Stone Age signatures in northernmost South Africa: Early archaeology in the Mapungubwe National Park and vicinity
The oldest archaeological sites currently known in northernmost South Africa are found in the Mapungubwe National Park (formerly known as the Vhembe-Dongola National Park) and neighbouring farms, where there is a widespread distribution of open-air sites in deflated contexts. They are sealed by Holocene sands, which at some of the sites contain Later Stone Age (LSA) artefacts. The industry to which the older assemblages are most comparable is final Earlier Stone Age (ESA) in character, with parallels to the Sangoan Industry, or what has locally been proposed as the Charaman from Zimbabwe. A developed phase of the Middle Stone Age (MSA) with segments and retouched points is also represented on one landscape. Rockshelter sites are being investigated to locate stratified deposits to which the open sites may be compared. In the interim, the material provides a form of 'archaeological signature' that can contribute to the overall evaluation of Stone Age occupations in northernmost South Africa. Large-scale climatic fluctuations during the course of the Pleistocene have influenced occupations across southern Africa. The archaeology of the Mapungubwe area appears to have more in common with developments north of the Limpopo than it does with the South African sequence.