Finding resolution for the Howiesons Poort through the microscope: micro-residue analysis of segments from Sibudu Cave, South Africa


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Publication Date

January 2008


In this paper I present the results of a micro-residue analysis of stone segments, the type fossils of the Howiesons Poort technocomplex in South Africa, with an age of more than 60 ka at Sibudu Cave, KwaZulu-Natal. Fifty-three segments were systematically analysed and 1826 organic micro-residue occurrences were documented on the sample. The distribution patterns of micro-residues and other use-traces are interpreted in terms of hafting and function. It is shown that most of the tools were indeed hafted and most were probably used as inserts for hunting weapons. There is evidence for differences and changes over time in haft materials and hafting configurations of the segments. The study demonstrates how functional studies could improve our understanding of change and variability in human behaviour during the Middle Stone Age, a period that used to be portrayed as static or slow changing.


Howiesons Poort, Sibudu Cave, Backed Stone Tools, Middle Stone Age, Hunting, Hafting, Residues, Human Behaviour

Document Type



Journal of Archaeological Science, Vol. 35, no. 1 (2008-01-01).