Social Ties in Stone Age South Africa: Experts Find Stone Tools Connected Far Away Communities

Stone tools that were found and analyzed by a group of international experts revealed for the very first time that numerous neighborhoods that lived throughout the Middle Stone Age period were commonly connected and shared ideas around tool style.

The tools– mainly blades and backed knives from the Howiesons Poort– were discovered in various layers in the Klipdrift Shelter, in the southern Cape in South Africa. They were examined by a group of lithic professionals, who discovered unique similarities to tools from sites in South Africa’s Western Cape, over 300 km (186.41 miles) away, in specific with the Diepkloof Rock Shelter site.

Overview of Klipdrift Complex From Sea. (Credits Magnus Haaland)

“While regional specificities in the tools from the different sites exist, the similarities of Klipdrift Shelter with the website of Diepkloof Rock Shelter are impressive,” says Dr. Katja Douze, the matching author of the study that was published in

PlosOne on November 7. Thousands of Stone Tools The group, under the management of Teacher Christopher Henshilwood from Wits University and the University of Bergen’s SapienCE Centre for Early Sapiens Behaviour, analyzed countless stone tools that were excavated from 7 layers that represent a time period of in between 66,000 years ago and 59,000 years ago, to develop the distinctions in stone tool style in time. They then also compared the stone tools to different other websites in Howiesons Poort.

“The site of Klipdfrift Shelter is one of the couple of including a long archaeological sequence that provides data on cultural changes with time during the Howiesons Poort,” states Douze. “This makes it ideal to study the change in culture in time.”

Examples of Howiesons Poort stone tools from Klipdrift Shelter. (Credits Anne Delagnes and Gauthier Devilder)

Cross Country Connections in Stone Age South Africa

Nevertheless, what was even more interesting for the researchers was the truth that for the very first time they could show carefully networked interaction between remote communities through the way they created stone tools.

“There was an almost best match between the tools from the Klipdrift and Diepkloof shelters,” says Douze. “This shows us that there was regular interaction in between these two neighborhoods.”

“This is the very first time that we can draw such a parallel in between various websites based on robust sets of data, and reveal that there was mobility in between the two websites. This is distinct for the Middle Stone Age,” states Douze.

The Middle Stone Age in Africa stretches from 350,000 years ago to 25,000 years earlier and is an essential period for understanding the advancement of the very first Humankind , their behavioral modifications through time and their movements in-and-out of Africa.

Howiesons Poort Techno-Culture

Called after Howieson’s Poort Shelter historical website near Grahamstown in South Africa, the Howiesons Poort is a specific techno-culture within the Middle Stone Age that develops in southern Africa after 100,000 years back at the Diepkloof Shelter, however in between 66,000– 59,000 years at most other Howiesons Poort sites. The qualities of the Howiesons Poort are highly distinct from other Middle Stone Age industries as it is identified by the production of small blades and backed tools, utilized as searching armatures as much as for cutting flesh, while other MSA markets show flake, large blade and point productions.

The tools found in the deeper layers of the Klipdrift Shelter that represent the earlier stages of the Howiesons Poort were discovered to be made from heat-treated silcrete, while those from later stages were made from less homogeneous rocks such as quartz and quartzite. This change takes place together with modifications in tool production techniques. “The modifications with time seems to show cultural changes, instead of immediate alterations forced on the designers by changes in environment”, states Douze.

Location of Klipdrift Shelter and other South African Howiesons Poort websites. (Credits Katja Douze)

“Our preconceived concept of ancient groups is that they just had a hard time to survive, however in truth they were very adaptable to environmental scenarios. There seem to be no synchrony in between modification in style options and ecological modifications. Nevertheless, the aridification of the location in time may have led to an extremely gradual modification that caused the end of the Howiesons Poort.”

Analyzing the Decrease of Howiesons Poort

The team likewise tried to establish why and how the Howiesons Poort ended, and to see whether it came to an unexpected, or progressive end.

“The decrease of the Howiesons Poort at Klipdrift Shelter reveals a progressive and intricate pattern of changes, from which the very first “symptoms” can be observed much earlier than the last abandonment of typical Howiesons Poort technology and toolkits,” states Douze.

“This does not support a devastating circumstance including disconcerting market drops or enormous population replacements. The reality that a similar pattern of progressive change has been described for at least three other southern African Howiesons Poort sites (Rose Home Cave, Diepkloof Rock Shelter and Klasies River primary site), further ascertains convergent evolutions in cultural trajectories instead of separated groups quickly responding to locally identified pressures.”

Top Image: Insert: Example of a Howiesons Poort stone tool discovered at the Klipdrift Shelter. Background: Summary of Klipdrift Complex From Sea. (Credits Magnus Haaland). Specialists have discovered that comparable tools were discovered hundreds of kilometers away in the Stone Age in South Africa.



Randolf Schoenefeld

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