The Still Bay points of Blombos Cave (South Africa)


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February 2009


We present the results of a technological and morphometric analysis of all the Still Bay points (n = 371) recovered from the 1993 to 2004 excavations at Blombos Cave. We have been able to reconstruct the manufacturing sequence of the bifacial points from initial shaping, by direct internal percussion, to finished morphology, by direct marginal percussion. Identifications of impact fractures and manufacturing breaks are based on comparisons with experimental and archaeological bifacial points of verified function, i.e. Paleoindian points from bison kill sites, replicates of Solutrean points mounted as spear-heads or arrowheads and shot into adult cattle, and experimental replication on local raw materials. Our analysis shows that: (a) a minority of the points are finished forms, and that a large number of pieces are production failures, a situation known at bifacial point production sites of later ages; (b) morphometric and impact scar analyses should take into account this process and distinguish finished points from preforms and unfinished points; (c) there were at least three different kinds of raw material sources and that there is a marked increase in the frequencies of silcrete with respect to the M2 and M3 phases at Blombos; (d) three kinds of evidence prove that some of the points were hafted axially and used as spear tips; (e) production of bifacial points was a primary activity at the site but the hypothesis of intergroup exchange of Still Bay points cannot be sustained on the basis of present evidence; and (f) the Still Bay phase appears to initiate a trend to relatively rapid changes in specialized hunting weaponry and that this innovation is congruent with other innovations such as bone tools, shell beads and engraved ochre of the M1 and M2 phases at Blombos.


Middle Stone Age, South Africa, Blombos Cave, Still Bay Points, Technological Analysis

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Journal of Archaeological Science, Vol. 36, no. 2 (2009-02-01).