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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

Schematic representation of hypotheses to conceptualize the short-term cultural changes at Sibudu throughout WOG1-BSP.A) Gradual change with continuous cultural transmission among local populations throughout the entire sequence (broad Sibudan definition). B) Discontinuous change with two distinct units (Cx)–one encompassing internal gradual change–separated through disruption of information transmission or occupation hiatuses. This could either reflect two independent populations or cultural taxonomic units (SU-BSP as a narrow Sibudan definition). C) Discontinuous change with three distinct units (Cx), separated through disruption of information transmission or occupation hiatuses. This could either reflect three independent populations or cultural taxonomic units (“splitter” taxonomy with BM-BSP as originally defined Sibudan). D) Discontinuous change with three groupings reflecting different site function (Fx), technological organization, or raw material use (RMUx) at different time periods during the occupation of the locality. This hypothesis does not include statements about information transmission or population displacement. E) Gradual change with continuous cultural transmission among local populations in the region around Sibudu. Within this continuum, three groupings can be concerned based on differences in site function (Fx), technological organization, or raw material use (RMUx) at different time periods during the occupation of the locality.
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pone.0130001.g016: Schematic representation of hypotheses to conceptualize the short-term cultural changes at Sibudu throughout WOG1-BSP.A) Gradual change with continuous cultural transmission among local populations throughout the entire sequence (broad Sibudan definition). B) Discontinuous change with two distinct units (Cx)–one encompassing internal gradual change–separated through disruption of information transmission or occupation hiatuses. This could either reflect two independent populations or cultural taxonomic units (SU-BSP as a narrow Sibudan definition). C) Discontinuous change with three distinct units (Cx), separated through disruption of information transmission or occupation hiatuses. This could either reflect three independent populations or cultural taxonomic units (“splitter” taxonomy with BM-BSP as originally defined Sibudan). D) Discontinuous change with three groupings reflecting different site function (Fx), technological organization, or raw material use (RMUx) at different time periods during the occupation of the locality. This hypothesis does not include statements about information transmission or population displacement. E) Gradual change with continuous cultural transmission among local populations in the region around Sibudu. Within this continuum, three groupings can be concerned based on differences in site function (Fx), technological organization, or raw material use (RMUx) at different time periods during the occupation of the locality.

Mentions: The central issue is how we can best view short-term cultural change over narrow time spans (Fig 16). Considering that all of these horizons are of indistinguishable OSL ages of ca. 58 ka and reflect a nearly continuous sequence of occupations, we ideally would like to place them within the same cultural taxonomic unit. Indeed, if we view time as the leading variable for defining analytical units, we must place them in the same unit. Alternatively, if we grant technology and the nature of the material culture primacy, at some point this variation goes beyond the spectrum of what we can comfortably place within the Sibudan. To complicate this situation, changes in the procurement and use of raw materials as well as site function demonstrably influenced the techno-typological characteristics of the assemblages. These and similar issues were at the heart of the various scenarios that characterized the Mousterian debate of the late decades of the 20th century.


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)

Schematic representation of hypotheses to conceptualize the short-term cultural changes at Sibudu throughout WOG1-BSP.A) Gradual change with continuous cultural transmission among local populations throughout the entire sequence (broad Sibudan definition). B) Discontinuous change with two distinct units (Cx)–one encompassing internal gradual change–separated through disruption of information transmission or occupation hiatuses. This could either reflect two independent populations or cultural taxonomic units (SU-BSP as a narrow Sibudan definition). C) Discontinuous change with three distinct units (Cx), separated through disruption of information transmission or occupation hiatuses. This could either reflect three independent populations or cultural taxonomic units (“splitter” taxonomy with BM-BSP as originally defined Sibudan). D) Discontinuous change with three groupings reflecting different site function (Fx), technological organization, or raw material use (RMUx) at different time periods during the occupation of the locality. This hypothesis does not include statements about information transmission or population displacement. E) Gradual change with continuous cultural transmission among local populations in the region around Sibudu. Within this continuum, three groupings can be concerned based on differences in site function (Fx), technological organization, or raw material use (RMUx) at different time periods during the occupation of the locality.
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

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

pone.0130001.g016: Schematic representation of hypotheses to conceptualize the short-term cultural changes at Sibudu throughout WOG1-BSP.A) Gradual change with continuous cultural transmission among local populations throughout the entire sequence (broad Sibudan definition). B) Discontinuous change with two distinct units (Cx)–one encompassing internal gradual change–separated through disruption of information transmission or occupation hiatuses. This could either reflect two independent populations or cultural taxonomic units (SU-BSP as a narrow Sibudan definition). C) Discontinuous change with three distinct units (Cx), separated through disruption of information transmission or occupation hiatuses. This could either reflect three independent populations or cultural taxonomic units (“splitter” taxonomy with BM-BSP as originally defined Sibudan). D) Discontinuous change with three groupings reflecting different site function (Fx), technological organization, or raw material use (RMUx) at different time periods during the occupation of the locality. This hypothesis does not include statements about information transmission or population displacement. E) Gradual change with continuous cultural transmission among local populations in the region around Sibudu. Within this continuum, three groupings can be concerned based on differences in site function (Fx), technological organization, or raw material use (RMUx) at different time periods during the occupation of the locality.
Mentions: The central issue is how we can best view short-term cultural change over narrow time spans (Fig 16). Considering that all of these horizons are of indistinguishable OSL ages of ca. 58 ka and reflect a nearly continuous sequence of occupations, we ideally would like to place them within the same cultural taxonomic unit. Indeed, if we view time as the leading variable for defining analytical units, we must place them in the same unit. Alternatively, if we grant technology and the nature of the material culture primacy, at some point this variation goes beyond the spectrum of what we can comfortably place within the Sibudan. To complicate this situation, changes in the procurement and use of raw materials as well as site function demonstrably influenced the techno-typological characteristics of the assemblages. These and similar issues were at the heart of the various scenarios that characterized the Mousterian debate of the late decades of the 20th century.

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