Blombos Cave, Southern Cape, South Africa: Preliminary Report on the 1992–1999 Excavations of the Middle Stone Age Levels


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Publication Date

May 2002


The Later- and Middle Stone Age levels at Blombos Cave (BBC) were excavated over four field seasons between 1992 and 1999. Here we report on the results from the Middle Stone Age (MSA) levels. The taphonomy and depositional history of the MSA levels is complex due to faulting, folding and spalling. Careful observations during excavation have assisted in understanding some of these taphonomic and site formation processes; microstratigraphic analysis, currently in progress, will add to this information. The uppermost MSA level, the Still Bay phase, contains high densities of bifacial points, the fossile directeur of the Still Bay Industry. Placing the Still Bay within the MSA culture sequence has been problematic in the past because Still Bay assemblages are rarely found in situ and previous excavations were inadequately recorded. However with the regional data discussed in the text, the Still Bay can be securely placed before the Howiesons Poort dated at 65–70 ka. Flaked stone makes up the greatest proportion of all artefacts with the highest incidence of retouch and use of fine grained, non-local materials found in the Still Bay levels. The ochre assemblage is remarkable for the mass of material compared to other MSA sites. Finds uncommon in an MSA context are two pieces of ochre from the Still Bay phase engraved with a geometric design; a fragment of deliberately engraved bone; also, 28 shaped and polished bone tools recovered mainly from a phase just below the Still Bay. Blombos Cave is the first site where well preserved faunal remains have been recovered in association with the Still Bay allowing for unique insights into human subsistence behaviour and palaeoenvironmental reconstruction. Large fish bones, marine shells, seals and dolphins attest to extensive exploitation of aquatic resources and a wide range of terrestrial animals were hunted and gathered. The few human teeth recovered are heavily worn and damaged thus the issue of morphological modernity cannot be addressed. The BBC findings are a useful adj


Middle Stone Age, Still Bay, Modern Human Behaviour, Coastal Subsistence, Southern Africa

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