Single grain TT-OSL ages for the Earlier Stone Age site of Bestwood 1 (Northern Cape Province, South Africa)

Maïlys Richard, Michael Chazan, Naomi Porat

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9 Scopus citations


The transition from the Earlier Stone Age (ESA) to the Middle Stone Age (MSA) in the interior of southern Africa is associated with the Fauresmith Industry. Major cultural developments found in the Fauresmith include regular use of ochre and other coloured minerals, prepared core technology including blade and point production, and the use of hafted spears. Chronological control for the Fauresmith is weak so that critical questions regarding the relationship of this industry to the evolution of modern humans remain unresolved. Here we present ages for the Bestwood 1 site, an open-air locality in the Northern Cape Province (South Africa) where an extensive Fauresmith occupation is found underlying sand deposits. Optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) was first applied to samples from the sands overlying the Bestwood 1 occupation horizon, and from the occupation horizon itself, in order to establish the chronology of the site. However, sediment mixing resulting from bioturbation processes has been observed, causing post-depositional bleaching of the majority of the grains, thus limiting the use of OSL. In addition, given the identification of the lithic assemblage to the Fauresmith, it seems likely that the sands were beyond the dating range of conventional OSL. Due to its hard-to-bleach properties, the thermally transferred-optically stimulated luminescence (TT-OSL) signal was deemed suitable for detecting the least-bleached grains. Single grain TT-OSL analyses combined with the finite mixture model (FMM) were conducted in order to isolate the oldest grains that could be contemporaneous with the time of deposition of the sediment associated with the ESA assemblage. High scattering of the equivalent doses is consistent with bioturbation processes that mixed sediment; the distribution of the equivalent dose values suggests that younger grains were incorporated into the ESA layers, thus supporting the use of the oldest component determined using the FMM to calculate the TT-OSL ages. This approach allowed us to establish the time for the Fauresmith occupation at 366 ± 32 ka, and the age of the overlying sand deposits, spanning from 350 ± 22 ka to 226 ± 13 ka.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)16-22
Number of pages7
JournalQuaternary International
StatePublished - 20 Mar 2022
Externally publishedYes

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  • Bioturbation
  • Chronology
  • Earlier stone age
  • Fauresmith
  • Finite mixture model
  • Luminescence
  • TT-OSL


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