Milestones in the development of symbolic behaviour: A case study from Wonderwerk Cave, South Africa

Michael Chazan, Liora Kolska Horwitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations

Abstract

Wonderwerk Cave (Northern Cape Province, South Africa) is an example of a natural locality that, in the past as in the present, was imbued with meaning and symbolism. Today, local communities associate the cave with a snake spirit, while rock art adorning the cave walls attests to the special status of the cave during the Later Stone Age. In the terminal Acheulean (over 180,000 years ago), hominins introduced manuports with special sensory properties into the back of the cave, a locality with singular acoustic and visual qualities. Thus, the archaeological record of Wonderwerk Cave serves as a unique and extensive diachronic record of milestones in the development of symbolic behaviour. It provides evidence to support the position that elements of symbolic behaviour emerged long before the dispersal of modern humans out of Africa.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)521-539
Number of pages19
JournalWorld Archaeology
Volume41
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes

Funding

his assistance. ESEM photos were taken at Mt. Sinai Hospital, Toronto, with the assistance of Doug Holmyard. We also wish to thank: Hagai Ron (The Hebrew University) for allowing us to cite his unpublished paleomagnetic ages, H. Rüther and colleagues (University of Cape Town) for 3-D images used here, the Royal Ontario Museum for photographs of the slabs and Alexandra Sumner for lithic illustrations. Funding for this project was provided by a grant from the Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) and the Wenner-Gren Foundation.

FundersFunder number
Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council
Wenner-Gren Foundation
Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada

    Keywords

    • Archaeology of the senses
    • Earlier Stone Age
    • Fauresmith
    • Later Stone Age
    • Symbolic behaviour
    • Wonderwerk Cave

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