Human occupation of the semi-arid grasslands of South Africa during MIS 4: New archaeological and paleoecological evidence from Lovedale, Free State

Kristen Wroth, Chantal Tribolo, C. Britt Bousman, Liora Kolska Horwitz, Lloyd Rossouw, Christopher E. Miller, Michael B. Toffolo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations

Abstract

Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 5 and 4 are periods of major cultural innovations in the Middle Stone Age (MSA) of southern Africa. While extensive data is available for the coast, far less is known about the interior, in particular its central plateau. This is likely due to the large geographic extent of this area and a general paucity of caves and rock shelters that can provide long stratigraphic sequences and environmental records. The lack of information and systematic research has hindered our understanding of regional variation and patterns of human dispersal within the subcontinent. Our research at the open-air MSA site of Lovedale situated on the Modder River addresses this issue. Using sediment micromorphology, infrared spectroscopy of bones and sediments, phytolith and faunal analyses, as well as luminescence dating, we have reconstructed the evolution of paleoenvironments in this region at specific points over the last ∼80,000 years. Our results help contextualize human occupation and hunting strategies associated with a pre-Howiesons Poort technology that occurred in a wetland environment during a short-lived warm, dry period dated to ∼70 ka. These results show that humans settled the grasslands of the central interior at the onset of MIS 4 and confirm the importance of wetlands in human subsistence strategies, especially in times of climatic stress.

Original languageEnglish
Article number107455
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
Volume283
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 May 2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Elsevier Ltd

Funding

Fieldwork was carried out under the auspices of the Florisbad Quaternary Research Department, National Museum Bloemfontein. The excavation permit was issued to Lloyd Rossouw and Michael Toffolo by the South African Heritage Resources Agency (permit ID 2862 ). Research was funded by a grant from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft to Christopher Miller (grant n. MI 1748/4–1 ), and by the National Museum Bloemfontein. Michael Toffolo was funded by a grant from IdEx Bordeaux (grant n. ANR-10-IDEX-03-02 ). Preliminary research at Lovedale was supported by a US National Science Foundation grant to C. Britt Bousman and James Brink. We would like to thank Frans Du Toit, owner of the Lovedale Farm, for granting permission to conduct fieldwork on his property and for his continued interest in the prehistory of the Free State and unwavering support of our work. We wish to thank Isaac Thapo, Jacob Maine, Abel Dichakane, Peter Mdala, Johannes Motshabi and Moses Mahloko for their assistance during fieldwork. We are grateful to Tria Oersen and Jaco Smith for facilitating our stay at the Florisbad Research Station during fieldwork seasons, to Sharon Holt for helping us sorting through collections at Florisbad, and to Cornie van Huyssteen for lending us a polarizing microscope during excavations. We would also like to thank Paolo Villa and Alex Mackay for generously sharing the results of their research on MSA lithic assemblages. Finally, we thank the Editor and two anonymous reviewers for their comments and suggestions, which helped improve the manuscript. This work is dedicated to the memory of the late James Simpson Brink, our friend and colleague. Fieldwork was carried out under the auspices of the Florisbad Quaternary Research Department, National Museum Bloemfontein. The excavation permit was issued to Lloyd Rossouw and Michael Toffolo by the South African Heritage Resources Agency (permit ID 2862). Research was funded by a grant from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft to Christopher Miller (grant n. MI 1748/4?1), and by the National Museum Bloemfontein. Michael Toffolo was funded by a grant from IdEx Bordeaux (grant n. ANR-10-IDEX-03-02). Preliminary research at Lovedale was supported by a US National Science Foundation grant to C. Britt Bousman and James Brink. We would like to thank Frans Du Toit, owner of the Lovedale Farm, for granting permission to conduct fieldwork on his property and for his continued interest in the prehistory of the Free State and unwavering support of our work. We wish to thank Isaac Thapo, Jacob Maine, Abel Dichakane, Peter Mdala, Johannes Motshabi and Moses Mahloko for their assistance during fieldwork. We are grateful to Tria Oersen and Jaco Smith for facilitating our stay at the Florisbad Research Station during fieldwork seasons, to Sharon Holt for helping us sorting through collections at Florisbad, and to Cornie van Huyssteen for lending us a polarizing microscope during excavations. We would also like to thank Paolo Villa and Alex Mackay for generously sharing the results of their research on MSA lithic assemblages. Finally, we thank the Editor and two anonymous reviewers for their comments and suggestions, which helped improve the manuscript. This work is dedicated to the memory of the late James Simpson Brink, our friend and colleague.

FundersFunder number
IdEx BordeauxANR-10-IDEX-03-02
National Museum Bloemfontein
South African Heritage Resources Agency2862
National Science Foundation
Deutsche ForschungsgemeinschaftMI 1748/4–1

    Keywords

    • Alluvial
    • FTIR
    • Florisian
    • Luminescence
    • Micromorphology
    • Middle Stone Age
    • Paleoecology
    • Paleoenvironment
    • Phytolith
    • South Africa

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