Functional insights into the innovative Early Howiesons Poort technology at Diepkloof Rock Shelter (Western Cape, South Africa)


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Publication Date

September 2013


The Howiesons Poort (‘HP’) is characterized by a set of technological innovations that mark a rupture in the Southern African Middle Stone Age. However perspectives regarding its origin and emergence remain speculative. The recent identification of an Early HP phase at Diepkloof Rock Shelter provides the opportunity to characterize the initial stage of this technology and to discuss various mechanisms behind its innovative characteristics. This study provides a technological characterization of the Early HP lithic industry of Diepkloof that focuses on micro-wear analysis. These results suggest that the Early HP contained the full spectrum of innovations found in later expressions of the HP in terms of raw material provisioning strategies and techno-typological rules. Use-wear analyses support the suggestion that a wide range of activities were performed on site and show that geometric backed tools (predominantly composed of truncated forms) were 1) not devoted to specific tasks and 2) used predominantly as knives, not as projectiles. The innovative driver at the origin of the HP is likely not related to the adoption of new hunting weapons but to a novel way of conceiving and hafting tools, based on standardized and interchangeable products. The rapid adoption of this new hafting technique may explain the sudden appearance of the HP technological system in the archaeological record.


Middle Stone Age, Early Howiesons Poort, Backed Tools, Blades, Hafting, Use-Wear Analysis

Document Type



Journal of Archaeological Science, Vol. 40, no. 9 (2013-09-01).