Radiometric dating of the Earlier Stone Age sequence in Excavation I at Wonderwerk Cave, South Africa: preliminary results

Michael Chazan, Hagai Ron, Ari Matmon, Naomi Porat, Paul Goldberg, Royden Yates, Margaret Avery, Alexandra Sumner, Liora Kolska Horwitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

95 Scopus citations


We present here the results of 44 paleomagnetic measurements, and single cosmogenic burial and optically stimulated luminescence ages for the Earlier Stone Age deposits from Wonderwerk Cave, Northern Cape, South Africa. The resulting paleomagnetic sequence: N > R > N > R > N constrains the Earlier Stone Age strata in this part of the site to between ∼0.78-1.96 Ma. A single cosmogenic date of ∼2.0 Ma from the base of the section offers some corroboration for the paleomagnetic sequence. Preliminary results indicate that the small lithic assemblage from the basal stratum may contain an Oldowan facies. This is overlain by several strata containing Acheulean industries. The preliminary radiometric dates reported here place the onset of the Acheulean at this site to ∼1.6 Ma, which is roughly contemporaneous with that of East Africa.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Human Evolution
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2008
Externally publishedYes


Research funded by grants from the Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and the Halbert Academic Exchange Fund, University of Toronto. We are grateful to Colin Fortune (Director), Leon Jacobsen (Vice-Director), and David Morris (Head of the Archaeology Department) of the McGregor Museum for their support of all aspects of our research project. Fieldwork was carried out under permit no. 80/04/07/012/52 from the South African Heritage Resources Agency (SAHRA) and analysis of the archaeological assemblages under the terms of a signed agreement between M. Chazan and the McGregor Museum. We are grateful to Peter Beaumont, excavator of the site, for his assistance and identification in the field of the archaeological units that he recognized. We also acknowledge assistance from Robert Finkel from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories, Norbert Nowaczyk from the GeoForschungsZentrum Potsdam, Germany, and Tony Manhire. We have greatly benefited from the insightful comments of the editor, Darryl Granger, and two other anonymous reviewers; however, the authors are fully responsible for the views presented here.

FundersFunder number
Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council
Halbert Academic Exchange Fund
University of Toronto


    • Acheulian
    • Earlier Stone Age
    • Southern Africa
    • Wonderwerk Cave
    • cosmogenic burial age
    • magnetostratigraphy


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