The transition from the stone age to Iron age in East Africa: excavations at Nkuba rock shelter, Bussi Island, Lake Victoria, Uganda


  • Ruth Tibesasa Kabale University, Uganda
  • Ceri Shipton University College London, U.K
  • Christopher Jennings The University of Queensland, Australia
  • Samuel Karuhanga Kabale University, Uganda
  • Alison Crowther The University of Queensland, Australia


Later stone age, Early Iron age, Urewe ceramics


The Stone to Iron Age transition in northern Lake Victoria Nyanza is typically associated with the spread of Bantu speaking people from Cameroon to east Africa in the first millennium BC. Here we present the results of excavations carried out in 2006 at Nkuba rock shelter on Bussi Island on Lake Victoria, Uganda, where both Late Stone Age lithic materials dating ca. 1411-1275 BC, and Early Iron Age (EIA) Urewe ceramics dating between ca. 1303-1123 BC and ca. 771-887 AD were found. The Urewe horizon is characterised by both ceramics and lithics, and represents an intermediate stage between the lithic dominated Later Stone Age (LSA) phase of occupation, and the Later Iron Age (LIA) phase that has ceramics but no lithics. Analysis of seeds and bones revealed no evidence of domestic agriculture or pastoralism at the site. The site was dated for the very first time and elements of continuity between occupation phases suggest gradual process of transition rather than abrupt transition / population replacement.