A high-resolution perspective on MIS 5c-d lithic assemblages from Klasies River main site Cave 1


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July 2019


Klasies River contains an extensive MIS 5 MSA sequence, mostly from what has been described as the MSA ll, MSA 2a or the Mossel Bay techno-complex. The current Witness Baulk excavations undertaken between 2015 and 2016 allows for a renewed and detailed investigation of the variability of the lithic technology from the lowermost part of the MSA ll. This assemblage is equivalent to Deacon's SASL sub-member and Layers 17a and b of Singer and Wymer. Two phases are recognized: An MIS 5c phase in layer SMONE (Singer & Wymer layer 17a) and an MIS 5d phase in layers BOS One and BOS Two (Singer & Wymer layer 17 b). The two phases are characterized by commonalities such as a focus on quartzite utilisation, the presence of a main unidirectional reduction system, similar end products which comprise of points, blades and flakes and a low amount of formal tools. However, this high-resolution investigation of the layers reveals temporal variability. In the Shell Midden ONE (SMONE) layer cores and products are relatively lighter and small debitage is more frequent. There are more flake end products and compared to the lower layer, there are fewer tool types. In the Black Occupational Soil (BOS) layer points and blades are more numerous, products are heavier, core types are more variable, and a higher frequency and variety of tool types occur. Such detailed differences within the MIS 5 assemblages from Klasies River, not described before, shows that the MSA ll is not a homogeneous entity, and that subtle patterning occurs that may link to different technological strategies. Compared to other MIS 5 sites on the southern Cape, namely Blombos Cave, Pinnacle Point and Cape St. Blaize, a common pattern in place provisioning is seen, although the technology shows differences between the sites. This study indicates the value of more detailed studies of MIS 5 assemblages as a tool to understand variability from a more refined perspective.


MIS 5 Lithic Technology, Middle Stone Age, Marine Isotope Stage 5C-D




Nature, Vol. 26 (2019-07-02).