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Behavioral ecological models of lithic technological change during the later Middle Stone Age of South Africa

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Abstract

This paper examines changes in the organization of lithic technological systems during the later Middle Stone Age (MSA) of South Africa. Using principal components analysis (PCA), the study looks at the lithic data from two important South African MSA sites: Blombos Cave and Klasies River Mouth. The paper uses PCA to describe the transition to (1) the biface-dominated Still Bay industry at Blombos Cave and (2) the microlithic Howiesons Poort industry at Klasies River Mouth. Based on these analyses, the paper offers a synthetic scenario of the emergence of the Still Bay industry from earlier MSA industries, closely followed by the dramatic transition to the Howiesons Poort. Using a few principles of tool design and behavioral ecological models derived from the study of modern foragers, the paper suggests that the Still Bay came about as the result of deteriorating environmental conditions at the beginning of Oxygen Isotope Stage 4, which caused resources to become scarce and more widely distributed. The study proposes that the bifacial point strategy of the Still Bay was a response to wider mobility patterns and increased movement away from lithic raw material sources. The paper then suggests that Howiesons Poort emerged as information sharing strategies improved, and resources in the environment could be more efficiently targeted with more task-specific tools. The paper closes by reviewing the implications of these findings for modern human origins in South Africa.

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... Multiple authors have argued for an increase in social coalescence across southern Africa during the Howiesons Poort ( 48,49 and references therein). The impressive technological and symbolic innovations associated with the Howiesons Poort (including the backed artifacts) are seen to relate to new patterns of connectivity, visible in changes in mobility, settlement systems, and foraging strategies 12,13,50 . Our analysis supports this hypothesis, with the observed similarity in backed artifact shape providing strong support for long distance social ties. ...
... It has been argued that environmental stress stimulated the production of backed artifacts 12,13,15,[59][60][61][62] . The environmental argument, which tends to follow the risk hypothesis 27 stresses a correlation between instability in hunting and foraging conditions and the manufacture of backed artifacts as a multi-functional and multi-use tool, which facilitates exploitation in uncertain or unstable environmental conditions 12,13,63 . ...
... It has been argued that environmental stress stimulated the production of backed artifacts 12,13,15,[59][60][61][62] . The environmental argument, which tends to follow the risk hypothesis 27 stresses a correlation between instability in hunting and foraging conditions and the manufacture of backed artifacts as a multi-functional and multi-use tool, which facilitates exploitation in uncertain or unstable environmental conditions 12,13,63 . Recently, however, Archer 28 has correlated an improvement in the habitability of an area, or the 'carrying capacity' (essentially the amount of carbon-based edible biomass) with the production of backed artifacts under a hypothesis which sees backed artifacts appearing in great numbers during periods of population increase. ...
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Examining why human populations used specific technologies in the Final Pleistocene is critical to understanding our evolutionary path. A key Final Pleistocene techno-tradition is the Howiesons Poort, which is marked by an increase in behavioral complexity and technological innovation. Central to this techno-tradition is the production of backed artifacts—small, sharp blades likely used as insets in composite tools. Although backed artifacts were manufactured for thousands of years before the Howiesons Poort, this period is marked by a phenomenal increase in their production. In this paper we test both social and environmental hypotheses to explain this phenomenon. We correlate environmental data with changing frequencies of backed artifact production at Sibudu and assess morphological similarity across seven sites in southern Africa. We find that these artifacts are made to a similar template across different regions and that their increased production correlates with multiple paleo-environmental proxies. When compared to an Australian outgroup, the backed artifacts from the seven southern African sites cluster within the larger shape space described by the Australian group. This leads us to argue that the observed standardized across southern Africa is related to cultural similarities and marks a strengthening of long-distance social ties during the MIS4.
... However, ages of up to~100 ka [52, 53] and as young as~46-42 ka [54] complicate this assessment [55][56][57]. Researchers have explained the onset and disappearance of the HP have by various factors, including adaptations to ecological and environmental changes, including shifting territorial organization and mobility patterns [25, [58][59][60][61], changes in subsistence and hunting behavior [62,63], increases in population size [20,22,64], or information transmission between closely connected groups [65]. ...
... How can we explain the consistent pattern of temporal change in lithic technology within Sibudu and the variable diachronic trends across the HP in southern Africa? The origins and abandonment of HP lithic technology have been variously explained by adaptations to environmental changes, including shifting territorial organization and mobility patterns [25, 58,60], changes in subsistence and hunting [62,63], increases in population size [20,22,64], or changing networks of information transmission between connected groups [65]. Table 1 provides the expectations and archaeological correlates of these hypotheses. ...
... The HP backed tools have also been interpreted as specific adaptations to ecological instability in MIS 4 [60,61]. Testing this hypothesis is difficult, since paleoenvironmental data for HP sites are available on different levels of spatial and temporal resolution, complicating correlations between data sets [see [129][130][131]]. ...
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The Howiesons Poort (HP) of southern Africa plays an important role in models on the early behavioral evolution of Homo sapiens. The HP is often portrayed as a coherent MSA industry characterized by early complex material culture. Recent work has emphasized parallel technological change through time across southern Africa potentially driven by ecological adaptations or demographic change. Here we examine patterns of diachronic variation within the HP and evaluate potential causal factors behind these changes. We test previous temporal assessments of the technocomplex at the local and regional level based on high-resolution quantitative data on HP lithic assemblages from Sibudu (KwaZulu-Natal) and comparisons with other southern African sites. At Sibudu, consistent unidirectional change in lithic technology characterizes the HP sequence. The results show a gradual reduction in typical HP markers such as the proportion of blades, backed pieces, and HP cores, as well as declining size of blades and backed artifacts. Quantitative comparisons with seven HP sites in South Africa suggest that lithic technology varies between regions over time instead of following similar changes. Concerning hypotheses of causal drivers, directional changes in lithic technology at Sibudu covary with shifting hunting patterns towards larger-sized bovids and a gradual opening of the vegetation. In contrast, variation in lithic technology shows little association with site use, mobility patterns or demographic expansions. Unlike at Sibudu, diachronic changes at other HP sites such as Diepkloof, Klasies River and Klipdrift appear to be associated with aspects of mobility, technological organization and site use. The regional diachronic patterns in the HP partly follow paleoclimatic zones, which could imply different ecological adaptations and distinct connection networks over time. Divergent and at times decoupled changes in lithic traits across sites precludes monocausal explanations for the entire HP, supporting more complex models for the observed technological trajectories.
... Regarding trajectories of cultural evolution, many researchers view the SB and HP as two short-lived but culturally advanced episodes that are preceded and followed by less behaviorally sophisticated phases. Based on this reasoning, some scholars invoked a model of discontinuous cultural evolution in modern humans in which complex material culture appears and disappears abruptly in the South African MSA (McCall 2007;Cochrane 2008;Roberts 2008, 2009;Powell et al. 2009;Henshilwood and Dubreuil 2012;Jacobs et al. 2012;Ziegler et al. 2013). ...
... Elsewhere, we have argued that the focus on the HP and SB leads to a biased view of the past Will et al. 2014;Conard and Porraz 2015; see above). The emphasis put on these cultural units has often resulted in a view that earlier and later periods of the MSA are less innovative, with younger stages of the MSA following the HP being interpreted as a return to an earlier Bpre-SB^technology (Sampson 1974;Deacon 1989;Henshilwood 2005;McCall 2007;Mellars 2007;Roberts 2008, 2009). The frequent application of informal terms such as Bpre-SB^and Bpost-HP^denoting periods that encompass tens of thousands of years with their own history-exemplifies this research bias. ...
... Regarding models of cultural evolution, it is becoming increasingly clear that the lithic technology following the HP in southern Africa is not less innovative, unsophisticated or a return to an earlier Bpre-SB^technology as has at times been claimed (Sampson 1974;Deacon 1989;Henshilwood 2005;McCall 2007;Mellars 2007;Roberts 2008, 2009). This casts serious doubts on some of the main tenets of the Synthetic Model. ...
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Building on the important work of Lyn Wadley at Sibudu, archeologists from the University of Tübingen have excavated the upper stratigraphic units of the Middle Stone Age (MSA) sequence down to the Howiesons Poort (HP). Here, we present the main results from lithic analyses of the lowest part of the Sibudan sequence to assess its overall variability and taxonomic status. Based on the new findings, we also discuss the implications for archeological systematics and the cultural evolution of modern humans in MIS 3 from a more general perspective. The Sibudan deposits encompass over 20 archeological horizons that span a 1.2-m-thick, well-stratified sequence whose base and top have been dated to ∼58 ka (MIS 3). In contrast to the upper stratigraphic units, the lower Sibudan assemblages that we analyzed here show much higher use of local sandstone, quartz, and quartzite. These older units are characterized by frequent use of expedient core reduction methods, bipolar reduction of locally available quartz and quartzite, less retouch of blanks, and lower find densities. Tongati and Ndwedwe tools, which feature abundantly in the upper part of the Sibudan sequence, are entirely absent, as are unifacial points. Instead, notched and denticulated tools are common. Surprisingly, knappers manufactured small bifacial points, mainly made from quartz, by means of alternating shaping in the course of the oldest occupations. The results highlight the great diversity of human technological behavior over even short periods during the MSA, raising important questions about the mechanisms of behavioral change, cultural taxonomy, appropriate scales of lithic analyses, and the relationship between the HP and the Sibudan. Our findings further erode the old idea that bifacial technology in southern Africa is limited to the Still Bay. Research is increasingly showing that bifacial points come and go in different forms and contexts of African Late Pleistocene technology, impeding their use as chrono-cultural markers.
... Subsistence intensification is seen as reflecting socio-ecological stress and has been defined as the extraction of increased amounts of energy from a given area at the expense of foraging efficiency (Schoener, 1974;Munro, 2009). First put forward by Flannery (1969) to explain the rise of agriculture, the premises linked to intensification are that, as resources are depleted through over-exploitation as a result of increasing populations/population pressure (Stiner et al., 1999;Stiner, 2001;Stiner and Kuhn, 2006;Munro, 2009;Jerardino, 2010) or environmental degradation (Henshilwood and Marean, 2003;McCall, 2007), more laborintensive strategies are employed that produce lower return-rates (O'Connell and Hawkes, 1981;Bird and O'Connell, 2006;Minichillo, 2006). Intensification has also been suggested to have occurred in the SB. ...
... Intensification has also been suggested to have occurred in the SB. McCall (2007) and Thomas (McCall and Thomas, 2012) argue SB technology was multi-functional and a response to environmental instability during MIS 4. They also suggest that HP lithics were task-specific tools associated with the targeting of localised, seasonal resources. Both techno-complexes, they propose, can be linked to environmentally or demographically induced intensive strategies. ...
... They argue that this shift corresponds to increasing evidence of hunting technology in the later SB. SB bifacial points, probably functionally adaptable tools (Ambrose, 2002;Lombard, 2006), may have been a response to increasing foraging mobility proposed for the SB (McCall, 2007;McCall and Thomas, 2012). Changes in ungulate prey selection patterns through the SB could be associated with changing raw material patterns, with silcrete more numerous in the upper layers (Table 11). ...
Article
The Still Bay (SB) and Howiesons Poort (HP) were two significant techno-complexes in the Middle Stone Age and key periods in the expression of behavioral complexity. In this study, we compare the recently excavated fauna from the SB layers at Blombos Cave (BBC) with that from the HP levels at Klipdrift Shelter (KDS) in the southern Cape of South Africa. We consider our findings in the framework of recent models for early human subsistence behavior. In particular, we link our study with models involving resource intensification to examine whether foraging strategies in the HP were more or less intensive than those in the SB. Based on our criteria used to assess intensificationdthe exploitation of low-ranked prey, the processing of low-utility elements, transport decisions, and occupational intensitydintensive subsistence strategies are more evident at KDS than BBC. Our results suggest that low-ranked elements were processed more heavily and diet breath was broader at KDS than at BBC. However, foraging ranges may have been more extensive at BBC than at KDS. Taphonomic data also suggests that the SB at BBC was a low-intensity, sporadically occupied period in contrast to the high-intensity occupations during the HP at KDS. We argue that this may be related to differences in mobility and residential patterns between these techno-complexes.
... New adaptive and social strategies thus became required to cope with changing patterns of resource availability and distribution, as well as greater exposure to non-kin. The increasingly patchy and unpredictable distribution of food and water resources in some areas may have caused a shift towards greater residential or logistical mobility and a preference for technologies such as microliths that made more efficient use of cores and blanks, and were potentially more portable (McCall 2007). A general trend towards exoticism in lithic raw material preference during the late MSA in many areas is also thought to support the notion that individual groups became more mobile, or were increasingly embedded in far-reaching networks of exchange (Barut 1994;Clarkson 2013). ...
... Determining the effects of climate change on the behavioural variability of MSA humans has become a major focus of research in modern human origins studies. Large-scale climatic trends are thought to have spurred considerable changes in regional economic and settlement systems in many parts of the continent, resulting in the emergence of a range of new material behaviours, including stone technology (Marean et al. 2007;McCall 2007). While climate forcing remains a plausible hypothesis for technological change in eastern Africa, little direct supporting evidence has emerged (Blome et al. 2012;Douze and Delagnes 2016;Johnson et al. 2016;Tryon and Faith 2013). ...
... During the Late Pleistocene fluctuations in environmental and demographic pressure appear to have had significant impacts on the settlement behaviour of MSA humans across Africa (Blome et al. 2012;Lane et al. 2013;McCall 2007). The cascading effects of this shift likely transformed the ways in which early humans organized their subsistence strategies, social networks, and technology. ...
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This paper contributes new information to the body of evidence for Middle Stone Age tool-use in Tanzania. Magubike rockshelter is located in an archaeologically unexplored region of the south-central part of the country, and thus fills a significant geographical gap between sites further to the north and those to the south in Zambia and Mozambique. Early analysis of a portion of the lithic materials demonstrates parallel changes in lithic reduction intensity, raw material preference and typology. This article explores possible explanations for this pattern, including the possibility that they reflect changes to local environment, and suggests avenues for future research.
... There has been considerable discussion of the drivers underlying technological variability through this period (Ambrose and Lorenz 1990;Wurz 1997;Ambrose 2002;McCall 2007;Mackay 2009;Powell et al. 2009;McCall and Thomas 2012;Ziegler et al. 2013;Mackay et al. 2014a, Soriano et al. 2015. While the focus of these arguments has largely been on the form of typical technological items, we consider evidence for changes in provisioning -effectively, the ways in which lithic technologies were delivered to their point of need -through the period from ~75 to ~50 ka. ...
... While there has so far been little discussion of provisioning systems in the Late Pleistocene of southern Africa, there has been some discussion of changing patterns of mobility (Ambrose and Lorenz 1990;McCall 2007;McCall and Thomas 2012). Perhaps the most influential of these is the Ambrose and Lorenz (1990) model of mobility during the Howiesons Poort. ...
... It seems probable that the commonly noted density of artifacts in the later Howiesons Poort is a consequence of place provisioning in the context of cool and humid conditions of mid to late MIS 4. Large numbers of cores from spatially restricted sources were transported to shelter sites in this industry and subsequently reduced from an initial state in which they still retained considerable cortical coverage. The fact that many of these retouched pieces were not maintainable suggests that they would have been suited to logistical and possibly task-specific trips (McCall 2007;Mackay 2009;McCall and Thomas 2012). In support of the artifact data, geoarchaeological evidence for site use suggests extended periods of fairly intensive occupation during the later Howiesons Poort (Goldberg et al. 2009;Miller et al. 2013;Karkanas et al. 2015), consistent with the use of sites as residential bases. ...
Chapter
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The later Middle Stone Age of southern Africa witnesses a number of important changes in lithic technology including the early appearance of bifacial point and microlithic systems. Though radiometric ages for these changes remain contested, they can in places be reconciled with elements of climatic variation. This paper examines the organization of provisioning systems through four successive industrial phases – the Still Bay, early Howiesons Poort, later Howiesons Poort, and post-Howiesons Poort – using data from rock-shelters and open sites. We show that the dominant means of technological delivery shifted from individual to place provisioning and back to individual provisioning through these industries, likely reflecting variation in humidity through the last glacial. We also show that the apparent abundance of sites and richness of assemblages in industries such as the Howiesons Poort may be in part a consequence of a research focus on rock-shelters; we found limited evidence for Howiesons Poort sites in the open. This is in contrast to the other industries, most clearly the Still Bay, for which we identified several large open-air gearing-up locations. Finally, we suggest that while interrogation of the archaeological record at the industry level is viable, it also masks behaviorally meaningful variation that should serve to encourage finer-scaled analyses.
... Regarding economic behavioural factors, numerous scholars have suggested that a greater prevalence of silcrete at sites reflects modification of territorial organization, implying increased levels of residential mobility and larger foraging radii during certain periods (Ambrose and Lorenz, 1990;Ambrose, 2002;McCall, 2007;McCall and Thomas, 2012). Complicating this interpretation are difficulties in isolating the sources from which silcrete artefacts derive, particularly where they are available in both primary and secondary contexts (Minichillo, 2006). ...
... These results tally better with the idea that during certain periods, people preferentially transported silcrete for tool manufacture to residential loci. In that view, and consistent with the model of McCall (2007;McCall and Thomas, 2012), backed artefacts may have served as tools during logistical trips from those bases. Conversely, the paucity of silcrete during periods when maintainable implements (such as scrapers and points) were common may reflect the greater supplementary use of locally available rocks to offset reliance on transported gear (Binford, 1979;Kuhn, 1992;Nelson, 1991). ...
... Much of the diagnostic MSA surface evidence took the form of radial cores (including recurrent centripetal Levallois and discoidal cores), preferential Levallois points and flakes, flakes with faceted platforms and blades (Table 2; Figure 7B). These reflect a persistent MSA presence and, although these artefacts can only be generalised as MSA, the use of fine-grained raw materials such as silcrete is a widespread trend in the later MSA industries (Minichillo 2006;McCall 2007;Villa et al. 2009). Whilst the potentially earlier MSA assemblages on the Olifants River primarily use quartzite, silcrete is overwhelmingly the most commonly used later MSA material. ...
... Unifacial points themselves are morphologically and technologically more varied (e.g. Conard et al. 2012) and represent a lower-investment technological system than bifacial points or backed artefacts, something sometimes argued to reflect reduced technological complexity in the post-Howiesons Poort (McCall 2007;Mellars 2007;Jacobs and Roberts 2009;cf. Lombard andParsons 2010, 2011). ...
Article
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Stone Age surface assemblages are all too often neglected in favour of stratified, datable cave sequences, thus overlooking important insights into changing behavioural patterns at a broader scale. The Olifants River Valley (Clanwilliam, Western Cape Province, South Africa) presents a rich surface lithic record alongside excavated rockshelter occupations from the early Middle Stone Age (MSA) to the Later Stone Age (LSA). Surface surveys in the Olifants River Valley mapped temporally diagnostic artefacts and their association with different topographic features in order to investigate past landscape use. Our approach refers to a hypothesis proposed by Hilary Deacon, framing the MSA within the context of earlier and later patterns of behaviour. Based on observations from sites across South Africa, Deacon described Earlier Stone Age (ESA) landscape use as ‘stenotopic’, with a narrow focus on permanent water sources, and LSA landscape use as ‘eurytopic’, using a much broader range of habitats but specifically occupying rockshelters as domestic sites. Deacon suggested that the intervening MSA, in its later stages, shows a pattern that anticipated LSA landscape use. We apply Deacon's model to the study area, observing distinctive preferences for certain locations and raw materials and approaching changing patterns of artefact discard from a technological perspective.
... The coming-and-going of these elements may have several underlying explanations (Wurz, 2013). They may reflect changes in social/territorial organization in response to changing foraging opportunities (McCall and Thomas, 2012;Marean, 2016), subsistence risk (McCall, 2007), or changes in the size, stability and/or integration of populations (Powell et al., 2009;Premo and Kuhn, 2010;Mackay et al., 2014;Premo, 2016). ...
... The first focuses on intrinsic factors such as neurogenetic changes (Klein, 2000), population size (Powell et al., 2009;Premo and Kuhn, 2010), the emergence of modern language and working memory (Noble and Davidson, 1996;Deacon and Wurz, 2001;Wynn and Coolidge, 2007), and the effects of cultural transmission (Boyd and Richerson, 1985;Rogers, 1995;Henrich, 2001;McElreath et al., 2008;Kolodny et al., 2016). The second approach emphasises the role of external stimuli such as subsistence risk (Henshilwood and Marean, 2003;McCall, 2007), the introduction of new foods with implications for brain development , subsistence controls on social organization (Marean, 2014), and environmental change (Basell, 2008;Ziegler et al., 2013). ...
Article
The Late Pleistocene Middle Stone Age (MSA) record of Africa provides early examples of standardised stone tool production and complex manufacturing sequences, superficially implying a long-term trend towards greater complexity in MSA technology at a continental scale. However, at this scale, spatial and temporal expressions of technological complexity are uneven. New lithic and chronometric data from the East–Central African record add further regional perspective to these patterns. Stone artefact assemblages from Karonga, northern, Malawi (92–22 ka), persistently lack the complexity demonstrated elsewhere in Africa at the same times, despite similar lithic raw materials. These new data provide an essential avenue for exploring hypotheses about the roles of environmental risk and demography in shaping the expression of MSA technology across the continent, not just at a local scale. When set within this framework, the simplicity of the Karonga MSA is best explained by its position in an environment that was persistently low in relative extrinsic subsistence risk. These results reinforce that motivations to invest in complex tools were variable through space and time, and that this variation, more than factors relating to behavioural capacity, may explain the patchy evidence for lithic complexity in the later MSA.
... Wadley (2001) and Henshilwood and Marean (2003) argue subsistence intensification linked to population increase as the main trigger for the incipient features of behavioral modernity. McCall (2007) and McCall and Thomas (2012) argued that the Howiesons Poort was a technological tradition that emerged as a response to environmental instability during Marine Isotopic Stage 4 and the demographic pressures in southern Africa at this time. This instability put pressure on the human population and, therefore, the impressive tech nological and symbolic innovations associated with this time period should be understood as related to new patterns of mobility, settlement systems, and foraging strategies. ...
... Following those industrial indicators, they conclude that foragers responded to glacial environmental conditions at Pinnacle Point site 5-6 with "increased population or group sizes, 'place provisioning', longer and/or more intense site occupations, and de creased residential mobility." This evidence from Pinnacle Point does not match with pre vious hypotheses that interpreted Howiesons Poort people as highly mobile (McCall 2007; McCall and Thomas 2012). ...
Article
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The Howiesons Poort is a technological tradition within the Middle Stone Age of southern Africa. This technological tradition shows different characteristics, technical and symbolic (the engraving of ostrich eggshell containers, the appearance of engraved ochre, formal bone tool technology, compound adhesives for hafting and a great variability in hunting techniques), which only developed in an extensive manner much later in other parts of the world. Therefore, the African Middle Stone Age through the material of the Howiesons Poort holds some of the oldest symbolic and complex technologies documented in prehistory. For some researchers, the Howiesons Poort still represents an unusual and ephemeral technological development within the Middle Stone Age, probably related to environmental stress, and as such there are numerous hypotheses for it as an environmental adaptation, whereas for others, on the contrary, it implies that complex cognition, deduced from the elaborated technology and symbolic expressions, was fully developed in the Middle Stone Age.
... As expected from previous work (Mitchell 2008;Villa et al. 2010;Wadley 2010;Lombard and Parsons 2011;Gregor D. Bader and Manuel Will Mackay 2011;Wurz 2013;Mackay et al. 2014a) we could generally confirm that the archaeological signal of MIS 3 is diverse with high amounts of interassemblage and diachronic variability. This, however, does not imply that the record is unstructured or unsophisticated as has sometimes been claimed (Sampson 1974;Deacon 1989;McCall 2007;Mellars 2007;Jacobs et al. 2008a;Henshilwood 2012). ...
... Similar to recent research on individual assemblages (Soriano et al. 2007;Villa et al. 2010;Wadley 2010;Mackay 2011;Mohapi 2013) and larger-scale reviews (Mitchell 2008;Wurz 2013;Mackay et al. 2014a;Wadley 2015), we found an increased diversification in lithic technology with abundant diachronic variation within KZN in relation to the preceding and more homogeneous signal of the HP. Recent studies of MIS 3 stone artifact assemblages have provided evidence for both distinctive techno-typological signals and sophisticated knapping behaviors, falsifying previous assessments of "unstructured," "unsophisticated" or "conventional MSA" technologies (Sampson 1974;Singer and Wymer 1982;Deacon 1989;Henshilwood 2005;Mellars 2007;McCall 2007;Jacobs et al. 2008a). The multiple repetitive forms and distinctive reduction chains of unifacial points (Tongati, Ndwedwe, ACT; Conard et al. 2012;Will et al. 2014), diverse forms of bifacial points with production modalities differing from the SB (Bader et al. 2016; and the manufacture of morphometrically standardized blades executed by soft stone hammer percussion are examples from our work in KZN. ...
Article
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The Middle Stone Age (MSA) of southern Africa is central to current discussions on the early behavioral evolution of modern humans. Recent MSA research has focused on two technocomplexes, the Still Bay (SB) and Howiesons Poort (HP) that are associated with the early appearance of many cultural innovations. Apart from this temporal emphasis, a regional focus of research on the southern and western coasts of South Africa is largely due to taphonomic factors and research history. This research bias constituted the starting point for two PhD dissertations at the University of Tübingen, whose main findings are summarized here. The current contribution focuses on new results concerning lithic assemblages from the understudied region KwaZulu-Natal during the lesser-known period of MIS 3, and provides a general overview on recent Stone Age research by the University of Tübingen. Our main study site of Sibudu is a key locality for the chrono-cultural stratigraphy of southern Africa due to its exceptional finds, excellent preservation of organic materials, long sequence and secure chronology, though the site has long been regionally isolated. Our research thus aimed to generate a comparative regional framework for the MSA archaeology of KwaZulu-Natal, with the nearby – but mostly forgotten – sites of Holley Shelter and Umbeli Belli as ideal case studies. The MIS 3 lithic assemblages of Sibudu following the HP provide evidence of sophisticated knapping behaviors associated with technological innovations. Based upon clear technotypological signals, these assemblages were used to define the “Sibudan” technocomplex. The large amount of diachronic variability within the sequence is mostly due to the exceptionally high temporal resolution for the MSA. Comparisons with Holley Shelter show many similarities, whereas site-specific differences can be attributed to differential access to raw materials influencing techno-economic behaviors on small scales. New archaeological work at Umbeli Belli provides insights on the technology and chronology for the relatively unknown end of the MSA on the eastern seaboard of South Africa, the so-called “final MSA.” Our research suggests that the archaeology of MIS 3 in southern Africa can be characterized by persistent cultural complexity after the HP, with a high degree of regional variability and dynamic change through time. These results have important implications for models of the early behavioral evolution of Homo sapiens. We conclude with outlining future directions of research by the University of Tübingen in the MSA of South Africa which intend to extend the spatio-temporal scope of the work presented here. Keywords: South Africa; Middle Stone Age, MIS 3, lithic technology, variability
... In addition to the apparent mass-production of points at Tweefontein, several smaller sites have both unifacial points and cores, at KOB20 and Uitspankraal 7, as well as numerous isolated Nubian cores observed in the eastern Tankwa Karoo. Unifacial points are typically regarded as having less curation potential than bifacial points (Dibble 1987;Kuhn 1990;Clarkson 2002) and reflecting less technological investment than more complex bifacial point or backed artefact orientated systems (McCall 2007). In the Tankwa Karoo, point production associated with Nubian technology shows curation of Nubian cores that were transported and discarded in highly reduced states, associated with transport of silcrete over distances exceeding 50 km. ...
... The MSA has been widely highlighted as a period of behavioural flexibility, with particular attention drawn to the Still Bay and Howiesons Poort (Henshilwood 2012;Kandel et al. 2016). While these industries undoubtedly show many signals of 'behavioural modernity' in the form of art, beads and complex technologies, currently there is no evidence that these strategies allowed prolonged occupation of the marginal Tankwa Karoo during MIS 4. In contrast, the post-Howiesons Poort, which has elsewhere been regarded as a period of devolution or cultural 'dark ages' (McCall 2007;Wadley 2010Wadley : 2404, shows novel behavioural strategies that appear to be specific to the Tankwa Karoo region. If this proposed temporal association is upheld, then the use of the Nubian Levallois technique to produce points demonstrates flexibility in adapting existing lithic traditions (unifacial points) to what are interpreted here as environmentally specific challenges. ...
Article
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Southern Africa is an ecologically highly varied region, yet many generalisations about past human behaviour are drawn from rock shelter sites in coastal and montane Fynbos Biome environments. The Tankwa Karoo region offers the opportunity to extend our archaeological knowledge from the well-researched Western Cape into the arid interior Karoo in order to better capture behavioural variability and identify specific adaptations to more marginal conditions. This research presents the results of off-site surveys in the Tankwa Karoo, which spans the Cape to Karoo transition, mapping surface stone artefacts from the Earlier and Middle Stone Ages. The observed patterns in landscape use and lithic technology for each time-period were tested against a set of expectations based on previous research in the Western Cape and the Upper Karoo. The results indicate that in the Earlier Stone Age the most arid parts of the Tankwa Karoo saw only ephemeral use, with the better-watered mountain fringes preferred. In contrast, various strategies in the Middle Stone Age allowed groups to occupy these marginal parts of the landscape, including new kinds of technological behaviour suggestive of specific adaptations to this environment.
... Thus, there seem little reason for Stone Age archaeologists to persistently bind their explanatory theories to models of human behavioral evolution and variability that may not be germane, are outdated and/or too unilinear (Shea 2011), such as the Spencerian model of progression towards a specific, anticipated goal (Spencer 1896;Mesoudi 2008). Should the ratchet fail, few outcomes are possiblea complete standstill, a backwards slip or total collapseresulting in explanations of behavioral, cognitive, cultural and/or technological stagnation, reversal, devolution or regression (e.g., Henshilwood 2005;McCall 2007;Mellars 2007). But, simplification or cultural change does not always translate into these concepts (Henrich 2004;Parsons 2010, 2011). ...
Chapter
Cultural, behavioral and cognitive evolution is often seen as cumulative and sometimes referred to in terms of a ratchet or the ratchet effect . In this contribution, I assess the value of the ratchet analogy as blanket explanation for the above aspects of human evolution . I use Stone Age weapon technologies as proxy for the evolution of human technological, behavioral and cognitive flexibility , and by doing so show that the ratchet analogy falls short of explaining human variability and complexity as reflected in the Stone Age archaeological record. Considering human cultural, behavioral and cognitive evolution from a theoretically constructed rugged landscape point of view, I suggest that mountaineering may be a more suitable analogy for the accumulation of human culture. In this scenario, culture and technology anchor societies within their respective evolutionary trajectories and fitness landscapes , and it more accurately reflects humans as ‘masters of flexibility’.
... It is also a scalar stress-reduction behavior, and in this sense, the fission and dispersion of hunter-gatherers can also be seen as examples of social spacing (Johnson 1978(Johnson , 1982Freeman and Anderies 2015;Kummer 1970;Grove et al. 2012;Richerson and Boyd 1999;Zhou et al. 2005). In archaeology, spacing behaviors have been traditionally studied in relation to territoriality, although the focus of research on territoriality has varied depending on perspective and context, and the multidimensionality of this concept has long been recognized (Cashdan 1983, Dyson-Hudson andSmith 1978;Kelly 1995Kelly , 2013Layton 1986;Lee 1972;McCall 2007;Moritz et al. 2020;Peterson 1975;Wilmsen 1973). It should be noted that while some early studies have used site catchment and mobility range interchangeably with territory (Binford 1980;Higgs and Vita-Finzi 1972;Vita-Finzi et al. 1970), these terms are concerned mainly with individual bands' access to resources without giving consideration to the existence of other bands. ...
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While adaptive responses to ecological settings have been the focus of traditional approaches to the spatial organization of mobile hunter-gatherers, social factors also affect the positioning of bands. Hunter-gatherers position themselves in locations not just to exploit food resources, but also to maintain a certain distance to neighboring bands. Hunter-gatherer spatial organization was an agglomerated consequence of balancing two behaviors: spacing and proximizing. Thus, any given band’s decision to relocate affects other bands’ positioning, possibly resulting in a domino effect on a regional scale. We explain population fluctuations in Korea from the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) to the early Holocene. The population history of southern Korea is characterized by an increasing occupational density during the LGM and population decline in periods of climatic amelioration. Contrasting this pattern to the population fluctuations observed in the northern latitudes of continental East Asia, we suggest that population increase in southern Korea during the LGM resulted from the southward movement of a wider hunter-gatherer network. As sea levels rose during the post-LGM, the network moved to the north and bands on the southern Korean peninsula moved north to avoid isolation. This process explains depopulation on the peninsula during the post-LGM and early Holocene.
... Archaeologists have examined changes in raw material exploitation strategies and its relationship to prehistoric landscape activities and behaviours in many geographical regions and time periods (e.g. Brantingham, 2003Brantingham, , 2006McCall, 2007;Fernandes et al., 2008;Blades and Adams, 2009;Gopher and Barkai, 2014;Pleurdeau et al., 2014;Nash et al., 2016). Petrological and geochemical analyses have permitted more accurate identification of rock types and possible sources, thereby allowing archaeologists to evaluate prehistoric mobility and exchange systems (e.g. ...
... Archaeologists have examined changes in raw material exploitation strategies and its relationship to prehistoric landscape activities and behaviours in many geographical regions and time periods (e.g. Brantingham, 2003Brantingham, , 2006McCall, 2007;Fernandes et al., 2008;Blades and Adams, 2009;Gopher and Barkai, 2014;Pleurdeau et al., 2014;Nash et al., 2016). Petrological and geochemical analyses have permitted more accurate identification of rock types and possible sources, thereby allowing archaeologists to evaluate prehistoric mobility and exchange systems (e.g. ...
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The Lesser Khingan Mountains of northeastern China are heavily forested, making archaeological site identification difficult owing to poor ground surface visibility. Nevertheless, several prehistoric archaeological site discoveries have been made in recent years and a limited number of excavations have been initiated. One of the most important sites to emerge is Taoshan, which has yielded stratified stone tool assemblages dating from the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) to the mid-Holocene. Pollen profiles indicate significant changes in vegetation, fluctuating from steppe conditions during the LGM to forested conditions in the Bølling–Allerød interstadial (B–A) and the mid-Holocene. The stone tool assemblages from Taoshan were primarily produced from varieties of volcanic tuff, rhyolite, hornfels and agate. Geological prospecting and petrological analyses were performed to document procurement sources and changes in raw material exploitation strategies. During the LGM, the predominant raw material was vitric tuff, available from a source ca. 5–10 km from Taoshan. In the B–A and mid-Holocene layers, emphasis was on the exploitation of raw materials in gravel bars, although stone tool reduction techniques and raw material preferences changed considerably during this time interval. Diachronic changes in raw materials and exploitation strategies correspond to changes in vegetation and human adaptations.
... The organisation of MSA group mobility and its attendant effects on technological organisation and implement design have been the subject of considerable work in southern Africa (McCall 2007;Mackay 2009;McCall & Thomas 2012). However, methods for assessing such patterns have heretofore largely been restricted to consideration of the proportions of lithic artefacts assumed (but not often demonstrated) to have been of non-local origin (Ambrose & Lorenz 1990;Minichillo 2006). ...
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Recent studies hypothesise that the limited archaeological presence during the later Marine Isotope Stage 3 in southern Africa’s Winter Rainfall Zone was caused by a reorganisation of land-use patterns by past groups in the region. In this study, we examine the composition of a lithic assemblage dated to this period at the site of Putslaagte 1 in the Doring River valley to investigate its formational history. Our findings indicate a substantial cortex deficit in the assemblage, likely caused by the transport of large and relatively thin flakes away from the assemblage locality.
... This model has seen considerable application in southern African archaeology (e.g. Ambrose & Lorenz 1990;McCall 2007;Marean 2014). The Dyson-Hudson and Smith model uses a simple 'high-low' dichotomy in two resource parameters-abundance and predictability-to generate a two-axis model of variance in mobility and territoriality. ...
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The area around Elands Bay and the adjacent interior landscapes west of the Doring River have been subject to intense archaeological investigation over the last ~50 years. The result is a region with great depth and diversity of archaeological information. In this paper I discuss three general observations that arise from the integration of data across this region. The first is that redundancy in site occupation is limited: even where many sites are excavated in a small area, understanding of the regional sequence cannot be assumed to be complete. The second is that humans did not live in rock shelters: a focus on rock shelters alone, even where these are abundant, produces a skewed picture of occupational and demographic histories. The third is that the coast and its hinterland are intimately bound: interaction between the two zones is variable, and even where it is limited this observation is important to the understanding of both.
... In the Iberian Peninsula, although the Gravettian homogeneity is generally characterized by backed technology, during the last decades, lithic technological and tool design variability have been organized in three main regional settings: (1) the Cantabrian region, (2) the western Portuguese Atlantic coast and (3) the southern Mediterranean Spanish corridor Bradtmöller et al., 2015;de la Peña and Toscano, 2013;Marreiros et al., 2015;de la Peña, 2009). Different technological adaptations in these territories are likely related to different ecological configurations (e.g., landscape, resource distribution and availability) that had major influence on human technology (i.e., tool-kit configuration), settlement and mobility patterns (Kuhn 1995;Stiner et al. 1995;Binford 2001;Bettinger et al. 2006;McCall 2007). ...
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During the Upper Paleolithic, lithic variability is one of the most important keys to recognize hunter-gatherer behavior, technology, ecology, and social dynamics. The origin and expansion of Gravettian populations in Eurasia has been seen as one of the most critical episodes in human evolution, argued to be the first clear evidence of the so-called polymorphism among modern human populations. In the case of southern Iberian Peninsula, recent data have shown a new regional and diachronic organization for the Gravettian occupation in this region. Therefore, the interpretation of such variability is one of the most important questions, and functional analysis is a fundamental proxy to recognize human technological, settlement and ecological adaptations as major factors for this polymorphism. This study focused on lithic use-wear analysis of the Early Gravettian of Vale Boi (southern Portugal), in order to understand lithic technological organization and variability within and between occupations at the site. Results show similar patterns between assemblages, showing that different materials were worked at the site, although showing reduced time of work, low variability and percentage of pieces used. Unlike other Gravettian contexts in southern Iberia, the Early Gravettian from Vale Boi is characterized by some variability of backed points, marked by the predominance of bipointed double-backed bladelets. Functional analysis of the Early Gravettian lithic industries of Vale Boi provide a new insight to interpret human technology and settlement strategy during the onset of Upper Paleolithic industries in western Eurasia.
... Example studies Availability and location of raw material sourcesdthese influence the distance over which lithic raw material is transported (Binford, 1979(Binford, , 1980Kelly, 1988;Bamforth, 1990;Tankersley, 1991;Andrefsky, 1994Andrefsky, , 2007Andrefsky, , 2009; Barut, 1994;Merrick et al., 1994;Ambrose, 2001aAmbrose, , b, 2002Ambrose, , 2006Ambrose, , 2012Beck et al., 2002;Brantingham, 2003Brantingham, , 2006Jones et al., 2003;Kuhn, 2004;Minichillo, 2006;Browne and Wilson, 2013; Barton and Riel-Salvatore, 2014;Ekshtain et al., 2014;Pleurdeau et al., 2014;Boulanger et al., 2015) Mobility costsdthese influence distanceedecay curves or drop-off rates, at what chaîne op eratoire stage artefacts are transported, as well as rates of tool use/discard and retouch/recycling (Koerper et al., 1987;Shackley, 1987;F eblot-Augustins, 1993F eblot-Augustins, , 1997Blades, 1999;Ambrose, 2001aAmbrose, , 2006Ambrose, , 2012Wallace and Shea, 2006;Amick, 2007;Blumenschine et al., 2008;Andrefsky, 2009;Brown, 2011;Clarkson and Bellas, 2014;Pleurdeau et al., 2014) Raw material quality and preferencedthese influence the choice of raw material transported (Gould and Saggers, 1985;Bamforth, 1990;Brantingham et al., 2000;Jones et al., 2003;Minichillo, 2006;Wilson, 2007;Wurz, 2010;Porraz et al., 2013a;Gopher and Barkai, 2014;Pleurdeau et al., 2014) Planning depth, risk sensitivity, and stone-tool production effortdthese influence procurement patterns and their variation (Roebroeks et al., 1988;Geneste, 1989;Beck et al., 2002;Ambrose, 2006;Brantingham, 2006) Seasonal rounds, group mobility, and foraging strategydthese influence when and who is involved in raw material procurement (Binford, 1980;Gould and Saggers, 1985;Shott, 1986;Kelly, 1988;Ambrose and Lorenz, 1990;Rensink et al., 1991;Porraz et al., 2008;Browne and Wilson, 2013) Territorialitydthis can influence raw material source availability (F eblot-Augustins, 1999;Jones et al., 2003;McCall, 2007;Fernandes et al., 2008;Bamforth, 2009;Aubry et al., 2012) Regional interaction, exchange, and social networksdthese can influence transport distance and resource acquisition through direct or indirect means (Cottrell, 1985;Meltzer, 1989;F eblot-Augustins, 1999;Ambrose, 2001aAmbrose, , b, 2002Ambrose, , 2006Ambrose, , 2012Baales, 2001;Marwick, 2003;Brantingham, 2006;Whallon, 2006;Wilkins, 2010;Aubry et al., 2012;Porraz et al., 2013a;Boulanger et al., 2015) Sociocultural factorsdthese can influence the use or choice of raw material sources. Examples include taboo, ancestral ties, resource ownership, colour preference, sources of power, symbolic connotations, and raw material choice as a cultural marker. ...
Article
This study utilises geochemical provenancing of silcrete raw materials, in combination with chaîne opératoire analyses, to explore lithic procurement and behavioural patterns in the northern Kalahari Desert during the Middle Stone Age (MSA). New data from the sites of Rhino Cave, Corner Cave, and ≠Gi in northwest Botswana, combined with earlier results from White Paintings Shelter, reveal that the long distance transport of silcrete for stone tool manufacture was a repeated and extensively used behaviour in this region. Silcrete was imported over distances of up to 295 km to all four sites, from locations along the Boteti River and around Lake Ngami. Significantly, closer known sources of silcrete of equivalent quality were largely bypassed. Silcrete artefacts were transported at various stages of production (as partially and fully prepared cores, blanks, and finished tools) and, with the exception of ≠Gi, in large volumes. The import occurred despite the abundance of locally available raw materials, which were also used to manufacture the same tool types. On the basis of regional palaeoenvironmental data, the timing of the majority of silcrete import from the Boteti River and Lake Ngami is constrained to regionally drier periods of the MSA. The results of our investigation challenge key assumptions underlying predictive models of human mobility that use distance–decay curves and drop-off rates. Middle Stone Age peoples in the Kalahari appear to have been more mobile than anticipated, and repeatedly made costly choices with regard to both raw material selection and items to be transported. We conclude that (i) base transport cost has been overemphasised as a restrictive factor in predictive models, and (ii) factors such as source availability and preference, raw material quality, and potential sociocultural influences significantly shaped prehistoric landscape use choices.
... Among the dozen or so southern African Middle Stone Age (MSA) sites with human fossils that date to Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 6e3 (Grine, 2016), KRMS has featured prominently in discussions of the emergence of modern human behavior and morphology (Grine et al., 2017a). This is owing to its rich artifactual and faunal records (e.g., Klein, 1976Klein, , 1989Singer and Wymer, 1982;Thackeray and Kelly, 1988;Thackeray, 1989;Turner, 1989;Deacon, 1992Deacon, , 2008Klein and Cruz-Uribe, 1996;Milo, 1998; Bartram and Marean, 1999;Klein et al., 1999;Wurz, 1999Wurz, , 2002Wurz, , 2008Wurz, , 2012van Pletzen, 2000;Wurz et al., 2003;von den Driesch, 2004;Deacon and Wurz, 2005;McCall, 2006McCall, , 2007Dusseldorp, 2010;d'Errico et al., 2012) together with a comparatively abundant assemblage of human remains (e.g., Singer and Wymer, 1982;White, 1987;Deacon, 1991, 2001;Br€ auer et al., 1992;Smith, 1992;Frayer et al., 1993;Churchill et al., 1996;Lam et al., 1996;Br€ auer and Singer, 1996a, b;Pearson and Grine, 1997;Grine et al., 1998;Groves, 1998;Pearson et al., 1998;Groves and Thorne, 2000;Rightmire et al., 2006;Royer et al., 2009;Grine et al., 2017a). ...
Article
Two new distal manual phalanges from the Middle Stone Age deposits of Klasies River Main Site are described. One (SAM-AP 6387) likely derives from ray II or ray III, whereas the other (SAM-AP 6388) is from the thumb. Both derive from a late adolescent or fully adult individual. They were recovered by H. Deacon from the same stratigraphic unit (submember W or possibly submember R) of the Shell and Sand Member of Cave 1, which places them between 100 and 90 ka. Both are comparatively small elements, and the possibility that they came from the same hand cannot be discounted at this time. These bones add to the meager and all too fragmentary postcranial human fossil sample from the Late Pleistocene of South Africa. These two specimens provide some additional evidence pertaining to the morphological attributes of the distal phalanges of the Middle Stone Age inhabitants of South Africa. Together with the distal pollical phalanx from Die Kelders (SAM-AP 6402), they are relatively small in comparison with homologs from recent human samples as well as Late Pleistocene specimens from Eurasia. Given their small sizes, the distal pollical phalanges from Klasies and Die Kelders are not dissimilar to Holocene Khoesan homologs. As expected, the Klasies elements differ noticeably from Neandertal homologs, especially in the narrowness of their shafts and distal tuberosities.
... There is a broad agreement about the dynamic links between lithic technologies and mobility patterns, based on principles of raw material economics which are often combined ecological models (e.g., Ambrose, 2006;Ambrose and Lorenz, 1990;Bamforth, 1986Bamforth, , 1990Bamforth, , 1991Binford, 1979Binford, , 1980Johnson and Morrow, 1987;Kelly, 1988Kelly, , 1992Kuhn, 1991Kuhn, , 1995Kuhn, , 2004McCall, 2007;Nelson, 1988;Odell, 2004;Surovell, 2009). The main points of debate revolve around the relative importance of lithic raw material availability versus strategic factors in determining the organization of technology (e.g., Andrefsky, 1994). ...
... Microliths mark the Middle Stone Age in southern Africa (Ambrose, 2002, p. 9;McCall, 2007McCall, , p. 1739, the Upper Paleolithic in Europe (Fisher, 2002, p. 173), East Asia (Goebel, 2002, p. 117;Seong, 2008, p. 871;Derevianko, 2010, p. 9), India (Clarkson et al., 2009, p. 327;Petraglia et al., 2009), and the Paleoarctic Tradition in subarctic North America (Dumond, 2009). In the Transbaikal region of Siberia, microlithic technology appeared during climatic cooling~26,000 uncal BP (~30,000 cal BP) of the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM,~22,500e16,100 uncal BP [~26,500e19,500 cal BP]) (Mix et al., 2001, p. 633e641;Clark et al., 2009, p. 710) as small microcores (Terry et al., 2009, p. 259;Terry, 2010, p. 46;Buvit et al., 2015b). ...
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Upper Paleolithic stone artifact microlithization embodied a change in tool design and production that noticeably impacted northeast Asian prehistory. Here we trace the process of microlithization in the Transbaikal Region of southern Siberia using core reduction event-trees and morphometric analysis of cores and their by-products. Microtechnology emerges in the Transbaikal in the Middle Upper Paleolithic just prior to the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) in the form of highly variable microcores with small flakes and blades, and possibly sporadic pressure flaking and slotted tools. This variability indicates an experimental period in microlithic technology. After a 2000-year gap in the occupational record, a highly standardized microblade technological complex consisting of wedge-shaped microblade cores, pressure flaking, microblades, and slotted osseous tools appears in the Transbaikal as a fully adopted system. This evidence suggests that microtechnologies developed within the Transbaikal just prior to and during the LGM, underwent refinement outside of the region for roughly 2000 years, then was brought into the region during the LGM with flintknappers as a fully adopted system.
... It is commonly used to make inferences about reduction intensity or how much the raw material has been worked (e.g. Dibble 1995aDibble , 1995bEgloff et al. 1991;McCall 2007McCall :1741Shiner 2004). This is often discussed in terms of occupation duration/intensity, although as outlined previously, this link is at times questionable. ...
Thesis
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Mobility is a useful but highly variable process with which to understand how people interacted with their environments in the past. Commonly cited archaeological proxies for mobility often reflect only the potential to move or may represent different behaviours in different contexts. This can mask the range of variability in past human behaviour. An alternative approach is to investigate independent, empirical evidence of human movement which may then be related to broader contextual variables such as environment and economy. Stone artefacts are useful as they can be shown to have moved from one point to another. This thesis focuses on the patterning in flake to core ratios as a direct proxy for human movement. Late-Holocene Rutherford’s Creek, Australia, and mid-Holocene Fayum, Egypt, are two locations with extensive surface stone artefact assemblages, where the level of mobility and the contexts in which this occurred are known. Analysing flake to core ratios from known contexts allows a detailed understanding of how the variance in values might be interpreted. A method is presented for understanding the effects of initial cobble size, reduction intensity and artefact movement on the flake to core ratio in each region. The results suggest that a large amount of the variance in values is explained by differential initial cobble size and show that similar values in different contexts can reflect different behaviours. At Rutherford’s Creek, people were highly mobile and transported flakes. In the Fayum, they were less mobile and transported cores. Overall, approaching mobility as outlined in this thesis allows a more nuanced understanding of how patterning in stone artefact assemblages relates to human mobility and provides a glimpse into the intricacies of human behaviour and the range of unique ways in which people interacted with their environments in the past.
... Late Pleistocene climatic fluctuations are thought to (partly) drive behavioural evolution, such as changes in stone tool manufacture (e.g. Deacon, 1989;Ambrose and Lorenz, 1990;McCall, 2007;Compton, 2011;McCall and Thomas, 2012). However, due to dating uncertainties at many key sites, it is challenging to tie occupations into models of global climate change. ...
Article
We explore if taxonomic analysis of archaeological mollusc assemblages can be used to reconstruct Late Pleistocene (MIS 5–3) coastal environments at Klasies River in South Africa. To obtain a balanced reconstruction, we analyse the large molluscs separately from the so-called incidentals, the small mollusc species. Based on modern mollusc habitat preferences and tolerances we identify four different eco-profiles to help characterise sea surface temperatures and the character of the shore: temperature profile; geographical distribution; substrate; wave interaction. We hypothesise that changes in the Klasies River mollusc community/eco-profiles can be linked to global glacial and interglacial events and we define several testable assumptions. We found that in response to global warming and cooling events, the Klasies River mollusc communities change slightly, yet significantly. Other sources of marine environmental data confirm that average sea surface temperatures gradually decreased, but probably remained within the modern southern east coast range of variation. It appears that coastal sea surface temperatures of the warm Agulhas current were not particularly depressed during the occupation sequence. The character of the coastal topography does change more apparently during the occupation sequence of the sites and with it the mollusc assemblages: from an interglacial rocky shore in the Klasies and two Mossel Bay phases to a more glacial sandy environment during the Howiesons Poort and the MSA III. In conclusion, the temperature tolerance levels of many Klasies River mollusc species are too broad to reflect small changes in sea surface temperatures. However, in conjunction with other eco-profiles and environmental proxies, such as substrate requirements and oxygen isotopes, the temperature approximations are useful, particularly when evaluating large scale sea surface temperature fluctuations. For the characterisation of the shore and substrate we found the eco-profile approach very useful.
... Linking specific aspects of human development such as stone tool industries or technocomplexes to environmental change is fundamentally difficult and contentious. For example, McCall (2007) argues for a direct correlation between the HP and colder temperatures during late MIS 4 (see also Ambrose and Lorenz 1990). argue that there can be no such association given that global temperatures at this time exhibit a warming trend. ...
Chapter
The southern Cape of South Africa hosts a remarkably rich Middle Stone Age (MSA) archaeological record. Many of the associated caves and rock shelters are coastal sites, which contain evidence for varied occupational intensity and marine resource use, along with signs of notable landscape, environmental, and ecological change. Here, we review and synthesize evidence for Quaternary landscape and climatic change of relevance to the southern Cape MSA. We seek to highlight the available data of most relevance to the analysis and interpretation of the region’s archaeological record, as well as critical data that are lacking. The southern Cape MSA occupation spans the full range of glacial-interglacial conditions (i.e., 170–55 ka). It witnessed marked changes in coastal landscape dynamics, which although driven largely by global eustatic sea level changes, were modulated by local-scale, often inherited, geological constraints. These prevent simple extrapolations and generalizations concerning paleolandscape change. Such changes, including pulses of coastal dune activity, will have directly influenced resource availability around the region’s archaeological sites. Evidence for paleoclimatic change is apparent, but it is scarce and difficult to interpret. It is likely, however that due to the same diversity of rainfall sources influencing the region today, compared to parts of the continental interior, the southern Cape climate was relatively equable throughout the last 150 kyr. The region’s paleoecology, particularly in relation to the coastal plains exposed during sea level lowstands, is a key element missing in attempts to synthesize and model the resources available to occupants of this region. Technology, settlement, and subsistence probably changed in response to these paleoclimate/landscape adjustments, but improvements in baseline archaeological and paleoenvironmental data are required to strengthen models of ecosystem variation and human behavioral response through the MSA.
... Environmental conditions may have played a critical role in the development of innovative behaviours in the MSA of southern Africa (Deacon, 1989;Ambrose and Lorentz, 1990;Ash and Gallup, 2007;Ziegler et al., 2013) as well as the expansion of people out of Africa after ~ 70 ka (Mellars, 2006;Scholz et al., 2007;Henn et al., 2012). Population expansions have been linked to favourable environmental conditions (Henshilwood and Marean, 2003), while resource stress resulting from deteriorating environmental conditions may have been a catalyst for new technologies and innovative economic strategies (McBrearty and Brooks, 2000;McCall, 2007). However, data on paleoenvironmental changes, foraging strategies and occupational intensity are still notably rare at local scales thus hindering the investigation of specific relationships between innovation, demography and environmental conditions. ...
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 shifting palaeo-coastline off the Agulhas Bank. The newly-excavated Klipdrift Shelter in the southern Cape presents a rare opportunity to compare faunal, lithic and palaeoenvironmental evidence from a single Howiesons Poort site along the present-day southern coast of South Africa. Here, we use faunal data from Klipdrift Shelter to explore the relationship between occupational intensity, subsistence behaviour and environment in the southern Cape during the Howiesons Poort period. Our results suggest a shift from a mixed terrain/browse-dominated environment during the earlier Howiesons Poort to open grasslands in the mid-later Howiesons Poort. This environmental shift corresponds to potential changes in occupational intensity or frequency throughout the sequence with evidence of increased occupations associated with grassier environments. Aspects of the cultural sequence, for example raw material procurement strategies, may be associated with shifting environmental conditions. The faunal evidence suggests links between occupation, environment and prey selection at Klipdrift. This raises interesting questions about the interplay between population density and the environment of the southern Cape, and its influence on subsistence behaviour during Marine Isotope Stage 4.
... Yet, a similar focus on the role of "fine-grained" and often non-local raw materials (silcrete, in particular) can be observed in the past decades, mirroring some of the observations from Europe. The procurement and the use of silcrete have been associated with specific techno-complexes, increased levels of mobility and ranging patterns, technological innovations such as heat-treatment, formalized technologies such as backing, bifacial and pressure flaking, and even symbolic behavior (Ambrose & Lorenz, 1990;Brown et al., 2012;Henshilwood et al., 2001;Lombard et al., 2012;Mackay et al., 2014;McCall, 2007;Mourre et al., 2010;Schmidt et al., 2013;Singer & Wymer, 1982;Will & Mackay, 2017;Wurz, 1999). Other, mostly local, raw materials such as quartzite are frequent in many assemblages (e.g., Elands Bay Cave, Klasies River, Pinnacle Point 13B, and Die Kelders; Grine, et al., 1991;Schmid, et al., 2016;Singer & Wymer, 1982;Thackeray, 2000;Thompson et al., 2010;Volman, 1981;Wurz, 2002) but have rarely been at the center of scientific debates (but see Schmid et al., 2016). ...
Article
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The study of raw materials is an essential step in lithic analysis, regardless of the age, provenance, and technology of the assemblages. As in many other contexts of the Paleolithic, researchers of the Middle Stone Age (MSA) in southern Africa have often focused their attention on fine-grained, non-local rock types, such as silcrete. Here, I spotlight raw materials considered to be of lower suitability for knapping and frequently acquired from local sources. Due to their coarse-grained nature, artifacts from rock types such as calcrete, sandstone, and quartzite might show attributes that are different from finer-grained materials. Some of these knapped stones even constitute the substrate of the sites they are from, at times resulting in their neglect or not being recognized as anthropogenic artifacts. Knapped vein quartz features sharp and durable edges, but its complicated fracture mechanics hamper comparative analysis and provide methodological challenges. In this study, raw materials from different transport distances and with different presumed qualities are compared in terms of their roles in MSA lithic technology and settlement patterns. In the first step, the article focuses on the open-air special-purpose camp of Hoedjiespunt 1 (HDP1, Western Cape) and the rockshelter residential site of Sibudu (KwaZulu-Natal), especially on assemblages dated between ~ 130–100 and ~ 58 ka. Subsequently, I review relevant materials for the southern African MSA. At HDP1 and Sibudu, local raw materials of lower knapping suitability assume several roles, from the “staple” material for all manufacturing stages to special-purpose and “add-on” functions. In the broader southern African region, MSA knappers also used these rock types in a flexible manner with gradual differences but also similarities to their use of finer-grained raw material. These differences depend on a complex interaction of raw material availability, differential site use, and the position of the localities in the settlement system.
... Subsistence intensification can be framed within OFT and may be defined as the extraction of increased energy from food resources at the expense of foraging efficiency (Schoener 1974;Munro 2009: 141). Intensification occurs when over-exploitation caused by increasing population pressure (Flannery 1969;Stiner et al. 1999;Munro 2009;Jerardino 2010) or environmental degradation (Henshilwood and Marean 2003;McCall 2007) results in the depletion of higher-ranked food resources such as large herbivores. Intensification has been linked to increases in the exploitation of lowerranked small fauna such as hare, rabbits and birds (Stiner et al. 2000) and may be closely linked to higher occupations during the Later Pleistocene in southern Africa (Clark 2011;Reynard and Henshilwood 2017). ...
Article
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Occupational intensity is a common theme in current research and has been linked to significant demographic trends in the past. The Late Pleistocene in the southern Cape may be especially important in understanding the impacts of socio-demographic change given its association with developments in 'modern' human behaviour. The ubiquity of archaeo-faunal remains at Middle Stone Age (MSA) sites makes these convenient datasets for documenting site-specific occupational patterns. In this paper, zooarchaeological and taphonomic data are evaluated as proxies for occupational intensity, and occupational trends are explored in the southern Cape. Zooarchaeological and taphonomic data from three southern Cape MSA sites-Klipdrift Shelter, Blombos Cave and Pinnacle Point-are compared with previously determined higher and lower occupational levels within each site to assess the value of these proxies in tracking temporal changes in settlement intensity. The results show that, while frequencies of small mammals and larger ungulates often covary with occupational levels, these are problematic indicators because of the impact of carnivores. Similarly, faunal diversity generally corresponds well with increasing human occupations but is a problematic proxy because of the effects of animal activity. Anthropogenic bone surface modifications appear to be effective in tracking occupational patterns, with trampling a particularly useful indicator. Faunal and shellfish density, and transverse bone fracture patterns, are valuable proxies of occupational intensity at all sites. Generally, the data suggests close links between occupational intensity at these sites and marine transgressions. Evidence of increased exploitation of small game in the later MSA may imply periods of subsistence intensification possibly linked to increased demographic pressure during Marine Isotope Stage 4.
... For a recent synthesis of different hypotheses regarding its appearance and disappearance see Dusseldorp [72]; he explains the transition as the result of changes in both resource availability and mobility strategies. Arguments that have focused on environmental explanations for the transition include, for example, Deacon [71], Ambrose and Lorenz [73] and McCall [74], among others. In other words, previous explanations for the appearance and disappearance of Howiesons Poort have concentrated on its characteristic material culture as a particular environmental adaptation in southern Africa to particularly harsh Late Pleistocene conditions. ...
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We evaluate the cultural variation between the youngest Howiesons Poort layer (GR) and the oldest post-Howiesons Poort layers (RB-YA) of Sibudu Cave (KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa). We first conducted a technological analysis, secondly we performed a cladistic study with all the technological traits and, finally, we compare the technological variability with other data from Sibudu (ochre, micromorphology, fauna and plant remains). The synapomorphies of the cladistical analysis show numerous lithic technological changes between the youngest Howiesons Poort and the oldest post-Howiesons Poort layers as previously concluded. However, some technological strategies that are present, yet uncommon, in the Howiesons Poort become abundant in the overlying layers, whereas others that were fundamental to the Howiesons Poort continue, but are poorly represented in the overlying layers. We further show that lithic technological strategies appear and disappear as pulses in the post-Howiesons Poort layers studied. Among the most notable changes in the post-Howiesons Poort layers is the importance of flake production from discoidal knapping methods, the unstandardized retouched pieces and their infrequent representation, and the higher than usual frequency of grindstones. We evaluate various hypotheses to explain the transformation of a Howiesons Poort formal industry to a more `expedient' assemblage. Since no marked environmental changes are contemporary with the technological transformation, a change in residential mobility patterns seems a plausible explanation. This hypothesis is supported by the changes observed in stratigraphy, lithic technology, site management, ochre and firewood collection.
... Others have suggested that bladelet production provided benefits under conditions of high residential mobility (Goebel, 2002; Neeley, 2002). Both explanations e increased subsistence risk and increased mobility e have been posited for bladelet-rich systems in southern Africa during globally cooler conditions (Mitchell, 2000;Ambrose, 2002;Grosjean et al., 2003;Mellars, 2006;McCall, 2007;McCall and Thomas, 2012). The Robberg specifically has been associated with increased residential mobility in response to inferred diminishing resource density (Mitchell, 2000;Ambrose, 2002), and has been explained as a risk-dampening response to resource stress (Mackay, 2009). ...
Article
Africa's southern Cape is a key region for the evolution of our species, with early symbolic systems, marine faunal exploitation, and episodic production of microlithic stone tools taken as evidence for the appearance of distinctively complex human behavior. However, the temporally discontinuous nature of this evidence precludes ready assumptions of intrinsic adaptive benefit, and has encouraged diverse explanations for the occurrence of these behaviors, in terms of regional demographic, social and ecological conditions. Here, we present a new high-resolution multi-proxy record of environmental change that indicates that faunal exploitation patterns and lithic technologies track climatic variation across the last 22,300 years in the southern Cape. Conditions during the Last Glacial Maximum and deglaciation were humid, and zooarchaeological data indicate high foraging returns. By contrast, the Holocene is characterized by much drier conditions and a degraded resource base. Critically, we demonstrate that systems for technological delivery e or provisioning e were responsive to changing humidity and environmental productivity. However, in contrast to prevailing models, bladelet-rich microlithic technologies were deployed under conditions of high foraging returns and abandoned in response to increased aridity and less productive subsistence environments. This suggests that posited links between microlithic technologies and subsistence risk are not universal, and the behavioral sophistication of human populations is reflected in their adaptive flexibility rather than in the use of specific technological systems.
... Until recently, interest in the MIS 4 Still Bay and Howiesons Poort technocomplexes of the South African MSA has eclipsed the study of the subsequent post-Howiesons Poort and final stages of the MSA in MIS 3 [11,98,[153][154][155][156]. Initial suggestions that human behaviour experienced a devolution, regression or behavioural reversal following the innovative bursts seen in MIS 4 are no longer upheld [157][158][159] and the period is now generally viewed as reflecting shifts in technological organisation and adaptive strategies [4,115,160,161]. The climate of MIS 3 was not uniformly characterised by hyper-aridity as is sometimes stated [162][163][164], instead seeing rapid fluctuations and considerable variability in South Africa's different biomes [11]. ...
Article
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The Middle Stone Age record in southern Africa is recognising increasing diversity in lithic technologies as research expands beyond the coastal-montane zone. New research in the arid Tankwa Karoo region of the South African interior has revealed a rich surface artefact record including a novel method of point production, recognised as Nubian Levallois technology in Late Pleistocene North Africa, Arabia and the Levant. We analyse 121 Nubian cores and associated points from the surface site Tweefontein against the strict criteria which are used to define Nubian technology elsewhere. The co-occurrence of typically post-Howiesons Poort unifacial points suggests an MIS 3 age. We propose that the occurrence of this distinctive technology at numerous localities in the Tankwa Karoo region reflects an environment-specific adaptation in line with technological regionalisation seen more widely in MIS 3. The arid setting of these assemblages in the Tankwa Karoo compares with the desert context of Nubian technology globally, consistent with convergent evolution in our case. The South African evidence contributes an alternative perspective on Nubian technology removed from the ‘dispersal’ or ‘diffusion’ scenarios of the debate surrounding its origin and spread within and out of Africa.
... Demographic factors may have had a significant impact on human behavioural development during the late Pleistocene (Clark 2011;Henshilwood and Marean 2003;Mellars 2006;Powell et al. 2009;Richerson et al. 2009;Shennan 2001;Steele and Klein 2009). Increases in population density, for example, would have affected subsistence behaviour and, possibly, technological trends (McCall 2007;Minichillo 2006). ...
... The nonpreference-based change models propose that change in archaeological raw material patterns is the result of what raw materials are available to be encountered on the landscape (Oestmo, 2017). There are two main variants of this model: (1) a natural availability variant, which proposes that the availability of materials that can be encountered can change due to environmental factors such as erosion, exposure, burial, or removal acting on sources (Brown, 2011;Volman, 1981); or (2) a mobility-linked variant that proposes that a new mobility strategy that for example increases range size, changes foraging patterns, or frequency of residential moves results in the foragers encountering new sources (Ambrose and Lorenz, 1990;McCall, 2007;McCall and Thomas, 2012). In the mobility-linked variant the raw material availability covaries with changes in human mobility strategies. ...
Article
The Palaeo-Agulhas Plain (PAP), when exposed, presented Middle Stone Age (MSA) foragers at Pinnacle Point (PP) on the South Coast of South Africa with new sources of raw materials to make stone tools. Sea-level fluctuations and the changing size of the Paleo-Agulhas Plain throughout the Pleistocene PP record ∼165 ka to 50 ka would have altered the availability of different resources, thus potentially forcing new raw material procurement strategies. The relative frequencies of raw material throughout the PP sequence shows that frequencies of raw material types did change, especially after 90 ka. What caused these changing frequencies is debated and centers on whether targeted procurement of specific raw materials was the cause, or if simple raw material availability and abundance due to the changing environmental context in conjunction with opportunistic procurement drove such shifts. The application of a neutral model of stone raw material procurement presented here evaluates whether random walk in the region surrounding the PP site during different coastline configurations (Marine Isotope Stage 6, 5, and 4) explains the observed shifts in raw material usage. Put differently, did opportunistic acquisition of raw materials during random walk in these different environments cause the observed raw material pattern? Model simulations and a sensitivity analysis provide no convincing evidence that observed raw material frequencies at PP resulted from opportunistic acquisition during random walk.
... East African lithic assemblages often feature long-distance procurement of raw materials, blade production, bifacially retouched points, and early instances of microlithic implements (Ambrose 1998;Gliganic et al. 2012;Pleurdeau 2006;Tryon et al. 2012). The southern African record has produced a robust dataset of precocious time-constrained industries in which flake or blade blanks were retouched to create near-microlithic tool insets, again linked to specific environmental and demographic pressures (Brown et al. 2012;McCall 2007). In these examples, time and energy investments in stone tool technologies were oriented toward specific goals. ...
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The African Middle Stone Age (MSA, typical range ~ 320–30 ka) has been the subject of intense research interest in recent decades as a culture-chronological Unit associated with the emergence and dispersal of our species. Recent results of this work have shown that sites designated as “MSA” contain common approaches to lithic reduction, but that within this rubric, there is much diversity in overall assemblage characteristics and the timing of their appearance across the continent. As researchers recover more data from more sites, especially from undersampled geographic regions, this more complex picture of the MSA reveals technological and other behavioral diversity in early modern human populations that may inform about the ultimate success of our species. Here we add to this growing database by describing the environmental context and characteristics of two concentrations of stone artifacts from the late MSA (~ 43–21 ka) open-air locality of Chaminade-I (CHA-I), near the town of Karonga in northern Malawi. The CHA-I lithic artifacts show a flexible approach to stone tool production and use that is common to assemblages in Karonga but distinctive from MSA sites reported elsewhere. Radial and minimally reduced cores typify an unelaborated lithic assemblage, in which raw material choice is driven by toolstone clast size and shape rather than preferential use or treatment of specific materials, as found in MSA assemblages in the East African Rift, South Africa, and the North African coast. Lithic reduction at CHA-I took place within a woody, riparian context embedded within a more open woodland landscape. Most artifacts occurred in near-channel sandy deposits dated to ~ 41 ka, and were buried under alluvial fan deposits that began aggrading by at least ~ 21 ka and continued beyond ~ 5.5 ka within a grassy, open landscape. The site’s late MSA age and lack of elaboration in lithic technology challenges straightforward ideas of increasing complexity in human technological behavior over time and provides important insight into the diversity of MSA technologies and the environmental conditions in which they existed.
... Linking specific aspects of human development such as stone tool industries or technocomplexes to environmental change is fundamentally difficult and contentious. For example, McCall (2007) argues for a direct correlation between the HP and colder temperatures during late MIS 4 (see also Ambrose and Lorenz 1990). argue that there can be no such association given that global temperatures at this time exhibit a warming trend. ...
... What is increasingly clear however, is that there is strong spatial variability in patterns of climate change across southern Africa. Rather than extrapolation to distant palaeoclimate records, theoretical models linking changes in regional resource distribution and predictability with hunter-gatherer strategies of mobility, settlement patterning, foraging range size and tool design (Ambrose and Lorenz, 1990;McCall, 2007) offer a potentially more useful perspective for understanding the regional diversity in the archaeological record as the resolution of these records improves. Adamiec and Aitken, 1998Moernaut et al., 2010 ...
Article
Single grain OSL dating has been used to produce new chronologies for three previously investigated sites in the northern Kalahari basin in western Zambia containing both Middle and Later Stone Age material (Phillipson, 1975a, b). We find that Mode 3 (Middle Stone Age, MSA) assemblages in the Upper Zambezi Valley pre-date the Last Glacial Maximum. The chronology produced here is consistent with age estimates from a handful of dated sites within the wider Kalahari basin. The Mode 3 to Mode 5 (Later Stone Age, LSA) relationship at one site, Chavuma, is unlikely to be a continuous transition as previously thought. Instead we find a significant chronological hiatus between MSA material deposited at 66.5 ± 9.9 ka and LSA material deposited at 16.7 ± 2.6 ka. We consider these dated archaeological finds within the context of current archaeological and palaeoenvironmental records for the region. The results demonstrate the highly variable climate history of the region and the limitations of the existing archaeological record for modelling human responses to habitat change.
... Models of our species' behavioural origins often extrapolate site-based evidence to landscape scale interactions (e.g. d 'Errico et al. 2017;Mackay et al. 2014a;Marean 2010;McCall 2007;Porraz et al. 2013;Powell et al. 2009;Villa et al. 2010). Southern Africa's documented Late Pleistocene Will et al. (2015) (N.B. since this publication, the far eastern scatter of UPK 7 has been assigned the new locality name 'UPK 9') Archaeol Anthropol Sci (2019) 11:5851-5877 archaeological record mostly derives from rock shelters. ...
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The original version of this article, unfortunately, contained error. Modifications have been made to the Introduction, Results/observations, Figures and figure citations. The original article has been corrected.
... Models of our species' behavioural origins often extrapolate site-based evidence to landscape scale interactions (e.g. d 'Errico et al. 2017;Mackay et al. 2014a;Marean 2010;McCall 2007;Porraz et al. 2013;Powell et al. 2009;Villa et al. 2010). Southern Africa's documented Late Pleistocene archaeological record mostly derives from rock shelters. ...
Data
The following link to our Open Science Framework project provides open access to the Phillips et al. raw data, R code, and manuscript text (https://osf.io/cxta4/)
... Models of our species' behavioural origins often extrapolate site-based evidence to landscape scale interactions (e.g. d 'Errico et al. 2017;Mackay et al. 2014a;Marean 2010;McCall 2007;Porraz et al. 2013;Powell et al. 2009;Villa et al. 2010). Southern Africa's documented Late Pleistocene Will et al. (2015) (N.B. since this publication, the far eastern scatter of UPK 7 has been assigned the new locality name 'UPK 9') Archaeol Anthropol Sci (2019) 11:5851-5877 archaeological record mostly derives from rock shelters. ...
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Open-air archaeology plays a limited role in southern African Late Pleistocene research, with most studies focused on rock shelter assemblages. Recently, archaeologists have noted discrepancies in the composition of Late Pleistocene lithic assemblages between some of the region’s open-air and rock shelter sites. For example, although relatively abundant in rock shelters, Late Pleistocene Later Stone Age (LSA, c. 44–12 kcal. BP) bipolar cores are rare in open-air contexts. In this paper, we assess this discrepancy by testing for differential preservation of specific artefact classes and sizes in semi-arid open-air conditions. We placed a replicated assemblage of miniaturised cores and flakes on an archaeologically sterile sediment surface in the Doring River Valley (South Africa) and recorded their movements over 22 months. Our results indicate that bipolar and freehand cores moved comparable distances within the study interval and that surface slope is the strongest predictor of miniaturised tool movement.We also show that (1) relatively flat lithics move disproportionately more and (2) random artefact orientations do not preclude local (i.e. metre) scale artefact transport. In terms of the archaeology of our study area, the observed clustering of surface artefacts on sediment bodies likely results from their recent exposure. Our data suggest that the paucity of open-air bipolar artefacts in Late Pleistocene LSA assemblages may have more to do with human behavioural variability at landscape scales than differential preservation. Southern Africa’s rich rock shelter record is, therefore, unlikely to represent the full suite of prehistoric hunter-gatherer behaviours. SpringerNature SharedIt Full-text: http://rdcu.be/I5Tn
... Demographic factors may have had a significant impact on human behavioural development during the late Pleistocene (Clark 2011;Henshilwood and Marean 2003;Mellars 2006;Powell et al. 2009;Richerson et al. 2009;Shennan 2001;Steele and Klein 2009). Increases in population density, for example, would have affected subsistence behaviour and, possibly, technological trends (McCall 2007;Minichillo 2006). ...
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Demography probably had a significant influence on the transmission of cultural innovation during the late Pleistocene. In enclosed sites such as rockshelters, trampling marks are likely direct evidence for human occupations and can possibly be used to infer occupational patterns. In this study, we explore trampling modification as a proxy for occupational intensity. We examined trampling data at the Middle Stone Age site of Blombos Cave in South Africa to investigate whether these marks may inform on occupational intensity during the Still Bay period—a significant era for the development of behavioural modernity. Trampling is defined by pitting, scratches, abrasion and linear marks. These marks were then compared to other taphonomic proxies (e.g., faunal density per volume, transverse fractures, non-anthropogenic modification) to explore the relationships between these indicators. Our results indicate that trampling modifications can provide information on a site’s occupational history and that the data indicate that there are two phases within the Blombos sequence showing more intense/frequency occupations, corresponding to the early and middle Still Bay deposits.
... The reasons behind these complex, discontinuous and non-linear trajectories of cultural change on the African continent are not well-understood. Assuming comparable cognitive capabilities, they might result from a complex interplay between shifting patterns of mobility, risk management and raw material procurement (Torrence, 1983;Ambrose and Lorenz, 1990;Brantingham, 2003;McCall, 2007;McCall and Thomas, 2009), but also demographic dynamics in structured populations (Crevecoeur et al., 2016;Miraz on Lahr, 2016;Scerri et al., 2018) differential uptake and transmission of innovations (Boyd and Richerson, 1985;Cavalli-Sforza and Feldman, 1981;Derex et al., 2013;Henrich, 2001;H€ ogberg and Lombard, 2020;Kolodny et al., 2015;Rogers, 1995), or fitness-enhancing adaptations to ever-changing social and environmental conditions (Blome et al., 2012;Chase, 2010;d'Errico and Banks, 2013;Will et al., 2019). ...
Article
The MSA/LSA transition is a major shift in the African archaeological record, but questions on its beginning remain debated. In southern Africa, most sites suggest an origin of LSA technology after about 30.000 years BP. The single exception is Border Cave situated at the border between South Africa and Eswatini, with surprisingly old dates of ∼43.000 BP associated with an LSA-like bipolar quartz assemblage. While many researchers now consider Border Cave to represent the origin of the LSA in southern Africa, these findings lack proper contextualization with regional lithic and chronometric data. Here we pursue the question whether Border Cave provides firm evidence for the source of LSA technology that later spread to the rest of southern Africa. To test between different hypotheses, we provide new chronometric and lithic data from the site of Sibebe, situated in the highveld of Eswatini only 100 km distant to Border Cave, and contextualize these results with nearby localities. Eswatini represents an ideal study area as it features many excavated sites but remains heavily understudied, rarely appearing in comparative MSA/LSA research. Our analyses at Sibebe identify two distinct groups of MSA lithic assemblages dated to between 43.000 and 27.000 cal BP by C14, overlain by a late Holocene LSA industry. The latest MSA expression at Sibebe features finely shaped unifacial and bifacial points without trends towards LSA technology. A comparative review of sites in Eswatini, South Africa, and Mozambique confirms similar MSA industries post-dating 30.000 BP but finds no evidence for LSA technologies before ∼27.000 BP. These findings suggest that Border Cave cannot mark the origin of the much later LSA in southern Africa, but rather signifies an early set of locally specific behavioral innovations that appeared and disappeared again. These findings have important implications for the spread of new technologies and our understanding of cultural evolutionary trajectories in southern Africa and beyond.
... These new data contrast with earlier hypotheses that suggest that both Still Bay and Howiesons Poort industries appear during arid (e.g. Ambrose & Lorenz, 1990;McCall, 2007) or wet (Chase, 2010) conditions previously inferred for MIS 4 in southern Africa. Thus, unstable environments with repeated habitat fragmentation, isolation and admixture seems to be optimal places for cultural and biological evolution of Homo leading to the multiregional origin of H. sapiens (Scerri et al., 2018). ...
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The traditional concept of long and gradual, glacial-interglacial climate changes during the Quaternary has been challenged since the 1980s. High temporal resolution analysis of marine, terrestrial and ice geological archives has identified rapid, millennial-to centennial-scale, and large-amplitude climatic cycles throughout the last few million years. These changes were global but have had contrasting regional impacts on the terrestrial and marine ecosystems, with in some cases strong changes in the high latitudes of both hemispheres but muted changes elsewhere. Such a regionalization has produced environmental barriers and corridors that have probably triggered niche contractions/expansions of hominin populations living in Eurasia and Africa. This article reviews the long-and short-timescale ecosystem changes that have punctuated the last few million years, paying particular attention to the environments of the last 650,000 years, which have witnessed key events in the evolution of our lineage in Africa and Eurasia. This review highlights, for the first time, a contemporaneity between the split between Denisovan and Neanderthals, at 650-400 ka, and the strong Eurasian ice-sheet expansion down to the Black Sea. This ice expansion could form an ice barrier between Europe and Asia that may have triggered the genetic drift between these two populations.
... The variables contributing to the structure of the southern African archaeological record through the late Pleistocene have provoked much debate, with neural (Parkington, 2001;Klein, 2008), environmental (Deacon, 1989;McCall, 2007;Ziegler et al., 2013), subsistence-settlement (Marean, 2011(Marean, , 2016, and demographic (Jacobs and Roberts, 2009;Powell et al., 2009;Mackay et al., 2014) factors, as well as combinations thereof (Henshilwood and Dubreuil, 2011), all suggested as causal. While this discourse will and should continue for some time, the combined evidence from MIS 5 outlined above hints at a phase of demographic dynamism. ...
Article
Multidisciplinary research suggests that Marine Isotope Stage 5 (~130–74 ka) was an important evolutionary stage in African deep history. Population expansion and growth spurred changes in material culture as well as the exploration of previously unoccupied regions and ecosystems. The archaeological sequence at Melikane Rockshelter (1860 masl) in the Maloti-Drakensberg Mountains of highland Lesotho, southern Africa, stretches from the late Holocene back to sub- stage 5a, ~80 ka. The site’s earliest strata represent one of the earliest known examples of a sustained human presence in high mountain systems worldwide. This paper deals with the lithic assemblages from those levels, which are currently the oldest radiometrically dated archaeology in Lesotho and one of the few stratified assemblages of Last Interglacial age in the southern African interior. The results of a typo-technological analysis of the assemblages are presented. They suggest that the afromontane foragers who resided at Melikane employed both blade-focussed and bipolar flaking systems, curated a maintainable toolkit suited to frequent residential moves, and used a hybrid provisioning system adapted to their immediate environment. Comparisons with other late Last Interglacial assemblages across the subcontinent suggest that highland populations at this time were largely disconnected from their lowland counterparts. This implies that as Last Interglacial populations in southern Africa expanded into new environments, they also fragmented, adapting to local conditions rather than adhering to a universal technological system.
Article
Obtaining and transporting material for manufacturing flaked stone tools comes at a cost. Numerous studies evaluate how processing may reduce transport costs, often using models of optimal foraging theory such as central place foraging and field processing. However, to date these studies do not adequately address the continued reuse of toolstone through space and time, or the repeated use of toolstone by multiple individuals. To remedy this, we offer a novel theoretical framework for the conveyance of lithic material derived from the logic of the marginal value theorem. This framework explains changes in lithic acquisition, use, and discard in terms of changing environmental context. Specifically, this study examines the effect of distance from a geological source of lithic material on access to anthropogenic sources of lithic material, including previously discarded tools and cores, and quantifies these spatial patterns in terms of optimal processing before discard. We evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of past and current modeling approaches, and test predictions developed using the marginal value theorem through an artifact inventory and analysis of archaeological sites in the lower Dolores River canyon lands in southeastern Utah. The results of this case study support model predictions, showing that the degree of processing and use intensity represented in lithic assemblages increase in response to the decreasing quality and abundance of available lithic material that occurs with increased distance from the geological source. This theoretical framework offers some general insights that can explain variation in the distribution of lithic artifacts across diverse archaeological contexts.
Article
This paper examines the stone tool technology from the site of Kenure, Co. Dublin, on the East coast of Ireland. Collected in the 1940s by the avocational archaeologist Gwendoline C. Stacpoole, Kenure represents an extremely large surface assemblage likely belonging to the later phase of the Irish Late Mesolithic period (~7000–5500 BP). The results of this analysis affirm the likelihood that the Kenure lithic assemblage does, in fact, date to the Late Mesolithic. Core reduction was conducted using hard hammers and was generally expedient, usually involving the splitting of locally occurring glacial till chert cobbles followed by the use of single platform core reduction strategies. Retouched tools were characterized by a range of scraper, notch, denticulate, and borer forms. Moderate frequencies of convergent flakes were also present, with many fitting the typological definition of Bann flakes. In addition, there were noticeable numbers of small blades, though these generally lack the specialized technical features of Mesolithic blades from the Irish Early Mesolithic and Mesolithic sites in other regions of Western Europe. Moderate frequencies of pieces derived from bipolar percussion were also present in the Kenure assemblage and this paper offers an explanation of the use of bipolar percussion in relation to the small size of locally available lithic raw materials. Finally, this paper concludes with a consideration of the implications of the technological features of the Kenure assemblage for the organization of Irish Late Mesolithic foraging technology, as well as the potential for future research on the Kenure collection.
Article
The Howieson's Poort (HP; ∼65–59 ka) continues to be a source of interest to scholars studying human behavioral evolution during the Late Pleistocene. This is in large part because the HP preserves evidence for a suite of innovative technologies and behaviors (including geometric backed tools and engraved ostrich eggshell), but also because the disappearance of the innovative behaviors associated with this phase is not well understood. Here, I present taphonomic and taxonomic data on the full sample of macromammal remains excavated from the HP deposits at Sibudu Cave under the direction of Lyn Wadley. With a total number of identified specimens (NISP) of 5921, Sibudu provides the largest sample of HP fauna published to date. Taken as a whole, the data suggest a focus on a diverse range of prey. Ungulates dominate the assemblage, as do taxa that preferentially inhabit closed (particularly forested) environments. Small bovids are common throughout; blue duiker (Philantomba monticola) alone comprises ∼33% of the total NISP. A diverse smaller game assemblage is also present. Taphonomic data implicate humans as the primary contributor to the fauna; however, low levels of gastric etching (∼1% of the NISP) suggest that non-human agents may have played some role in the accumulation of the smaller game. Despite broad similarities in the fauna, a number of directional trends are evidenced. Most notably, the lowermost deposits of the HP contain the highest frequency of blue duiker and other small ungulates, taxa which prefer closed environments, and miscellaneous smaller game. All of these decline throughout the HP, and these differences are statistically significant. After considering possible explanations for these trends, I discuss the potential implications of the variation evidenced in the assemblage to our understanding of the onset—and disappearance—of this important substage of the MSA.
Chapter
TCSA and TCSP are often considered valuable measures of projectile performance, particularly in terms of penetration and overall design. Proponents of this view have also argued that TCSA/TCSP may also be useful for identifying the origins and spread of more complex projectile technologies such as the spear thrower and bow. The strength of these arguments will be tested against ethnographic data and new experiments. The results suggest that TCSA/TCSP statistics are not robust measures of projectile performance, or reliable proxies for inferring delivery systems. An alternative approach is developed using experimental data that compares impact fracture size for three different diagnostic impact fracture types. This approach, while found to be valuable, also presents problems for archaeological identification of projectile technologies.
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One of the main elements in prehistoric research is the study of settlement patterns. In the last five decades, stemming partially from Binford’s research on the topic, the idea of settlement patterns is based on site typology, including the traditional residential and logistic concepts. Both models of land use and exploitation are certainly marked by the notion of short-term occupation. This concept, used freely by many archaeologists, tends to rely on two main ideas: an occupation lasted a short span of time and resulted in a limited amount of material culture. Our aim, based on our results from various archaeological case studies dated to the Upper Palaeolithic of Portugal, is to show that neither idea is necessarily correct: e.g. there may be short-term occupations with the production of large amounts of artefacts, such as lithic workshops; there might be very small collections, such as lithic caches, resulting from short occupations but with very long uses of the site; and most times, both are hardly differentiated within complex palimpsests. Our study shows that the common use of lithic volumetric density and retouch frequency is not always sufficient to differentiate between short- and long-term occupations. Also, there are other variables that are more sensitive to indicate the duration of occupation of an archaeological context that should be used in the identification of time length.
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This contribution aims to provide a concise review of Howiesons Poort research conducted over the past eight decades since the industry was first identified. A review is considered useful in the light of current interest in the industry and what it means in terms of technological and cognitive evolution. It is also true that far-reaching behavioural hypotheses have been built around the Howiesons Poort, some with very little supporting evidence. Recent developments in stone tool analysis, environmental reconstruction and dating methodology are providing us with new tools to measure the time depth and limits of the Howiesons Poort. Such methods may also provide detailed empirical data to build onto or re-assess hypotheses regarding human behaviour associated with this stone tool industry.
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Archaeology's main contribution to the debate over the origins of modern humans has been investigating where and when modern human behavior is first recognized in the archaeological record. Most of this debate has been over the empirical record for the appearance and distribution of a set of traits that have come to be accepted as indicators of behavioral modernity. This debate has resulted in a series of competing models that we explicate here, and the traits are typically used as the test implications for these models. However, adequate tests of hypotheses and models rest on robust test implications, and we argue here that the current set of test implications suffers from three main problems: (1) Many are empirically derived from and context-specific to the richer European record, rendering them problematic for use in the primarily tropical and subtropical African continent. (2) They are ambiguous because other processes can be invoked, often with greater parsimony, to explain their character. (3) Many lack theoretical justification. In addition, there are severe taphonomic problems in the application of these test implications across differing spans of time. To provide adequate tests of these models, archaeologists must first subject these test implications to rigorous discussion, which is initiated here.
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A chaîne opératoire approach to the analysis of the Howiesons Poort backed artefacts from Klasies River main site was used to describe raw material acquisition, blank production and selection, modification through retouch and use. The results show that the process of making backed artefacts reflects the imposition of attributes of style. Style is equated with communication through the medium of symbols. The ability to manipulate symbols is termed symbolic behaviour and is characteristic of the sapient mind. It implies the use of language. On this evidence, the emergence of symbolic behaviour long preceded the Upper Palaeolithic.
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L'article rapporte la decouverte, dans les niveaux du Middle Stone Age de la grotte de Blombos (Cape Town, Afrique du Sud), d'un mobilier lithique presentant des caracteristiques techniques et typologiques assez inhabituelles et surtout, d'une industrie osseuse. L'analyse de la composition en carbone et en nitrogene de cette industrie et d'ossements non travailles corroborent leur attribution au MSA. Deux des pointes constituant ce mobilier peuvent donc etre considerees comme les deux premiers objets osseux standardises dont on a demontre par une analyse directe, l'attribution a un assemblage de plus de 40.000 ans. De plus, cette decouverte met en avant la necessite d'une reconsideration chronologique de l'utilisation d'ossements travailles comme outils
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Hunter-gatherer adaptations to long-term fluctuations in regional resource structure require mechanisms to cope with periodic subsistence stresses. Among documented groups, a common response to such stress is temporary movement into adjacent occupied areas-moving in with "relatives" when things go wrong. However, in the case of early (ca. 12,000-10,000 B.P.) Paleoindian groups in the Americas, the availability of neighboring groups with a detailed knowledge of local resource geography could not be relied upon. Post-Pleistocene environmental changes and the low initial population of the New World are important factors conditioning a lifeway characterized by a dependence on hunting (though not exclusively of megafauna), and by high residential, logistical, and range (territorial) mobility. Early Paleoindian groups had to adopt a subsistence technology that could be employed regardless of the specific resource microstructure. In some regards, Paleoindians seem to have behaved like tropical foragers while in others like arctic collectors. Use of high quality lithic raw materials from large quarry sources, reliance on a bifacial technology, limited use of caves and rockshelters, and a low level of processing of food products for storage all may be indicative of such a subsistence technology, which would have been unlike that of any modern hunter-gatherers.
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I report the results of a microscopic study of the bone modification in the identified bovid assemblage from Cave 1 at Klasies River Mouth (KRM), in South Africa. The study was undertaken in an effort to resolve divergent interpretations of the predatory competence of the early modern humans there. The microscopic data suggest that the hominids had relatively unrestricted access to the choicest parts of bovids in all size classes. The carnivore damage signature is ephemeral; it does not support assertions that large carcasses were carnivore-ravaged before their appropriation by hominids or that carnivores contributed a meaningful number of smaller bovids to the faunal assemblage. The data therefore lead to the conclusion that hominids were the sole, regular accumulators of bovids in all size classes. That many of those bovids were obtained by active hunting is suggested by the tip of a stone point embedded in a cervical vertebra of the extinct giant buffalo,Pelorovis antiquus. Finally, some attributes of the butchering patterning hint that the Klasies hominids formed socially mediated task groups to accomplish labour-intensive tasks. These results challenge the general perception that modern morphology pre-dated modern behaviour and the specific assertion that the KRM hominids were behaviourally very primitive. The KRM hominids were apparently active hunters who produced composite tools and who planned and executed complex tasks within a social framework. To the extent that these behaviours presage the modern condition, the KRM hominids were as behaviourally near-modern as they were anatomically near-modern.
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Backed microliths made on small flakes and blades are considered the hallmark of Later Stone Age (LSA) industries of sub-Saharan Africa. However, some early LSA microlithic industries lack backed tools, others have extremely large ones, and some Middle Stone Age (MSA) industries also have high frequencies of blades and large backed “microliths.” The invention of blades, backed microliths, and microlithization were thus separate phenomena in sub-Saharan Africa. Given this diversity and complexity, a “one size fits all” model may neither satisfactorily characterize nor explain the origin of blade-based technologies, large backed tools in the MSA, and microlithic industries in the LSA. This chapter will briefly summarize the evidence for early backed tool and microlithic industries and then evaluate several hypotheses for microlithization and backed tool production, including the invention of composite hafted tools, punch blade technology, hunting with bow and arrow in closed habitats, invention of poisons for projectiles, increased access to fine-grained raw materials, increased mobility, conservation of scarce materials, giving gifts of backed microliths made on fine-grained exotic raw materials, and manufacture of more effective specialized toolkits when increased information sharing permitted reliable anticipation of tasks. If microlithic and backed blade–based industries were invented in Africa, then understanding their origin may provide insight into the evolution of modern human behavior and the dispersal of modern humans and modern human technology out of Africa.
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Current interest in the origins of anatomically modernHomo sapiens has focused attention on early modern human remains and related archaeological materials associated with the southern African Middle Stone Age. While the anatomically modern status and a Last Interglacial or later age for the human fossils enjoy general support, issues related to the definition of the Middle Stone Age, its dating, and the interpretation of human behavior lack consensus. Available evidence suggests that the anatomically modern human skeleton appeared well before many aspects of the subsistence and symbolic behavior that characterize recent foragers and that Middle Stone Age technology persisted longer in southern Africa than its northern hemisphere counterpart.
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Luminescence dating results are reported for two South African archaeological sites where changes in the dose rate through time are apparent. A subtraction procedure involving analysis of both quartz and potassium-feldspar extracts is applied to detect and correct for these changes. At the Middle Stone Age site of Klasies River, the dose rate changes inferred from geologic evidence for shell dissolution turn out not to be significant, having occurred rapidly after deposition. The dates here range from 50–115 ka, in broad agreement with other evidence. The important Howiesons Poort component here appears to date somewhat later (about 55–60 ka) than at several other sites in South Africa. At the Acheulian site of Duinefontein, the dose rate changes, also thought to be caused by shell dissolution, are, on the other hand, very significant. The subtraction ages here (125–300 ka) agree with independent chronological assessments.
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The difference between the culture-stratigraphic entities, the MSA I and MSA II, in the Klasies River sequence is explored by statistical analysis of the end products. Technological analysis of the cores, end products and waste products suggested that the MSA I and MSA II represent distinct technological traditions aimed at producing different end products. To quantify the difference between the end products, points and blades, extensive univariate and multivariate statistical analyses of continuous variables have been undertaken. Biplot methodology is adopted for enhancing the statistical analysis. Canonical variate analysis biplots are constructed and alpha-bags added for visual displays of the overlap and separation among the different groups. It is demonstrated that the platform thickness relative to length is useful in discriminating between the end products of the MSA I and MSA II. Statistical analyses support a clear distinction between the MSA I and MSA II.
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It has been suggested that many behavioral innovations, said to appear during the late Middle Stone Age in sub-Saharan Africa, facilitated the expansion of anatomically modern humans from Africa and the Near East into Europe at about 50 kyr; the process eventually led to the replacement of Neanderthals by modern humans and the emergence of the Upper Paleolithic. However, assemblages in this time range are little known in South Africa. In fact, the transition from Middle to the Later Stone Age in Southern Africa is controversial. The early appearance in South Africa of many innovations, such as sophisticated knapping techniques (e.g. the use of soft hammer or indirect percussion in blade production, of composite tools, of microlithic and bladelet technologies) remains to be established through technological analysis.
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A sequence of samples of micromammalian remains from Klasies River Mouth on the south coast of South Africa provides evidence of vegetational and climatic change during the Late Pleistocene. The evidence suggests the presence of a vegetational mosaic similar to that of the present but with relatively more open vegetation at the time the central part of the sequence was being deposited than was the case at the beginning or the end. Fluctuations occurred in general climatic conditions, as indicated by the Shannon—Wiener index of diversity, but conditions appear to have remained relatively moderate throughout with no evidence of glacial or interglacial maxima. Changes in sea level are probably also reflected in changed proportions of various species of small mammal. The site has yet to be dated conclusively but the micro-mammalian data tend to support other lines of evidence which suggest that this sequence of deposits was laid down during isotope stage 5, probably substages 5d—a. Human response to the challenge of changing conditions can be shown to lag behind those changes as recorded by micromammals.