oa South African Journal of Science - On a timescale for the past million years of human history in central South Africa : research article

Volume 102, Issue 5-6
  • ISSN : 0038-2353
  • E-ISSN: 1996-7489



Located between Daniëlskuil and Kuruman in the Northern Cape province of South Africa is Wonderwerk Cave, where excavations from 1978 to 1996 revealed a ~6-m depth of deposits made up of nine Major Units (MUs), of which some have been dated by radiocarbon, the U-series method and palaeomagnetism. The lithic succession in those sediments was found to be Later Stone Age in MU1 at 1.0-12.5 kyr ago, Middle Stone Age in MU2 at ~70 to >220 kyr ago, Fauresmith in MUs 3-4 at ~270-c. 500 kyr ago, and very sparse biface assemblages before then to >0.78 Myr BP. Associated behaviours are represented by collected exotic river pebbles and quartz crystals in MUs 2-4, incised lines on portable stones in MUs 1-4, a grass bedding area in MU4, red pigment pieces in MUs 1-7, and traces of the use of fire in MUs 1-9. These findings, as a whole, are taken to support a scenario that sees the upland savannas at the southern end of Africa as a focal region of biocultural evolution over a period extending back to before the onset of the Middle Pleistocene.

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