changes in that environment might influence human behavior.

While at Cambridge, Clark did fieldwork with MORTIMER WHEELER at Maidcn Castle and acquired the skills needed for the carefully controlled excavations that characterized his own work in Africa and elsewhere. He also became engaged to Betty Cable Baume, who was to be tilt* "lost important factor in the duration and intensity of his archaeological career. In 1937 he received a B.A. in archaeology and anthropology with First Class Honors and was awarded an Honorary Bachelor Scholarship from Christ's College.

In England at that time, there were only three positions open for

prehistorians, and although Clark applied for museum appointments,

fortunately for African archaeology, he was unsuccessful. Instead; in late 1937, he received a three-year appointment to Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) as secretary of the Rhodes- Livingstone Institute in Lusaka and as curator of the Rhodes- Livingstone Memorial Museum in Livingstone.

Clark arrived in Livingstone early in 1938 to find that the museum, housed in an old clubhouse, consisted of a few exhibit cases, some ethnographic material, early maps of Africa, miscellaneous documents relating to David Livingstone, and several boxes of artifacts. He promptly began to organize a proper museum, including thematic exhibits of both archaeological and ethnological materials, complete with diagrams and models. By the end of 1939, the exhibits were completed and an accompanying handbook had been prepared. The museum was soon popular with the local people, including school children, and after World War II, when flying became more common, it became an additional attraction for foreign visitors who came to Livingstone to see the Victoria Falls, only six miles away.

Before World War 11, Clark was one of the few professional archaeologists working in southern Africa. There were also John Goodwin (another of Miles Burkitt's students) at the University of Cape Town; Peter Van Riet Lowe and Berry Malan in Johannesburg; Neville Jones in Bulawayo, Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe); and much farther north, Mary and Louis Leakey in Nairobi. The prehistory of southern Africa was still in its infancy.

While the museum displays were still under construction in Livingstone, Clark began his first field project in collaboration with Basil Cooke, then a young geologist at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. Together, they studied the stone tools and fossils in the Old Terrace Gravels of the Zambezi River in Northern Rhodesia; this resulted in Clark's first publication (Cooke and Clark 1939).

He also wrote a supplement to the museum handbook in which he summarized what little was then known about the prehistory of Northern Rhodesia (Clark 1939). In preparation for this, he restudied the material in the museum from the Italian Scientific Expedition's extensive excavations of the Mumbwa Caves in 1930. Several stratigraphic problems emerged from this study, particularly the reported presence of an iron-smelting furnace between two Stone Age deposits. Clark obtained a small research grant in 1939 to do additional excavations at Mumbwa, and his report (Clark 1942) recorded a sequence of Stillbay, Rhodesian Wilton, and Iron Age occupations. His interest in the paleoenvironment and its effects on human behavior is evident in his inquiry into the possibility that the sites had been occupied seasonally.

Shortly after the outbreak of World War II, Clark left his wife as acting curator of the museum and became a sergeant in a field ambulance unit attached to the Northern Rhodesia Regiment, which was sent first to British Somaliland and then into Ethiopia. He took advantage of his presence in Ethiopia by collecting artifacts wherever he could find them, including a Fauresmith (an outdated term for Acheulean artifacts, usually small hand axes, found in southern Africa) site near Gondar (Clark 1945a). He also examined two shelters, one with Middle Stone Age material and the other with a microlithic assemblage, at Yavello, just north of the Kenyan border (Clark 1945b).

From Ethiopia, Clark was sent to Madagascar and then to an officers' training school in Kenya. There, he renewed his friendship with Louis and Mary Leakey, and managed to do a small excavation in a burial cave. After training, he was sent to Somalia as a Civil Affairs officer. This work involved considerable district travel, and on many trips he was able to spend some time recording sites and collecting stone artifacts in this little-known region. By the time of his discharge in 1945, he had traveled through much of Somalia and had accumulated twenty-two boxes of material, which he transported back to Livingstone and, eventually, to Cambridge. This material and his notes were the basis of his highly respected book, Prehistoric Cultures of the Horn of Africa (Clark 1954a).

In 1947, Louis Leakey organized and hosted the First Pan-African Congress on Prehistory, a landmark event for African prehistory and also for Clark. It brought together for the first time almost everyone interested in the prehistory of Africa-archaeologists, Quaternary geologists, and paleontologists-from twenty-six countries and from all parts of Africa and abroad, and provided an opportunity for them to meet, to learn what others were doing, and to discuss mutual problems. Clark was an active participant in the congress; he gave a major paper on his work in Somalia (Clark 1952), he made numerous friends among others working in Africa, and he was chosen to be an assistant secretary of the congress. He was beginning to play an important role in the study of African prehistory, although he remained relatively unknown outside the continent, where he was regarded as a capable and dedicated professional working in what most scholars then believed was an archaeological backwater.

After he returned to Livingstone, Clark, a skilled administrator, began to plan a new museum. The new building was opened in 1951 and was a great success. He also established the National Monuments Commission to protect archaeological sites in Northern Rhodesia. These activities were a major factor in his appointment as a Commander of the Order of the British Empire.

Clark had been very active before the First Pan-African Congress on Prehistory, but his productivity afterward was remarkable. In 1948 and 1949, he did additional work in the Upper Zambezi Valley, above and below the Victoria Falls, he dug the Late Stone Age cave of Nachikufu (Clark 1950a), and he reexamined the Broken Hill site, where "Rhodesian man" had been found in 1921. With Kenneth Oakley, Lawrence Wells, and J. A. C. McClelland, he published a particularly important paper (Clark 1950a), which established that the human cranium was contemporaneous with the cultural material and fauna of late Middle Pleistocene or early Upper Pleistocene age (see also Klein 1973). The data he acquired from the Zambezi Valley were published in his first book, Stone Age Cultures o- f Northern Rhodesia (Clark 1950b). In 1950 and 1951, he took leave and returned to Cambridge, where he received his doctorate in 1951, his thesis being based on his work in the Zambezi Valley and the Horn of Africa.

The Second Pan-African Congress was held in 1952 in Algiers, and Clark was president of the section for prehistory. He also presented papers on stone balls and their possible uses (Clark 1955c) and on the relationship between environment and culture in sub-Saharan Africa (Clark 1955b). In the latter paper, he speculated that some culture change might not be due to the infusion of new populations, but rather might be a response to changes in the environment.

Stimulated by the papers he heard at the Algiers congress and the collections he saw while there, Clark proposed a correlation of the prehistoric cultures north and south of the Sahara (Clark 1954b). Very few absolute dates were available, and his correlations were based on the then current "pluvial" model, which surmises that wet intervals coincided with glaciations and low sea levels, and dry periods with interglacials and high sea levels. This model is now known to be wrong, but the article was an important step for Clark in that it was his first attempt to view African prehistory as a whole.

During the same period, in 1953, Clark found the site of Kalambo Falls, in northernmost Northern Rhodesia near Lake Tanganyika, and about three and half hours from the nearest town where he could get supplies. Kalambo Falls is probably the most important site he ever studied, and its publication established him as one of the two leading prehistorians then working in Africa (the other being Louis Leakey). Kalambo Falls contained a long stratified sequence with several Acheulean living surfaces on which were fresh, or unused, hand-axes and other stone artifacts associated with carbonized tree trunks and even a few wooden tools. Above the Acheulean level were several levels of the early Middle Stone Age. It was a fantastic site and Clark made the most of it. He did preliminary tests in 1953 and again in 1955, when the site was included on a tour for delegates to the Third Pan-African Congress. The first major excavations took place from July through October in 1956, with financial support from the Wenner-Gren Foundation and the trustees of the Rhodes- Livingstone Museum. Fieldwork continued from May to November in 1959, for two months in 1963, and for a final, brief season in 1966.

Several aspects of Clark's work at Kalambo Falls are noteworthy. First, the excavations were meticulous and the position of every artifact was plotted, a technique then virtually unheard of in African archaeology. Second, Clark assembled a diverse group of scholars and used a multidisciplinary approach to reconstruct the paleoenvironments. Third, he attracted others to work with him, both established scholars, such as Geoffrey Bond, and a number of students and young scholars, including many who are now major figures in prehistoric studies in Africa and elsewhere, such as Ray Inskeep, Maxine Kleindienst, Brian Fagan, Charles Keller, Francis Van Noten, David Phillipson, and Glen Colc. Kalambo was also the first Paleolithic site in Africa to provide a long series of absolute dates using the new radiocarbon method. It did not become apparent until several years later that the radiocarbon dates from this site were too young, and this was probably why Clark adhered to a short chronology for the Late Acheulean and Middle Stone Age long after other dating techniques had shown that these periods were beyond the limits of radiocarbon.

By 1953, Clark had already demonstrated many of the characteristics that eventually propelled him to the forefront of African prehistory. He showed a keen enthusiasm for field research and a strong commitment to prompt analysis and publication of his field data; he had a rare ability to synthesize large bodies of data; he was a fluent writer; he had an enormous breadth of interests, considerable skills as an administrator, and an open manner that encouraged friendships. His enthusiasm for field research is truly remarkable, since travel in Northern Rhodesia was extremely difficult and time consuming. Most people, faced with even less daunting prospects, would have been content to sit in their comfortable office, run the museum, and enjoy the social life at the club. Clark had an insatiable desire to learn, which drove him to travel throughout the country and to see every valley. He recognized the unique opportunity offered by his position and used that opportunity to its fullest.

In 1955, Clark reached center stage in African prehistory: he organized and hosted the Third Pan-African Congress in Livingstone. It was a very successful congress, with 79 delegates in attendance-more than might have been expected to make the difficult journey to Livingstone-including most of the leading European and American scholars interested in African prehistory. Two of the delegates were to be particularly important in the development of Clarke's international reputation. Paul Fejos, president of the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, became a good friend and the Wenner-Gren later sponsored many of Clark's projects, under both Fejos and Lita Osmundsen. Sherry Washburn, who was studying baboon behavior at the Victoria Falls, was also to become a close friend of Clark's. Washburn was then at the University of Chicago, but he shortly moved to the University of California at Berkeley, as the first of the "African group" there, which eventually included himself, Desmond Clark, F. Clark Howell, Elizabeth Colson, and Glynn L1. Isaac in anthropology and Jack Evernden, Garniss Curtis, and Richard Hay in geology.

Barely two years before the Third Pan-African Congress, the announcement was made that Piltdown man had been a forgery. This made clear the true significance of the australopithecines, the subject of one of the congress's most important symposia. Clark gave a notable public lecture in which he discussed differences that might be expected in an environment with 20 inches more rainfall than today and in an environment with 20 inches less rainfall, and he outlined the possible effects of such changes on tool kits at various stages in the cultural sequence. The lecture included maps showing the distribution of known sites for each cultural stage, and it related changes in site locations to environmental shifts. This was the origin of his ambitious Atlas of African Prehistory (Clark 1967a), which Clark later compiled under commission from the International Union of Prehistoric and Protohistoric Sciences, supported by the Wenner- Gren Foundation.

Archaeological taxonomy had always been a major interest of Clark's. A uniform taxonomy is essential for interregional correlations, particularly when there are few reliable absolute dates, as was the case in Africa in the 1950s. Clark therefore scheduled the discussions of the congress so that taxonomy would play a prominent role. The resolutions eventually passed by the congress proposed a chronological and cultural framework that Clark hoped would be adopted by everyone working in Africa. For some time it was widely used, except in North Africa, where the French and, later, those working in Nubia used a taxonomy that had originated in Europe. Today, the congress's terminology is rarely used. Refined chronological controls, masses of new data, and the growth of other interests, particularly in prehistoric behavior, have overshadowed taxonomic issues.

Another important proposal of the Third Pan-African Congress was that the stratigraphic-climatic divisions defined for East Africa (Kageran, Kamasian, Gamblian, etc.) should not be applied to other parts of the continent unless there was firm evidence to support such a correlation. They also proposed that the Pleistocene faunal sequence should be divided into four stages. Although it has now largely passed out of use, this faunal sequence was extremely valuable at the time, because it provided a rigorous basis for regional or even wider correlations, and it was the best chronological tool then available. Clark played a major role in these discussions.

The period from 1955 to 1961 was exceptionally productive for Clark. In addition to the proceedings of the Third Pan-African Congress (Clark and Cole 1957), in those six years he published 46 papers on such diverse topics as wood-working tools (Clark 1958), a catalog for the David Livingstone exhibition (Clark 1955a), human skeletal material from a deep cave at Chipongwe (Clark and Toerien 1955), and pre-European copper working (Clark 1957) and also published articles on African prehistory for encyclopedias (Clark 1960a, 1960b). He also published the excellent and still cited synthesis, Prehistory of Southern Africa (Clark 1959). At the invitation of a diamond mining company in Angola, he also began excavations in that country, the results of which were published in three volumes by the Companhia de Diamantes de Angola (Clark 1963; 1966).

During the 1950s, Clark annually organized a Winter School in Archaeology at the Rhodes- Livingstone Museum. Lectures, demonstrations, and excursions lured numbers of eager participants from various parts of southern Africa. His guest speakers included Geoffrey Bond and Cran Cook from Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), and Basil Cooke, Berry Malan, and Phillip Tobias from Johannesburg.

In the early 1950s, when plans were being made to build the Kariba Dam on the Zambezi River, Clark realized that the rising waters of the new Lake Kariba would inundate an enormous area of the Zambezi Valley. On his initiative, the Rhodes- Livingstone Institute of Lusaka and the Museum of Livingstone invited a number of specialists to take part in a series of field studies of the terrain to be submerged and of the peoples, mainly Tonga, who would be displaced. Those involved included Elizabeth Colson on the social organization of the Valley Tonga, Thay Scudder on the ecology, Barrie Reynolds on the material culture, and Phillip Tobias on the human biology, while Clark himself, assisted by Ray Inskeep, surveyed the archaeology. Several resulting volumes were published by Manchester University Press; however, the archaeological survey has yet to see the light of day, and the human biological data are only now being analyzed by Tobias and Rhonda Gillett. This multidisciplinary survey, from 1957 to the early 1960s, recovered an immense body of information on the area and illustrates, again, Clark's vision and innovative planning faculty.

In the fall of 1961, Clark became a professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of California at Berkeley. This was a most fortunate move for both Clark and African archaeology. Berkeley provided Clark with the academic credentials of a major American university and the funding resources made potentially available by that association. It was also a very opportune moment. In 1959, Louis and Mary Leakey had discovered the "Zinjanthropus" skull at Olduvai Gorge. With its astounding potassium-argon age of 1.75 million years ago, this find kindled worldwide interest in the problem of human origins. Leakey gave a series of well-attended public lectures, and human origins soon became a popular topic among the American public, so that more funds became available for research in this area.

During the summer of 1961, before he moved to Berkeley, Clark was one of twenty participants representing a variety of disciplines in a symposium entitled "African Ecology and Human Evolution," organized by Clark Howell and Francois Bourlire and held at the Wenner-Gren conference center at Burg Wartenstein in Austria. There, Howell and Clark presented a synthesis of the Acheulean in sub-Saharan Africa that remains important to this day (Howell and Clark 1963).

Shortly after his arrival in Berkeley, Clark, Washburn, and their colleagues in the Departments of Anthropology and Geology set out to establish a research and graduate-training program in African prehistory and related disciplines that soon became the most distinguished center for such studies in the world. In 1966, they recruited Glynn Isaac, who was then working at the important Acheulean site of Olorgesailie in Kenya (Isaac 1977). Isaac introduced new approaches to African Pleistocene archaeology, and he and Clark soon developed a close working relationship that endured even after Isaac moved to Harvard in 1983, until Isaac's untimely death in 1985.

One of the crucial and most successful parts of the African program at Berkeley was the deliberate effort made to train interested and competent African nationals through the doctorate. By the time Clark retired from teaching in 1986, ten Africans from six different countries had received their doctorates with him. These African graduates are now university teachers, museum directors, and heads of antiquities organizations in their own countries; all remain strong advocates for Clark and the training he gave them.

Clark continued his research on African prehistory and expanded his areas of interest. He finished work at Kalambo Falls in 1966, and his final reports were published soon after (Clark 1969, 1974). He also worked in Malawi in 1963, 1965, and 1966. All of these projects involved multidisciplinary research teams with several senior scholars, as well as graduate students. One of the more interesting discoveries in Malawi was the skeleton of an elephant associated with stone tools-one of the few Pleistocene localities in Africa with good evidence for large animal butchery (Clark and Haynes 1970). Interestingly, although the site is contemporaneous with the Acheulean culture (over 300,000 years ago), most of the butchery tools are small scrapers and flakes, rather than large hand-axes. Clark also worked in the Air Mountains of the central Sahara (Clark et al. 1973), and along the Upper Nile in central Sudan (Clark and Brandt 1984), where his main emphasis was on the Neolithic. Clark (1962, 1964, 1967b) had long supported the view that the spread of agriculture was related to changes in the environment, and he hoped that these Saharan and Nilotic projects would cast light on that question.

In 1965, together with geologist Walter Bishop and Howell, Clark was an organizer of what was arguably the most important international conference on African prehistory ever held. With the sponsorship of the Wenner-Gren Foundation, they brought together archaeologists, geologists, and paleontologists working in all parts of Africa for a three-week meeting at Burg Wartenstein in Austria to review all fields of African Quaternary research. The proceedings of the meeting, Background to Evolution in Africa (Bishop and Clark 1967), is still a major reference on African prehistory.

In 1974, Clark's interests shifted to Ethiopia, particularly several areas in and around the Ethiopian Rift. From the Middle Stone Age cave site of Porc Epic, he obtained obsidian hydration dates indicating occupation between 61,000 and 75,500 years ago (Clark et al. 1984). He excavated a Late Stone Age site in which some of the stone artifacts show traces of wear resembling sickle-gloss (or sickle sheen, a silica deposit or polishing that may occur along the working edge of flint tools during their use to harvest plants) (Clark and Prince 1978). Perhaps of greatest interest was the discovery of a series of Developed Oldowan and Acheulean sites on the Gadeb Plain of east-central Ethiopia, at elevations up to 2,400 meters above sea level. The Gadeb sites showed that by 1.5 million years ago, people could survive on this high plateau, possibly because of their ability to control fire. There is also evidence that the people ranged over an extensive area; some of their hand-axes were made of obsidian, the closest source for which is 100 km away (Clark and Kurashina 1979a, 1979b). In 1980, with my agreement, Clark shifted his field activities to the Middle Awash River, where three of my own students, surveying with Jon Kalb, an American geologist living in Ethiopia, had found numerous Oldowan and Acheulean sites and an early Middle Pleistocene archaic homo sapiens cranium, known as Bodo Man (Conroy et al. 1978). Clark made a brief reconnaissance of the Middle Awash in 1980 and then again for two months in 1981 (Clark et al. 1984). These surveys confirmed the richness of the cultural sequence, and Clark and his group planned to continue the following year. However, changes in the Ethiopian antiquities laws and the outbreak of civil strife in Ethiopia forced the cancellation of all foreign archaeological projects. The Middle Awash is still largely unstudied and remains one of the most promising areas for Pleistocene prehistory in Africa.

Because of the turmoil prevailing in much of Africa, in the early 1980s Clark began to work in India and then in China (Clark 1992). In India, a group of senior scientists and graduate students, including archaeologists, geologists, and paleontologists from India, Australia, and the United States, worked for two seasons in the Middle Son Valley of north-central India. The material recovered ranged from Late Acheulean to Mesolithic. Work in China took place in 1989, 1990, 1991, and 1992 in the Nihewan Basin, north of Beijing, under the auspices of the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology and the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The project focused on the Early and Middle Pleistocene; detailed reports on the results of this work are still in preparation.

The breadth of Clark's personal experience in African prehistory is unique, not only in the range of areas studied but also in the diversity of topics and chronological range. However, it is not this breadth that has given Clark his commanding position in African prehistoric studies. While extensive knowledge is important, more influential is his ability to place the mass of data in its broader context and to write insightful syntheses of the data. This ability first became apparent in his Prehistoric Cultures of the Horn of Africa (1954a) and in his Prehistory of Southern Africa (1959). His most important synthesis was Prehistory of Africa (1970), which traced cultural development from the earliest stone tools to the period of European contact and placed this sequence in the context of regional climatic changes through time. It is a magnificent study and still the best continent-wide synthesis available, although the chronological scale is now very out of date.

Clark retired from teaching in 1986, but his activities as a field archaeologist and scholar have continued undiminished. As we survey Clark's long and productive career, the only significant criticism that might be offered is that he has sometimes been too cautious. His interests in taxonomy, for example, resulted in a major contribution in 1955 at the Third Pan-African Congress, where a taxonomic framework for the prehistory of sub-Saharan Africa was created just as interest in this area was growing. By 1965, however, at the time of the Wenner-Gren Conference that produced Background to Evolution in Africa (Bishop and Clark 1967), the need to legislate taxonomic issues had passed; archaeological interests in much of the world had shifted to behavioral or processual problems. Paradoxically, some of these were topics in which Clark had taken an early interest.

His conservatism is also evident in Clark's coordination and production of the Atlas of African Prehistory (Clark I 967a), which is a series of maps showing rainfall, vegetation, topography, and other interesting variables and a number of overlays on which are plotted the distributions of sites at various cultural stages, all at a scale of 1:20,000,000. This presented an enormous amount of effort, but it was of limited use even when first published. The scale of the maps is much too large, and more importantly, our knowledge of African prehistory, even in the early 1960s, was too great to be compressed into continent-wide maps.

His caution also shows in the chronological frameworks he has erected for African prehistory. Certainly, in the early days, considerable mental agility was required to assimilate the new potassium/argon dates and the resulting implications that African Pleistocene developments were far older than previously believed. However, Clark continued for many years to place the Late Acheulean at 60,000 years ago and the Middle Stone Age even later. By 1965, there were already numerous absolute dates showing that the Acheulean in East Africa was more than 200,000 years old, and there were even indications that the early Middle Stone Age could be 265,000 years old (Evernden and Curtis 1965). Like everything else that he has done, Clark's adherence to the short chronology has been very influential, so that some scholars still suggest that some Middle Stone Age complexes survived late in southern Africa (Carter, Mitchell, and Vinnicombe 1988; Mitchell 1988). Clark himself, however, has abandoned this position and now accepts the potassium/argon dates and high ages of both the Early and Middle Stone Ages in Africa (Clark 1988).

Although occasionally frustrating to those of us who have tried to convert Clark to some of our more radical ideas, his conservatism is not a liability. He is always among the first to encourage the development of new methods for extracting information from the paleogeographical context and for identifying behavioral implications of the archaeology, and to encourage the development of new techniques of dating and of identifying the uses of stone tools. Nonetheless, he continues to maintain a critical approach to claims made for such new methods until they are absolutely proven. Only a conservative and thoughtful scholar could have earned the approval that Clark enjoys among his colleagues. He has worked in more sites, with material from more periods, in more parts of Africa than anyone else. He controls more of the data on African prehistory than any other prehistorian, and he knows everyone with any interest in African prehistory. For these reasons, and because all of us working in Africa have such respect for his scholarly achievements, J. Desmond Clark is the most influential archaeologist in the continent.


I have drawn heavily on two sources in compiling this review. The first is the retrospective by Clark (1986), and the other is the superb history of Clark's career by Cooke and others (1987). I have also benefited from discussions with Desmond Clark, Betty Clark, Phillip Tobias, and John Yellen. My thanks go to Angela E. Close for her editorial assistance.



Bishop, Walter W, and J. Desmond Clark, eds. 1967. Background to

Evolution in Africa. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Clark, J. Desmond. 1939. Stone Age Sites in Northern Rhodesia and

the Possibilities of Future Research. Occasional Papers of the Rhodes-

Livingstone Museum, Northern Rhodesia. Old Series no. 1. Livingstone.

1942. "Further Excavations (1939) at the Mumbwa Caves, Northern Rhodesia." Transactions of the Royal Society of South Africa 9: 133-201.

1945a. "A Kenya Fauresmith Factory and Home Site at Gondar, Northern Abyssinia." Transactions of the Royal Society of South Africa: 19-27.

1945b. "Short Notes on Stone Age Sites at Yavello, Southern Abyssinia." Transactions of the Royal Society of South Africa: 29-37.

1950a. "The Newly Discovered Nachikufu Culture of Northern Rhodesia and the Possible Origin of Certain Elements of the South African Smithfield Culture, Presidential Address." African Archaeological Bulletin: 2-15 .

1950b. Stone Age Cultures of Northern Rhodesia. Cape Town: South African Archaeological Society.

1952. "Recent Prehistoric Research in the Somalilands." In Proceedings, First Pan-African Congress on Prehistory Nairobi, p. 194. Ed. L. S. B. Leakey and S. Cole. Oxford: Blackwell.

1954a. Prehistoric Cultures of the Horn of Africa. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

1954b. "A Provisional Correlation of Prehistoric Cultures North and South of the Sahara." African Archaeological Bulletin: 3-17.

1955a. Catalogue to the David Livingstone Centenary Exhibition. Livingstone: Rhodes-Livingstone Museum.

1955b. "Environmental and Culture Contact in Prehistoric Africa South of the Sahara." In Actes du Congres Pan-africain de Prehistoire, Ile session, Alger, 1952, pp. 359-365. Ed. L. Balout. Paris: Arts et Metiers Graphiques.

1955c. "The Stone Ball, Its Associations and Use by Prehistoric Man in Africa." In Actes du Congres Pan-africain de Prehistoire, Ile session, Alger, 1952, pp. 403--407. Ed. L. Balout. Paris: Arts et Metiers Graphiques.

1957. "Pre-European Copper Working in South Central Africa." Antelope Magazine 5: 12-16.

1958. "Some Stone Age Wood-Working Tools in Southern Africa." African Archaeological Bulletin: 144-151.

1959. Prehistory of Southern Africa. Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin.

1960a. The Archaeology of the Horn of Africa. Encyclopaedia Britannica.

1960b. The Stone Age Cultures of Africa. Encyclopaedia Americana.

1962. "The Spread of Food-Production in Sub-Saharan Africa." Journal of African History: 211-228.

1963. Historic Cultures of Northeast Angola and Their Significance in Tropical Africa. 2 vols. Lisbon: Museu do Dundo Publicaoes Culturais no. 62.

1964. "The Prehistoric Origins of African Culture." Journal of African History: 161-183.

1966. Distribution of Prehistoric Culture in Angola. Lisbon: Museu do Dundo Publicaoes Culturais no. 73.

1967a. Atlas of African Prehistory. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

1967b. "The Problem of Neolithic Culture in Sub-Saharan Africa." In Background to Evolution in Africa. Ed. W W Bishop and J. Desmond Clark. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

1969. Kalambo Falls Prehistoric Site, vol. 1. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

1970. Prehistory of Africa. London: Thames and Hudson.

1974. Kalambo Falls Prehistoric Site, vol. 2. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

1986. "Archaeological Retrospect 10." Antiquity: 179-188.

1988. "The Middle Stone Age of East Africa and the Beginnings of Regional Identity." Journal of World Prehistory: 235-305.

1992. "Paleoanthropological Explorations in the Plio-Pleistocene Karat Caves of Sichuan." Chinese Exchange News 20, 2: 7-11.

Clark, J. Desmond, and Steven A. Brandt, eds. 1984. From Hunters to Farmers: The Causes and Consequences of Food Production in Africa. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Clark, J. Desmond, and Sonia Cole. 1957. Proceedings of the Third PanAfrican Congress on Prehistory, Livingstone 1955. London: Chatto and Windus.

Clark, J. Desmond, and C. V Haynes. 1970. "An Elephant Butchery Site at Mwanganda's Village, Karonga, Malawi and Its Relevance for Palaeolithic Archaeology." World Archaeology: 390-409.

Clark, J. Desmond, and H. Kurasshina. 1979a. "An Analysis of Earlier Stone Age Bifaces from Gadeb (Locality 8 E), Northern Bale Highlands, Ethiopia." African Archaeological Bulletin: 93-109.

1979b. "Hominid Occupation of the East-Central Highlands of Ethiopia in the Plio-Pleistocene." Nature 282: 33-39.

Clark, J. Desmond, and E. R. Prince. 1978. "Use Wear on Later Stone Age Microliths from Laga Oda, Haraghi, Ethiopia and Possible Functional Interpretations." Azania 13: 101-110.

Clark, J. Desmond, and M. J. Toerien. 1955. "Human Skeletal and Cultural Material from a Deep Cave at Chipongwe, Northern Rhodesia." African Archaeological Bulletin: 107-116.

Clark, J. Desmond, M. A. J. Williams, and A. B. Smith. 1973. "The Geomorphology and Archaeology of Adrar Bous, Central Sahara. A Preliminary Report." Quaternaria 17: 245-297.

Clark, J. Desmond, K. P Oakley, L. H. Wells, and J. A. C. McClelland. 1950. "New Studies on Rhodesia Man."Journal f the Royal Anthropological Institute: 7-32.

Clark, J. Desmond, K. D. Williamson, J. M. Michels, and C. A. Marean. 1984. "A Middle Stone Age Occupation Site at Porc Epic Cave, Dire Dawa (East-Central Ethiopia)." American Archaeological Review: 37-71.

Clark, J. Desmond, B. Asfaw, G. Assefa, J. W K. Harris, H. Kurashina, R. C. Walter, T D. White, and M. A. J. Williams. 1984. "Palaeoanthropological Discoveries in the Middle Awash Valley, Ethiopia." Nature 7: 423-428.

Cooke, H. B. S., and J. Desmond Clark. 1939. "New Fossil Elephant Remains from the Victoria Falls, Northern Rhodesia, and a Preliminary Note on the Geology and Archaeology of the Deposit." Transactions of the Royal Society of South Africa: 287-319.

Howell, F. Clark, and J. Desmond Clark. 1963. "Acheulian HunterGatherers of Sub-Saharan Africa." In American Ecology and Human Evolution: Ed. F. Clark Howell and Francois Bourlire. Chicago: Viking Fund Publications in Anthropology.


Carter, P L., P J. Mitchell, and P Vinnicombe. 1988. Sehonghong: The Middle and Later Stone Age Sequence at a Lesotho Rock Shelter. British Archaeological Reports, International Series 406. Oxford.

Conroy, G. C., C. J. Jolly, D. Cramer, and J. E. Kalb. 1978. "Newly Discovered Fossil Hominid Skull from the Afar Depression, Ethiopia." Nature 5: 67-70.

Cooke, H. P, J. W Harris, and K. Harris. 1987. "J. Desmond Clark: His Career and Contribution to Prehistory." Journal of Human Evolution 16: 549-581.

Evernden, J. F., and G. H. Curbs. 1965. "The Potassium-Argon Dating of Late Cenozoic Rocks in East Africa and Italy." Current Anthropology 6: 343-385.

Isaac, Glynn L1. 1977. Olorgesailie. Archaeological Studies of a Middle Pleistocene Lake Basin in Kenya. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Klein, R. G. 1973. "Geological Antiquity of Rhodesian Man." Nature 244: 311-312.

Mitchell, P J. 1988. "The Late Pleistocene-Early Microlithic Assemblages of Southern Africa." World Archaeology: 27-39.


Copyright © 2007 The Regents of the University of California. All rights reserved.
Document maintained on server: by the Anthropology Library.
If you have questions about this page, mail
Last update 08/16/2007. Server manager: contact

Past Lectures Forthcoming Lectures Welcome