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A pinboard by
Mareike Brenner

PhD student, University of the Witwatersrand

PINBOARD SUMMARY

A technological analyis to characterize the Klasies assemblages and compare them to other sites.

Klasies River is one of the best studied and most extensive Middle Stone Age (MSA) sites in South Africa. Under the direction of Prof. Sarah Wurz new excavations started at Klasies River in 2015 and are ongoing. The MSA spans a timeframe from 300 000 to 25 000 years ago and includes important stages of human evolution – the origin of anatomically modern humans and the emergence of complex behavior. The focus of MSA research has for a long time laid on the emergence of modern and complex behavior, therefore periods like the Still Bay and Howiesons Poort, which show major cultural and technological innovations have been studied intensively. Only recently, earlier stages of the MSA have been targeted with more interest. Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 5 (130-74 ka) falls in between the early MSA and a later phase of innovative bursts. It is therefore a key to investigate this time period in order to understand the origin and causing of complex and innovative behavior. The study of lithic artifacts, as the most common cultural remains from the Stone Age, is the best indication for temporal and spatial variability. It gives insight into the behavior and cultural traditions of past times.

8 ITEMS PINNED

Coastal adaptations and the Middle Stone Age lithic assemblages from Hoedjiespunt 1 in the Western Cape, South Africa.

Abstract: New excavations at the Middle Stone Age (MSA) open-air site of Hoedjiespunt 1 (HDP1) on the west coast of South Africa advance our understanding of the evolution of coastal adaptations in Homo sapiens. The archaeological site of HDP1 dates to the last interglacial and consists of three phases of occupation, each containing abundant lithic artifacts, shellfish, terrestrial fauna, ostrich eggshell and pieces of ground ocher. The site provides an excellent case study to analyze human behavioral adaptations linked to early exploitation of marine resources. Here we reconstruct human activities through a detailed study of the lithic assemblages, combining analyses of the reduction sequences, artifact attributes and quartz fracturing. These methods provide insights into raw material procurement, lithic reduction sequences, site use and mobility patterns, and foster comparison with other MSA coastal sites. The main characteristics of the lithic assemblages remain constant throughout the use of the site. Quartz dominates silcrete and other raw materials by almost four to one. Knappers at HDP1 produced different forms of flakes using multiple core reduction methods. Denticulates represent the most frequent tool type. The assemblages document complete, bipolar and hard hammer reduction sequences for the locally available quartz, but highly truncated reduction sequences with many isolated end products for silcrete, a material with a minimum transport distance of 10-30km. This observation suggests that well provisioned individuals executed planned movements to the shoreline to exploit shellfish. Our excavations at HDP1 furthermore demonstrate the simultaneous occurrence of flexible raw material use, anticipated long-distance transport, systematic gathering of shellfish and use of ground ocher. The HDP1 lithic assemblages document a robust pattern of land-use that we interpret as a stable adaptation of modern humans to coastal landscapes as early as MIS 5e.

Pub.: 01 May '13, Pinned: 28 Jul '17

Increasing Behavioral Flexibility? An Integrative Macro-Scale Approach to Understanding the Middle Stone Age of Southern Africa

Abstract: Abstract The Middle Stone Age (MSA) of southern Africa represents a period during which anatomically modern humans adopted a series of diverse cultural innovations. Researchers generally attribute these behavioral changes to environmental, neurological, or demographic causes, but none of these alone offers a satisfactory explanation. Even as patterns at site level come into focus, large-scale trends in cultural expansions remain poorly understood. This paper presents different ways to view diachronic datasets from localities in southern Africa and specifically tests hypotheses of environmental and cultural causality. We employ an array of analyses in an attempt to understand large-scale variability observed during the MSA. We evaluated the diversity of stone tool assemblages to model site use, examined transport distances of lithic raw materials to understand patterns of movement, assessed the cultural capacities required to manufacture and use different sets of tools, applied stochastic models to examine the geographic distribution of sites, and reconstructed biome classes and climatic constraints. Our large-scale analysis allowed the research team to integrate different types of information and examine diachronic trends during the MSA. Based on our results, the range of cultural capacity expanded during the MSA. We define cultural capacity as the behavioral potential of a group expressed through the problem-solution distance required to manufacture and use tools. Our dataset also indicates that the actual behavior exhibited by MSA people, their cultural performance as expressed in the archaeological record, is not equivalent to their cultural capacity. Instead we observe that the main signature of the southern African MSA is its overall variability, as demonstrated by changing sets of cultural performances. Finally, at the scale of resolution considered here, our results suggest that climate is not the most significant factor driving human activities during the MSA. Instead, we postulate that behavioral flexibility itself became the key adaptation.AbstractThe Middle Stone Age (MSA) of southern Africa represents a period during which anatomically modern humans adopted a series of diverse cultural innovations. Researchers generally attribute these behavioral changes to environmental, neurological, or demographic causes, but none of these alone offers a satisfactory explanation. Even as patterns at site level come into focus, large-scale trends in cultural expansions remain poorly understood. This paper presents different ways to view diachronic datasets from localities in southern Africa and specifically tests hypotheses of environmental and cultural causality. We employ an array of analyses in an attempt to understand large-scale variability observed during the MSA. We evaluated the diversity of stone tool assemblages to model site use, examined transport distances of lithic raw materials to understand patterns of movement, assessed the cultural capacities required to manufacture and use different sets of tools, applied stochastic models to examine the geographic distribution of sites, and reconstructed biome classes and climatic constraints. Our large-scale analysis allowed the research team to integrate different types of information and examine diachronic trends during the MSA. Based on our results, the range of cultural capacity expanded during the MSA. We define cultural capacity as the behavioral potential of a group expressed through the problem-solution distance required to manufacture and use tools. Our dataset also indicates that the actual behavior exhibited by MSA people, their cultural performance as expressed in the archaeological record, is not equivalent to their cultural capacity. Instead we observe that the main signature of the southern African MSA is its overall variability, as demonstrated by changing sets of cultural performances. Finally, at the scale of resolution considered here, our results suggest that climate is not the most significant factor driving human activities during the MSA. Instead, we postulate that behavioral flexibility itself became the key adaptation.

Pub.: 01 Jun '16, Pinned: 28 Jul '17

The Middle Stone Age human fossil record from Klasies River Main Site.

Abstract: The paleoanthropological significance of Klasies River Main Site derives from its abundant Middle Stone Age (MSA) archaeological debris and the hominin fossils that have featured in discussions about modern human emergence. Despite their significance, the human remains have yet to be contextualized within the spatial, stratigraphic and geochronological framework of the site. We provide an updated overview of the stratigraphy and geochronology of the site, and review the human fossil record in this context. We also provide the first anatomical interpretations of many of the cranial vault fragments. Five hominin specimens derive from the Upper Member and six from the lowermost LBS Member. The vast majority - nearly 40 cataloged specimens - come from the SAS Member; many of these are from a single stratigraphic horizon in a relatively small area in Cave 1. There is a strong cranial bias to the sample; just over 70% of skeletal remains are from the skull. The postcranial skeleton is poorly represented. Excluding the three metatarsals, there are only three long bones in the sample - a clavicle, a proximal radius, and a proximal ulna. Remarkably, humeral, femoral and tibial diaphyses, which are the most durable elements in terms of cortical bone thickness and density, are absent. However, the proportional representation of hominin remains is reminiscent of the "Klasies Pattern" shown by the MSA large bovid skeletal parts. To some degree, this may reflect the excavation and recovery methods that were employed. The vast bulk of the human fossils represent adults. Only three undoubted juvenile individuals are represented - each by a deciduous tooth. This contrasts with other MSA sites along the southern coast of South Africa, where human remains are predominantly juvenile, usually in the form of (possibly exfoliated) deciduous teeth. However, this apparent dissimilarity may also reflect different excavation techniques.

Pub.: 09 Feb '17, Pinned: 28 Jul '17

Identifying early modern human ecological niche expansions and associated cultural dynamics in the South African Middle Stone Age.

Abstract: The archaeological record shows that typically human cultural traits emerged at different times, in different parts of the world, and among different hominin taxa. This pattern suggests that their emergence is the outcome of complex and nonlinear evolutionary trajectories, influenced by environmental, demographic, and social factors, that need to be understood and traced at regional scales. The application of predictive algorithms using archaeological and paleoenvironmental data allows one to estimate the ecological niches occupied by past human populations and identify niche changes through time, thus providing the possibility of investigating relationships between cultural innovations and possible niche shifts. By using such methods to examine two key southern Africa archaeological cultures, the Still Bay [76-71 thousand years before present (ka)] and the Howiesons Poort (HP; 66-59 ka), we identify a niche shift characterized by a significant expansion in the breadth of the HP ecological niche. This expansion is coincident with aridification occurring across Marine Isotope Stage 4 (ca. 72-60 ka) and especially pronounced at 60 ka. We argue that this niche shift was made possible by the development of a flexible technological system, reliant on composite tools and cultural transmission strategies based more on "product copying" rather than "process copying." These results counter the one niche/one human taxon equation. They indicate that what makes our cultures, and probably the cultures of other members of our lineage, unique is their flexibility and ability to produce innovations that allow a population to shift its ecological niche.

Pub.: 26 Jul '17, Pinned: 28 Jul '17