Identifying Raw Material Transportation and Reduction Strategies from the Lithic Scatters at Elandsdrift Farm (Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site), South Africa

Matthew V. Caruana, Daniel Tasker, Dominic J. Stratford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The Cradle of Humankind World Heritage site in South Africa is renowned for its karstic cave systems, which have yielded extensive fossil and stone tool assemblages dating to the Plio-Pleistocene period. The archaeological record from these caves has provided significant evidence for the evolution of lithic technology in southern Africa. Open-air sites have also been documented in this region, although they rarely receive scientific attention due to their lack of spatial and stratigraphic contexts. However, archaeological research has demonstrated that lithic production strategies were organized through landscape-scale constraints including the availability of raw materials and the energetic costs of their transport. As such, the study of open-air Stone Age sites in the Cradle of Humankind can potentially offer insight into the relationships between raw material procurement and reduction processes in this region. Here, we present a case study from the open-air locality of Elandsdrift Farm, which preserves a palimpsest of Earlier and Middle Stone Age lithic materials. While the chronological and spatial contexts of this locality present significant interpretative challenges, the Elandsdrift Farm lithic materials are not without scientific value. A landscape archaeological approach is employed to explore the influence of raw material transport on tool-making. Trends in core reduction intensity and flaking efficiency suggest that landform ruggedness and distances traveled to procure raw materials significantly influenced lithic production strategies throughout the Early to Middle Pleistocene. Despite the contextual challenges presented by open-air localities, landscape archaeological methods can inform the economic aspects of lithic scatters in this region, which cannot be easily inferred from archaeological assemblages in cave contexts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)271-289
Number of pages19
JournalAfrican Archaeological Review
Volume36
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jun 2019

Keywords

  • Cradle of humankind
  • ESA
  • Landscape archaeology
  • Lithic technology
  • MSA
  • Transport cost analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archeology (arts and humanities)
  • Archeology

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