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Title: The gatherer and the grindstone : towards a methodological toolkit for grindstone analysis in southern Africa
Author: Nic Eoin, Luíseach
ISNI:       0000 0004 6061 3554
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2015
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Although grindstones - that is, pairs of stone implements used to grind, pound, pulverise or otherwise process intermediate materials - have been intensively studied by archaeologists in other parts of the world, in southern Africa to date they have received little attention. Despite a near-ubiquitous presence on Middle and Later Stone Age archaeological sites, their primary function in archaeological reconstructions has been as proxies for other behaviours. These include behavioural modernity; gender; particular plant types, such as geophytes/underground storage organs. This doctoral thesis interrogates grindstones with a view not only to establishing specific (rather than proxy) uses in the southern African archaeological record,but also as a means to explore the gathered side of hunter-gatherer lifeways, which have also historically been neglected. It does this by developing a methodological toolkit for grindstone analysis in southern Africa. Comparison of archaeological and historical literature from the southern African Grassland Biome and elsewhere suggests a tension between archaeological accounts which posit geophyte and mineral pigment grinding as a primary purpose for grindstones and ethnohistorical accounts suggesting that grass-processing was a staple of hunter-gatherer life. Finally, a corpus of putative grindstones from the site of Ha Makotoko in western Lesotho is typologically assessed and analysed for plant starches and phytoliths. It emerges that at this site, and in contrast to received wisdom, geophyte grinding was not extensive but by contrast, grass seed processing was practised. This belies models suggesting that C4 grass seeds were unlikely to have contributed to hunter-gatherer diets, and questions interpretations of grass 'bedding' as well as the distinction between 'forager' and 'farmer'. Most importantly, this thesis validates the idea that grindstone study is worthwhile, and should be integrated into wider lithic study in southern Africa as a matter of course.
Supervisor: Mitchell, Peter Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Stone implements--Africa ; Southern ; Hunting and gathering societies--Africa ; Southern ; Plant remains (Archaeology)--Africa ; Southern ; Africa ; Southern--Antiquities