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Examining the Causes and Consequences of Short-Term Behavioral Change during the Middle Stone Age at Sibudu, South Africa.

Conard NJ, Will M - PLoS ONE (2015)

Bottom Line: We present the results from a technological analysis of 11 stratified lithic assemblages which overlie the Howiesons Poort deposits and all date to ~58 ka.The lithic assemblages can be grouped into three cohesive units which differ from each other in the procurement of raw materials, the frequency in the methods of core reduction, the kind of blanks produced, and in the nature of tools the inhabitants of Sibudu made and used.We also identify a clear pattern of development toward what we have previously defined as the Sibudan cultural taxonomic unit.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Early Prehistory and Quaternary Ecology, University of Tübingen, Schloss Hohentübingen, 72070, Tübingen, Germany; Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution and Paleoecology, University of Tübingen, Schloss Hohentübingen, 72070, Tübingen, Germany.

ABSTRACT
Sibudu in KwaZulu-Natal (South Africa) with its rich and high-resolution archaeological sequence provides an ideal case study to examine the causes and consequences of short-term variation in the behavior of modern humans during the Middle Stone Age (MSA). We present the results from a technological analysis of 11 stratified lithic assemblages which overlie the Howiesons Poort deposits and all date to ~58 ka. Based on technological and typological attributes, we conducted inter-assemblage comparisons to characterize the nature and tempo of cultural change in successive occupations. This work identified considerable short-term variation with clear temporal trends throughout the sequence, demonstrating that knappers at Sibudu varied their technology over short time spans. The lithic assemblages can be grouped into three cohesive units which differ from each other in the procurement of raw materials, the frequency in the methods of core reduction, the kind of blanks produced, and in the nature of tools the inhabitants of Sibudu made and used. These groups of assemblages represent different strategies of lithic technology, which build upon each other in a gradual, cumulative manner. We also identify a clear pattern of development toward what we have previously defined as the Sibudan cultural taxonomic unit. Contextualizing these results on larger geographical scales shows that the later phase of the MSA during MIS 3 in KwaZulu-Natal and southern Africa is one of dynamic cultural change rather than of stasis or stagnation as has at times been claimed. In combination with environmental, subsistence and contextual information, our high-resolution data on lithic technology suggest that short-term behavioral variability at Sibudu can be best explained by changes in technological organization and socio-economic dynamics instead of environmental forcing.

No MeSH data available.


Related in: MedlinePlus

Scatter plot of blade widths and lengths (left) and histogram of blade widths (right) for the combined sequence WOG1-BSP.
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pone.0130001.g005: Scatter plot of blade widths and lengths (left) and histogram of blade widths (right) for the combined sequence WOG1-BSP.

Mentions: The hallmark of Tongati tools is their short triangular distal end, which is usually retouched in a symmetric manner on both working edges of the point. Tongatis are continuously reduced from the distal to the proximal end–becoming shorter as retouch progresses–but they always retain their convergent distal configuration (see [31]: Fig 5–8). ACTs are similar to Tongatis, but the distal tip is always asymmetrical. Most specimens have steeper, retouched edges opposed to a sharp non- or only marginally retouched edge (see [32]: Fig 5). ACTs typically change at their initially unretouched working edge, as use-wear and edge damage accumulate, decreasing the width of the piece during their use life. “Ndwedwe” tools comprise retouched forms that are elongated, thick pieces with modifications along the lateral edges. They are characterized by their steep and invasive lateral retouch that usually runs the entire length of both sides of the tool. In contrast to Tongati tools, Ndwedwes begin with relatively broad forms and become narrower and narrower with progressive retouch, while the length remains nearly constant over the course of reduction (see [31]: Fig 11). Finally, NBTs are characterized by a natural back–including Siret fractures, other kinds of breaks and cortical edges–opposite to the retouched edge of the piece (see [31]: Fig 12). Due to the existence of a thick back, NBTs usually possess an asymmetric cross-section. More detailed descriptions, discussion of their function and additional drawings of these tool concepts and reduction sequences can be found in Conard et al. [31] and Will et al. [32].


Examining the Causes and Consequences of Short-Term Behavioral Change during the Middle Stone Age at Sibudu, South Africa.

Conard NJ, Will M - PLoS ONE (2015)

Scatter plot of blade widths and lengths (left) and histogram of blade widths (right) for the combined sequence WOG1-BSP.
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC4476744&req=5

pone.0130001.g005: Scatter plot of blade widths and lengths (left) and histogram of blade widths (right) for the combined sequence WOG1-BSP.
Mentions: The hallmark of Tongati tools is their short triangular distal end, which is usually retouched in a symmetric manner on both working edges of the point. Tongatis are continuously reduced from the distal to the proximal end–becoming shorter as retouch progresses–but they always retain their convergent distal configuration (see [31]: Fig 5–8). ACTs are similar to Tongatis, but the distal tip is always asymmetrical. Most specimens have steeper, retouched edges opposed to a sharp non- or only marginally retouched edge (see [32]: Fig 5). ACTs typically change at their initially unretouched working edge, as use-wear and edge damage accumulate, decreasing the width of the piece during their use life. “Ndwedwe” tools comprise retouched forms that are elongated, thick pieces with modifications along the lateral edges. They are characterized by their steep and invasive lateral retouch that usually runs the entire length of both sides of the tool. In contrast to Tongati tools, Ndwedwes begin with relatively broad forms and become narrower and narrower with progressive retouch, while the length remains nearly constant over the course of reduction (see [31]: Fig 11). Finally, NBTs are characterized by a natural back–including Siret fractures, other kinds of breaks and cortical edges–opposite to the retouched edge of the piece (see [31]: Fig 12). Due to the existence of a thick back, NBTs usually possess an asymmetric cross-section. More detailed descriptions, discussion of their function and additional drawings of these tool concepts and reduction sequences can be found in Conard et al. [31] and Will et al. [32].

Bottom Line: We present the results from a technological analysis of 11 stratified lithic assemblages which overlie the Howiesons Poort deposits and all date to ~58 ka.The lithic assemblages can be grouped into three cohesive units which differ from each other in the procurement of raw materials, the frequency in the methods of core reduction, the kind of blanks produced, and in the nature of tools the inhabitants of Sibudu made and used.We also identify a clear pattern of development toward what we have previously defined as the Sibudan cultural taxonomic unit.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Early Prehistory and Quaternary Ecology, University of Tübingen, Schloss Hohentübingen, 72070, Tübingen, Germany; Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution and Paleoecology, University of Tübingen, Schloss Hohentübingen, 72070, Tübingen, Germany.

ABSTRACT
Sibudu in KwaZulu-Natal (South Africa) with its rich and high-resolution archaeological sequence provides an ideal case study to examine the causes and consequences of short-term variation in the behavior of modern humans during the Middle Stone Age (MSA). We present the results from a technological analysis of 11 stratified lithic assemblages which overlie the Howiesons Poort deposits and all date to ~58 ka. Based on technological and typological attributes, we conducted inter-assemblage comparisons to characterize the nature and tempo of cultural change in successive occupations. This work identified considerable short-term variation with clear temporal trends throughout the sequence, demonstrating that knappers at Sibudu varied their technology over short time spans. The lithic assemblages can be grouped into three cohesive units which differ from each other in the procurement of raw materials, the frequency in the methods of core reduction, the kind of blanks produced, and in the nature of tools the inhabitants of Sibudu made and used. These groups of assemblages represent different strategies of lithic technology, which build upon each other in a gradual, cumulative manner. We also identify a clear pattern of development toward what we have previously defined as the Sibudan cultural taxonomic unit. Contextualizing these results on larger geographical scales shows that the later phase of the MSA during MIS 3 in KwaZulu-Natal and southern Africa is one of dynamic cultural change rather than of stasis or stagnation as has at times been claimed. In combination with environmental, subsistence and contextual information, our high-resolution data on lithic technology suggest that short-term behavioral variability at Sibudu can be best explained by changes in technological organization and socio-economic dynamics instead of environmental forcing.

No MeSH data available.


Related in: MedlinePlus