A shape to the microlithic Robberg from Elands Bay Cave (South Africa)


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Southern African Humanities

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Elands Bay Cave (EBC) is a key South African site allowing discussion of technological change and adaptations that occurred from the Upper Pleniglacial to the Holocene. In 2011, we set out a new field campaign aiming to clarify the nature and chronology of the earliest Robberg occupations at the site, a technocomplex whose appearance closely relates to the Last Glacial Maximum. Our results document the appearance of the Robberg technology at ca. 19 398–18 790 cal BP, succeeding a phase commonly referred to as the Early Later Stone Age. In this paper, we further develop the definition of the Robberg by providing a technological and functional study of the MOS1 lithic assemblage at EBC, dated to 14 605–14 278 cal BP. Our results show that EBC occupants dominantly selected local quartz in addition to heat-treated silcrete that was introduced from distances greater than 30 km. Robberg inhabitants applied different reduction strategies combining bipolar/anvil and soft stone hammer percussion. Reduction sequences were oriented toward the production of a set of small artefacts (< 25 mm long) that can be generically classified as bladelets. The low incidence of retouched forms and the absence of geometrics, together with our functional study, testify to a flexible composite microlithic technology. We also discuss the raw material provisioning strategies of EBC Robberg inhabitants and develop the question of the intraand inter-assemblages variability. Finally, we attempt to discuss its temporal trends and conclude on the originality of the Robberg technology within the context of other Late Pleistocene microlithic traditions.

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