Michael B. Toffolo, Chantal Tribolo, Liora Kolska Horwitz, Lloyd Rossouw, C. Britt Bousman, Maïlys Richard, Elisabetta Boaretto, Christopher E. Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Modder River basin has been the focus of extensive surveys followed by targeted excavations of specific erosional gullies (known locally as dongas), where Middle and Later Stone Age artefacts and fossils are abundant. At Damvlei, a donga located on the left bank of the Modder, lithic artefacts and fossils were observed in the 1990s. Here, we present the results of two seasons of fieldwork (2019/21) at this locality, as well as unpublished surface faunal remains collected in 1995/96. Damvlei formed as a result of overbank deposition of the Modder River, as indicated by micromorphological analysis. The accumulation of the sedimentary sequence beneath the artefact-bearing levels started at 27 ± 3 ka at the earliest, based on optically stimulated luminescence dating. Artefacts, faunal remains, and phytoliths show that the site is characterised by Holocene Later Stone Age technology in an open-grassland environment typical of the terminal Florisian Land Mammal Age. Damvlei expands our knowledge of the Later Stone Age in the western Free State, and highlights the need for more extensive dating programmes aimed at framing human occupation in the central interior of South Africa.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)57-74
Number of pages18
JournalSouth African Archaeological Bulletin
Issue number219
StatePublished - Dec 2023
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, South African Archaeological Society. All rights reserved.


This work is dedicated to the memory of James Simpson Brink (1957–2019), 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 no. MI 1748/4-1), and by the National Museum Bloemfontein. Michael Toffolo was supported by a grant from IdEx Bordeaux (grant no. ANR-10-IDEX-03-02), and by the grant RYC2021-030917-I funded by the MCIN/AEI/10.13039/5011000 11033 and by the “European Union NextGenerationEU/PRTR”. We would like to thank the following people: Frans Du Toit, owner of the Strydomspan 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; the late Isaac Thapo, Jacob Maine, Abel Dichakane, Peter Mdala, Johannes Motshabi, Moses Mahloko, and Kristen Wroth for their assistance during fieldwork; Tria Oersen and Jaco Smith for facilitating our stay at the Florisbad Research Station during fieldwork seasons; Sharon Holt for helping us sort through collections at Florisbad; Cornie van Huyssteen for lending us a petrographic microscope during excavations. We are grateful to Carlos Sáiz Dominguez for preparing thin sections. We thank the editor and reviewers for their comments which improved the manuscript.

FundersFunder number
IdEx Bordeaux11033, ANR-10-IDEX-03-02, RYC2021-030917-I
National Museum Bloemfontein
Deutsche ForschungsgemeinschaftMI 1748/4-1


    • Florisian
    • Free State
    • Later Stone Age
    • Modder River
    • alluvial
    • palaeoenvironment


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