Karen Loise Van Niekerk

Karen Loise Van Niekerk
University of Bergen | UiB · Department of Archaeology, History, Culture studies and Religion

PhD

About

62
Publications
29,209
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3,335
Citations
Citations since 2016
36 Research Items
1868 Citations
2016201720182019202020212022050100150200250300
2016201720182019202020212022050100150200250300
2016201720182019202020212022050100150200250300
2016201720182019202020212022050100150200250300
Additional affiliations
August 2010 - present
University of Bergen
Position
  • PostDoc Position

Publications

Publications (62)
Article
Large mammal remains from Middle Stone Age sites in southern Africa, just like in many other parts of Africa, show variability in prey selection. While smaller game are often considered less profitable in terms of meat returns, their abundance and fast reproduction meant that they were often favoured over larger prey species. The Game Index measure...
Article
Full-text available
Large faunal assemblages remain a concern in zooarchaeology. Without sufficiently large assemblages, interpretations about the past are less secure. The number of potential taxa in an assemblage is related to various factors such as the number of species found in an ecological zone, economic activities (hunting vs. farming) and taphonomy. In South...
Article
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In southern Africa, the Middle Stone Age (MSA), spanning more than 200,000 years, is a critical time period, in which Homo sapiens first appears. MSA sites located in the Eastern and Western Cape provinces of South Africa have yielded extensive faunal assemblages accumulated by anatomically modern humans. Many of these faunal assemblages include ev...
Article
Full-text available
Previous studies show that the indigenous people of the southern Cape of South Africa were dramatically impacted by the arrival of European colonists starting ~400 years ago and their descendants are today mixed with Europeans and Asians. To gain insight on the occupants of the Vaalkrans Shelter located at the southernmost tip of Africa, we investi...
Article
During the Middle Stone Age (MSA), hominins occupied a number of cave sites in southern Africa. Faunal remains of large mammals are commonly found at these MSA sites. Additionally, a number of faunal accumulations have been excavated that were collected by carnivores such as leopards and hyenas. Here we use the ratios of animal remains from MSA sit...
Article
Full-text available
A complete Middle Stone Age ochre piece was unintentionally collected and fully preserved within a micromorphological block sample intended to characterise a 74 ± 3 ka occupation horizon at Blombos Cave, South Africa. Previously recovered ochre pieces from the same stratigraphic context (Still Bay) have displayed intricate modification patterns wit...
Article
Full-text available
The archaeological assemblage recovered from the Middle Stone Age (MSA) levels in Blombos Cave, South Africa, is central to our understanding of the development of early modern humans. Here, we demonstrate that the cultural and technological innovations inferred from the Blombos Cave MSA record also correlate with significant shifts in site use and...
Preprint
Full-text available
We present the results of archaeobotanical research conducted into the plant diet of early modern humans who intermittently occupied Blombos Cave on the southern Cape coast of South Africa during the Middle Stone Age (MSA). Botanical samples were taken from two combustion events in the MSA sequence dated to 85 and 82 kya (kya = thousands of years a...
Article
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Understanding how hunter-gatherers adapted to the marked environmental changes of the last glacialinterglacial transition (~18 to 11.7 ka cal. BP) remains a key question for archaeologists. South Africa, with its rich and well-preserved archaeological sequences, has a major role to play in this study. Reconstructing the subsistence strategies of pe...
Article
Full-text available
Klipdrift Cave in the southern Cape, South Africa, provides new insights into shellfish harvesting during the Later Stone Age (14–9 ka) period associated with the Oakhurst techno-complex. Two shellfish species dominate: Turbo sarmaticus and Dinoplax gigas. An abrupt shift in the relative frequencies of these species occurs in the middle of the sequ...
Article
Full-text available
Abstract and depictive representations produced by drawing-known from Europe, Africa and Southeast Asia after 40,000 years ago-are a prime indicator of modern cognition and behaviour1. Here we report a cross-hatched pattern drawn with an ochre crayon on a ground silcrete flake recovered from approximately 73,000-year-old Middle Stone Age levels at...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Established chronometers do not fully meet the needs of researchers investigating Middle Stone Age (MSA, ~300 – 30 ka) sites that co-occur with the first fossils of H. sapiens, provide evidence of accelerated human behavioral innovation, and coincide in time with geographic range expansion of H. sapiens outside Africa. MSA sequences commonly contai...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
The spatial patterning of archaeological remains has been studied at several southern African Middle Stone Age (MSA) sites, yet intra-site activity patterns for this time period are not well understood, and the spatial configuration of prehistoric MSA hunter-gatherer camp sites remains largely elusive. There are several reasons for this. First, rel...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Dating late Quaternary terrestrial strata is especially challenging beyond the ~50 ka limit of 14 C. Ostrich eggshell fragments (OES) are common in African archaeological sequences, consist of ~2 mm-thick low-Mg calcite with 1-3% organics, and are resistant to diagenesis in semi-arid to arid soils over geologic timescales. OES are amenable to 14 C...
Article
Full-text available
The archaeological record shows that typically human cultural traits emerged at different times, in different parts of the world, and among different hominin taxa. This pattern suggests that their emergence is the outcome of complex and nonlinear evolutionary trajectories, influenced by environmental, demographic, and social factors, that need to b...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Palaeoenvironments possibly had a significant effect on social behaviour in the Late Pleistocene, influencing subsistence strategies and population density, and could have allowed or restricted access to raw materials. This study explores ochre collection and use at Blombos and Klipdrift in relation to environmental fluctuations. The two sites are...
Article
Full-text available
The analysis of the lithics recovered from the layers dating between cal bp 10,700 and cal bp 13,700 at Klipdrift Cave, southern Cape, South Africa, provides new information on the Oakhurst techno-complex. A comparison with contemporary sites such as Matjes River Rock Shelter indicates not only technological similarities, but also unexpected differ...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
The archaeological assemblage from the Middle Stone Age (MSA) deposits of Blombos Cave (BBC) (101 – 70 ka), including engraved bone, shell beads, polished bone tools, and bifacial points, has become central to our current understanding of the behavioral and cultural development of early humans in southern Africa during the Late Pleistocene. One of...
Article
Full-text available
Heating stone to enhance its flaking qualities is among the multiple innovative adaptations introduced by early modern human groups in southern Africa, in particular during the Middle Stone Age Still Bay and Howiesons Poort traditions. Comparatively little is known about the role and impact of this technology on early modern human behaviors and cul...
Data
Sample of silcrete reference collection used for comparison. A, B: illustration of experimental flakes struck before and after the heating of each block. (PDF)
Data
Silcrete cores from layer PBD. A, B, C, D: Picture and technological drawing of each core. Caption for drawings: 1. knapping platform preparation, 2. convexity preparation, 3. blade removal without initiation, 4. blade removal with initiation, 5. indeterminate removal, 6. cortex or patina, 7. pre-heating surface, 8. heat-induced fracture, 9. post-h...
Article
Full-text available
The Middle Stone Age (MSA) of southern Africa, and in particular its Still Bay and Howie-sons Poort lithic traditions, represents a period of dramatic subsistence, cultural, and technological innovation by our species, Homo sapiens. Climate change has frequently been postulated as a primary driver of the appearance of these innovative behaviours, w...
Data
Supporting Information for: Climate, environment and early human innovation: Stable isotope and faunal proxy evidence from archaeological sites (98-59ka) in the southern Cape, South Africa. (DOCX)
Data
Full faunal and shellfish specimen lists by excavation quadrat. (XLSX)
Article
Conference abstract: Archaeological soils play a pivotal role in the location of sites and identification of activity areas. However, visual observation provides minimum information regarding the processes involved in the formation of the soil features, thus limiting site interpretation. In this paper, the results from the multielement, physicochem...
Article
Conference paper abstract: From 1998 – 2009 intermittent archaeological site surveys along 60 km of coastline located in the De Hoop Nature Reserve, southern Cape, South Africa resulted in the detailed mapping of more than 160 archaeological sites. In 2010 and 2011 two of the sites in the reserve that comprise the Klipdrift Complex, Klipdrift Shelt...
Article
Conference abstract: Klipdrift Shelter in the De Hoop Nature Reserve, southern Cape, South Africa is part of a cave complex containing Later Stone Age and Middle Stone Age deposits. Excavations at Klipdrift Shelter yielded a lithic component consistent with the Howiesons Poort technological complex. The preliminary results from Klipdrift Shelter pr...
Article
Conference abstract: Until recently, the occurrence of engraved ostrich eggshell fragments (EOES) were only known from two Middle Stone Age sites, Diepkloof Rock Shelter (n = 409) in the Western Cape of South Africa and Apollo 11 (n = 2) in Namibia. At both sites the EOES are associated with the Howiesons Poort technocomplex. It has been suggested...
Article
Full-text available
The large mammal remains from the c. 100 ka layers of the M3 phase at Blombos Cave in the southern Cape, are reported. A wide range of mammal taxa are present, dominated by small game animals, including rock hyrax, Cape dune molerat, steenbok/grysbok and Cape fur seal. These taxa also dominate other important Middle Stone Age sites on the southern...
Article
The Howiesons Poort, characterised by sophisticated lithic technologies and evidence of innovative behaviours, was a significant cultural phase in southern Africa during Marine Isotope Stage 4. It also coincided with substantial palaeoenvironmental and possible demographic changes in the southern Cape of South Africa, especially with regards to the...
Article
Full-text available
In Africa, ochre is ubiquitous in archaeological sites after 100 ka and likely served a symbolic role in the lives of prehistoric people. Archaeological excavation of the c. 100–72 ka Middle Stone Age (MSA) levels at Blombos Cave (BBC) located in the southern Cape, South Africa, have yielded significant amounts of ochre as artefacts or residues. Al...
Article
Full-text available
The Howiesons Poort techno-complex of southern Africa was a particularly significant phase in the development of complex cognition in Homo sapiens and new sites are crucial to our understanding of this period. Here, we present the results of a taphonomic and zooarchaeological analysis of Klipdrift Shelter to investigate subsistence strategies durin...
Research
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Vaalkrans (VK) shelter is located at 34°27 S, 20°34' E on the southwestern coast of the Western Cape in De Hoop Nature Reserve. The shelter faces southwest, is located some 20 meters from the Indian Ocean and approximately I I meters above sea level. The rock overhang is about 2 meters high at the dripline and decreases to half a meter at the rear...
Article
Full-text available
Characteristically shaped bifacial points are stone artefacts with which the Middle Stone Age Still Bay techno-complex in Southern Africa is identified. Traditional approaches such as chaîne opératoire and two-dimensional metrics in combination with attribute analyses have been used to analyse variability within Still Bay point assemblages. Here we...
Article
Full-text available
Surveys for archaeological sites in the De Hoop Nature Reserve, southern Cape, South Africa resulted in the discovery of a cave complex comprising two locations, Klipdrift Cave and Klipdrift Shelter. Excavations commenced in 2010 with Later Stone Age deposits initially being recovered at the former site and Middle Stone Age deposits at the latter....
Article
Full-text available
The ∼100 ka Middle Stone Age levels at Blombos Cave, southern Cape, South Africa, contain numerous rock hyrax (Procavia capensis) remains. It is often ambiguous to interpret rock hyrax remains from archaeological deposits deriving from cave and shelter sites in southern Africa as the agent or agents of accumulation may be difficult to establish. In...
Chapter
Full-text available
Major behavioural changes during the Late Pleistocene in Africa are often linked to climate change; specifically so the beginning of Marine Isotope Stage 4 and the appearance of the Still Bay Industry. However, little is known about the local environmental settings of Middle Stone Age sites and recent research shows that global climatic trends, rec...
Article
Full-text available
The ∼100 ka Middle Stone Age levels at Blombos Cave, southern Cape, South Africa, contain numerous rock hyrax (Procavia capensis) remains. It is often ambiguous to interpret rock hyrax remains from archaeological deposits deriving from cave and shelter sites in southern Africa as the agent or agents of accumulation may be difficult to establish. In...
Article
Colour plays an eminent role in beadwork. Colour modifications are reported on early shell beads from Middle Stone Age sites. However, identifying the colouring agent and demonstrating the intentional nature of the colouring process is not straightforward. Here, we provide analytical data on colour and structural modifications observed on Nassarius...
Article
Full-text available
Middle Stone Age (MSA) shellfish remains were studied for indications of changes in subsistence adaptations. Optimal Foraging Theory was applied to the MSA shellfish species from Blombos Cave and Klasies River, South Africa, to model which shellfish would be most profitable to collect in terms of meat yield and handling costs. This ranking is compa...
Article
Full-text available
Our species, Homo sapiens, has existed in Africa for over 200,000 years. A key question is when did our ancestors begin to think in the same way that we do now? In other words when did they become ‘cognitively modern’? For most of 20th century, scientists believed that behaviourally modern humans evolved rapidly at around 40 000 years ago in Europe...
Article
Full-text available
The conceptual ability to source, combine, and store substances that enhance technology or social practices represents a benchmark in the evolution of complex human cognition. Excavations in 2008 at Blombos Cave, South Africa, revealed a processing workshop where a liquefied ochre-rich mixture was produced and stored in two Haliotis midae (abalone)...
Chapter
Full-text available
In this paper we recall the arguments put forward in an attempt to link language origins and specific elements of the fossil record (pigment burial practices, personal ornaments, production of depictions and musical traditions, various anatomical features), and summarise the scenarios proposed by palaeoanthropologists and archaeologists to account...
Article
Full-text available
In this paper we recall the arguments put forward in an attempt to link language origins and specific elements of the fossil record (pigment burial practices, personal ornaments, production of depictions and musical traditions, various anatomical features), and summarise the scenarios proposed by palaeoanthropologists and archaeologists to account...
Technical Report
Full-text available
Vaalkrans Shelter (34􀀀27’S, 20􀀀34’E) is located on the southern coast of the Western Cape in De Hoop Nature Reserve, South Africa, and contains Later Stone Age deposits. The shelter faces southwest some 20 meters from the Indian Ocean and approximately 11 meters above sea level. The rock overhang is about 2 meters high at the drip line, and decreas...
Article
Full-text available
Since 1991, excavations at Blombos Cave have yielded a well-preserved sample of faunal and cultural material in Middle Stone Age (MSA) levels. The uppermost MSA phase, M1, is dated to c. 75 ka by optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) and thermoluminescence, and the middle M2 phase to a provisional c. 78 ka. Artefacts unusual in a MSA context from...
Article
Full-text available
There are two competing models for the emergence of modern human behavior: first, a late emergence in Africa or Eurasia at ∼50 to 40 thousand years ago (ka), and second, a gradual transition in Africa between 250 to 50 ka ([ 1 ][1]). In both models, personal ornaments and art are unquestioned