Ochre Resources, Behavioural Complexity and Regional Patterns in the Howiesons Poort

New Insights From Klasies River Main Site, South Africa

In: Journal of African Archaeology
Laure Dayet Bouillot CNRS, PACEA UMR5199, Université de Bordeaux Allée Geoffroy Saint Hilaire, cs 50023, F-33615 Pessac Cedex France Institut Français d’Afrique du Sud 62 Juta street, Johannesburg South Africa Corresponding author

Search for other papers by Laure Dayet Bouillot in
Current site
Google Scholar
Sarah Wurz School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental Studies & Evolutionary Studies Institute, University of the Witwatersrand Johannesburg South Africa

Search for other papers by Sarah Wurz in
Current site
Google Scholar
, and
Floréal Daniel CNRS, UMR5060-IRAMAT, Université Bordeaux Montaigne Pessac France

Search for other papers by Floréal Daniel in
Current site
Google Scholar
Download Citation Get Permissions

Access options

Get access to the full article by using one of the access options below.

Institutional Login

Log in with Open Athens, Shibboleth, or your institutional credentials

Login via Institution


Buy instant access (PDF download and unlimited online access):



The widespread use of ochre during Oxygen Isotope Stage 5 and 4 in South Africa has often been interpreted as reflecting complex behaviours amongst modern human populations. The Howiesons Poort is one of the most documented techno-complexes identified within this timeframe. It is associated with an intensification of a combination of innovative technical and symbolic behaviours. Despite the notable focus on ochre use, detailed analyses of Howiesons Poort assemblages in this respect are rare. New data on ochre exploitation from the Howiesons Poort of Klasies River main site are presented in this paper. We used non-destructive microscopic, colorimetric and chemical analyses (sem-eds, xrd) in order to describe the raw materials and the transformation of a selected sample from the Singer and Wymer ochre collection. This sample is composed of red and yellow ferruginous rocks (shale, ferricrete, siltstone and sandstone), along with whitish lumps (calcium phosphates). These lumps may have an anthropogenic origin and may be considered as pigments. Some of the red ochre pieces were probably deliberately heated. Our results enhance the impression of complexity emerging from the technical processes mastered by Howiesons Poort populations. Comparison with other Howiesons Poort ochre assemblages allows a discussion of regional variability and ‘connections’ between the sites. The scale and organization of social interactions in the Howiesons Poort are questioned.

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 591 212 19
Full Text Views 239 25 2
PDF Views & Downloads 108 38 5