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Pinnacle Point (PP) near Mossel Bay in the Western Cape Province, South Africa, is known for a series of archaeological caves with important archaeological finds. Extensive excavations and studies in two of them (PP13B and PP5-6) have documented alternating periods of anthropogenic-dominated and geogenic-dominated sedimentation. A variety of caves do not bear evidence of anthropogenic remains. We have studied in detail the remnant deposits of three of them, Staircase Cave, Crevice Cave, and PP29, which have been formed under the same geologic and sedimentary conditions with those with anthropogenic contributions. Their remains are small and patchy but have extensive speleothem formations (as do most caves at PP) that were isotopically analyzed for paleoclimate and paleoenvironmental reconstruction. These caves also offer the opportunity to understand the purely geogenic signature of the PP locality and thus offer a geogenic baseline for the anthropogenic caves. Archaeologists normally focus only on sites with strong anthropogenic signals, but by building cave life histories we “raise the bar” (Goldberg 2008, p. 30) on our contextual knowledge.
The continental margin of southern South Africa exhibits an array of emergent marginal marine sediments permitting the reconstruction of long-term eustatic sea-level changes. We report a suite of optical luminescence ages and supplementary amino acid racemization data, which provide paleosea-level index points for three sites on this coastline. Deposits in the Swartvlei and Groot Brak estuaries display tidal inlet facies overlain by shoreface or eolian facies. Contemporary facies relations suggest a probable high stand 6.0-8.5 m above modern sea level (amsl). At Cape Agulhas, evidence of a past sea-level high stand comprises a gravel beach (ca. 3.8 m amsl) and an overlying sandy shoreface facies (up to 7.5 m amsl). OSL ages between 138±7 ka and 118±7 ka confirm a last interglacial age for all marginal marine facies. The high stand was followed by a sea-level regression that was associated with the accumulation of eolian dunes dating to between 122±7 ka and 113±6 ka. These data provide the first rigorous numerical age constraints for last interglacial sea-level fluctuations in this region, revealing the timing and elevation of the last interglacial high stand to broadly mirror a number of other far-field locations.
Excavations at Blombos Cave have produced early evidence for advanced cognitive behaviour associated with the Middle Stone Age (MSA) in South Africa. An important question posed at this site was whether these significant artefacts may perhaps represent intrusions from the younger Later Stone Age (LSA) levels. Here it is demonstrated how optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) measurements of individual quartz grains can provide experimental data from which mixing between adjacent sedimentary layers can be assessed. By association, the likelihood of movement of artefacts through these sedimentary layers can be inferred. The stratigraphic sequence at Blombos Cave is ideal for such a study, since a thick archaeologically sterile aeolian dune layer separates the c. 2 Ka old LSA from the c. 70 Ka old MSA occupation layers. Based on the known age estimates from the LSA and MSA, an artificial sediment mixture was produced and measured in the laboratory to simulate what measured De values for grains from the dune layer would look like if mixing of LSA and MSA sediments had occurred. This mixture is then used as a guideline against which the measured distribution of De values from the natural sediment sample obtained from the dune layer itself can be compared. OSL measurements on a large number of quartz grains from the dune layer found no evidence for mixing and confirmed the stratigraphic integrity of the MSA artefacts.
La fouille de la grotte de Blombos, en Afrique du Sud, a permis la découverte, dans des couches du Middle Stone Age, de preuves particulièrement anciennes de comportements cognitifs modernes. Une question cruciale concernant ce site est de savoir si les objets permettant de proposer l'hypothèse d'une origine précoce des comportements modernes pourraient en fait représenter des intrusions des niveaux plus récents, datés du Later Stone Age (LSA). Nous montrons dans cette contribution de quelle façon les mesures faites par luminescence stimulée optiquement (OSL) sur des grains de quartz singuliers peuvent fournir des données expérimentales permettant d’évaluer le degré de mélange entre couches sédimentaires adjacentes. Par analogie, nous pouvons déduire la probabilité que des objets se soient déplacés à travers les couches archéologiques.
The second (2008) season of fieldwork of the Cyrenaican Prehistory Project has significantly advanced understanding of the Haua Fteah stratigraphy and of the archaeology and geomorphology of the landscape in which the cave is located. The excavations of the McBurney backfill have reached a total depth of 7.5 m below the present ground surface, the depth at which two human mandibles were found in the 1950s excavations. Reconnaissance at the Hagfet ed-Dabba established that the sediments associated with the Upper Palaeolithic ‘Dabban’ industry were more or less entirely removed by the McBurney excavation. Exploratory excavations in the Hagfet al-Gama, a coastal cave west of the Haua Fteah, found evidence of Mesolithic, Neolithic, and Hellenistic occupation. The initial results from the study of botanical remains, both macroscopic and microscopic, obtained in the 2007 season at the Haua Fteah confirm the potential of the site to yield a rich suite of materials to inform on climatic and environmental change, and on human activities in the cave.
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