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Title: Variation and modernity in Middle Stone Age landscape use in the Western and Northern Cape, South Africa
Author: Hallinan, Emily
ISNI:       0000 0004 7961 9921
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2019
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Southern Africa is a critical location for understanding the origins of modern human behaviour in the Middle Stone Age (MSA), about 300 to 40 ka. Current evidence from excavated, often coastal, cave sites indicates the emergence of complex technological, social and symbolic behaviours at least 100 ka. However, cave sites considered alone give a spatially and temporally restricted picture of MSA lifeways, overlooking human behaviour beyond the cave and neglecting inland, marginal environments. This research addresses this imbalance by studying the open-air surface artefact record of the inland, arid Tankwa Karoo in the Western and Northern Cape regions of South Africa. This dissertation aims to establish the pattern of landscape use for past humans occupying the Tankwa Karoo, identifying adaptations to the marginal environment in terms of lithic technology, raw material use and provisioning behaviour. The 100-km-long study area encompasses west-to-east transitions in vegetation, geology and aridity, allowing a detailed examination of variation in behaviour between these contrasting but contiguous settings. Surface surveys took an off-site approach, mapping the location of individual artefacts across the landscape. Stone artefacts provide information on lithic technology, provisioning and site use, which can be dated on a relative techno-typological basis and used to track change through time and across environmental zones. By 'book-ending' the MSA with evidence from the preceding Earlier and subsequent Later Stone Ages, this research asks whether the MSA can be identified as a period of 'modern' behavioural change as posited for the excavated record. This research has found that settlement is tethered to the reliable water sources of the mountain fringe in earlier time periods, but towards the later part of the MSA, more complex patterns of movement can be tracked, including occupation of the arid desert to the east. Furthermore, new types of later MSA technological behaviour, previously unrecognised by coastal cave-oriented studies, have been identified which I propose are specific adaptations to this desert environment.
Supervisor: Nigst, Philip Sponsor: AHRC
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Middle Stone Age ; archaeology ; landscape use ; South Africa ; Palaeolithic ; arid environment