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
Restricted Access
Get Access to Full Text
Rent on DeepDyve

Have an Access Token?



Enter your access token to activate and access content online.

Please login and go to your personal user account to enter your access token.



Help

Have Institutional Access?



Access content through your institution. Any other coaching guidance?



Connect

Abstract

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.

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

Sections

References

AmbroseS.H. 2006. Howiesons Poort lithic raw material procurement patterns and the evolution of modern human behavior: A response to. Journal of Human Evolution 50 (3) 365-369.

AmbroseS.H. & LorenzC.G. 1990. Social and ecological models for the Middle Stone Age in southern Africa. In: MellarsP. (ed.) The Emergence of Modern Humans. Edinburgh University PressEdinburgh pp. 3-33.

AudouinF. & PlissonH. 1982. Les ocres et leurs témoins au Paléolithique en France: enquête et expériences sur leur validité archéologique. Cahiers du Centre de Recherches Préhistoriques 833-80.

BeaumontP. 1990. Kathu. In: BeaumontP. & MorrisD. (eds.) Guide to Archaeological Sites in the Northern Cape. McGregor MuseumKimberley pp. 75-100.

BinfordL.R. 1980. Willow Smoke and Dogs’ Tails: Hunter-gatherer settlement systems and archaeological site formation. American Antiquity 45 (1) 4-20.

BrownK.S.MareanC.W.HerriesA.I.R.JacobsZ.TriboloC.BraunD.RobertsD.L.MeyerM.C. & BernatchezJ. 2009. Fire as an engineering tool of early modern humans. Science 325 (5942) 859-862.

Charrié-DuhautA.PorrazG.CartwrightC.R.IgrejaM.ConnanJ.PoggenpoelC. & TexierP.-J. 2013. First molecular identification of a hafting adhesive in the Late Howiesons Poort at Diepkloof Rock Shelter (Western Cape, South Africa). Journal of Archaeological Science 40 (9) 3506-3518.

ChaseP.G. 1991. Symbols and paleolithic artifacts: Style, standardization, and the imposition of arbitrary form. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 10 (3) 193-214.

ChaseP.G. & DibbleH.L. 1987. Middle paleolithic symbolism: A review of current evidence and interpretations. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 6 (3) 263-296.

ComptonJ.S. 2011. Pleistocene sea-level fluctuations and human evolution on the southern coastal plain of South Africa. Quaternary Science Reviews 30 (5-6) 506-527.

d’ErricoF.BackwellL.R. & WadleyL. 2012. Identifying regional variability in Middle Stone Age bone technology: The case of Sibudu Cave. Journal of Archaeological Science 39 (7) 2479-2495.

d’ErricoF.HenshilwoodC.VanhaerenM. & van NiekerkK. 2005. Nassarius kraussianus shell beads from Blombos Cave: evidence for symbolic behaviour in the Middle Stone Age. Journal of Human Evolution 48 (1) 3-24.

d’ErricoF. & NowellA. 2000. A new look at the Berekhat Ram figurine: implications for the origins of symbolism. Cambridge Archaeological Journal 10123-167.

d’ErricoF. & StringerC.B. 2011. Evolution, revolution or saltation scenario for the emergence of modern cultures? Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 366 (1567) 1060-1069.

DayetL. 2012. Matériaux transformations et fonctions de l’ocre au Middle Stone Age: le cas de Diepkloof Rock Shelter dans le contexte de l’Afrique australe. Unpublished PhD thesis Université Bordeaux 3 Bordeaux.

DayetL.Le BourdonnecF.-X.PorrazG.DanielF. & TexierP.-J. 2016. Ochre provenance and procurement strategies during the Middle Stone Age at Diepkloof Rock Shelter, South Africa. Archaeometry 58 (5) 807-829.

DayetL.TexierP-J.DanielF. & PorrazG. 2013. Ochre resource in the Middle Stone Age sequence of Diepkloof Rock Shelter,Western Cape, South Africa. Journal of Archaeological Science 40 (9) 3492-3505.

DeaconH.J. 1989. Late Pleistocene palaeoecology and archaeology in the southern Cape, South Africa. In: MellarsP. & StringerC. (eds.) The Human Revolution: Behavioural and Biological Perspectives on the Origins of Modern Humans. Edinburgh University PressEdinburgh pp. 547-564.

DeaconH.J. & WurzS. 1996. Klasies River main site, cave 2: a Howiesons Poort occurrences. In: PwitiG. & SoperR. (eds) Aspects of African Archaeology. Papers from the 10th Congress of the Pan African Association for Prehistory and Related Studies. University of Zimbabwe PublicationsHarare pp. 213-218.

FeathersJ.K. 2002. Luminescence dating in less than ideal conditions: case studies from Klasies River main site and Duinefontein, South Africa. Journal of Archaeological Science 29 (2) 177-194.

GualtieriA.F. & VenturelliP. 1999. In situ study of the goethite-hematite phase transformation by real time synchrotron. American Mineralogist 84895-904.

HaughtonS.H. 1928. The geology of the country between Grahamstown and Port Elizabeth: an explanation of Cape sheet no. 9 (Port Elizabeth). Geological Survey of South AfricaPretoria.

HenshilwoodC.S.d’ErricoF.van NiekerkK.L.CoquinotY.JacobsZ.LauritzenS.-E.MenuM. & Garcia-MorenoR. 2011. A 100,000-Year-Old Ochre-Processing Workshop at Blombos Cave, South Africa. Science 334 (6053) 219-222.

HenshilwoodC.S.d’ErricoF. & WattsI. 2009. Engraved ochres from the Middle Stone Age levels at Blombos Cave, South Africa. Journal of Human Evolution 57 (1) 27-47.

HenshilwoodC.S.d’ErricoF.YatesR.JacobsZ.TriboloC.DullerG.A.T.MercierN.SealyJ.C.ValladasH.WattsI. & WintleA.G. 2002. Emergence of modern human behavior: Middle Stone Age engravings from South Africa. Science 295 (5558) 1278-1280.

HenshilwoodC.S.van NiekerkK.L.WurzS.DelagnesA.ArmitageS.J.RifkinR.F.DouzeK.KeeneP.HaalandM.M.ReynardJ.DiscampsE. & MieniesS.S. 2014. Klipdrift Shelter, southern Cape, South Africa: Preliminary report on the Howiesons Poort layers. Journal of Archaeological Science 45284303.

HodgskissT. 2010. Identifying grinding, scoring and rubbing use-wear on experimental ochre pieces. Journal of Archaeological Science 37 (12) 3344-3358.

HodgskissT. 2012. An investigation into the properties of the ochre from Sibudu, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Southern African Humanities 2499-120.

HodgskissT. 2013. Ochre use in the Middle Stone Age at Sibudu, South Africa: grinding, rubbing, scoring and engraving. Journal of African Archaeology 11 (1) 75-95.

HodgskissT. 2014. Cognitive requirements for ochre use in the Middle Stone Age at Sibudu, South Africa. Cambridge Archaeological Journal 24 (3) 405-428.

JacobsZ.RobertsR.G.GalbraithR.F.DeaconH.J.GrünR.MackayA.MitchellP.VogelsangR. & WadleyL. 2008. Ages for the Middle Stone Age of southern Africa: implications for human behaviour and dispersal. Science 322733735.

LöfflerL. & MaderW. 2006. Anisotropic X-ray peak broadening and twin formation in hematite derived from natural and synthetic goethite. Journal of the European Ceramic Society 26 (1-2) 131-139.

LombardM. 2007. The gripping nature of ochre: The association of ochre with Howiesons Poort adhesives and Later Stone Age mastics from South Africa. Journal of Human Evolution 53 (4) 406-419.

MacKayA. 2011. Potentially stylistic differences between backed artefacts from two nearby sites occupied ~60,000 years before present in South Africa. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 30 (2) 235-245.

MourreV.VillaP. & HenshilwoodC.S. 2010. Early use of pressure flaking on lithic artifacts at Blombos Cave, South Africa. Science 330 (6004) 659-662.

PhilibertS. 1994. L’ocre et le traitement des peaux : révision d’une conception traditionnelle par l’analyse fonctionnelle des grattoirs ocrés de la Balma Magineda (Andorre). L’Anthropologie 98 (2-3) 447-453.

PomièsM.P. 1997. Pigments rouges préhistoriques : goethite chauffée ou hématite nanocristalline naturelle ? Unpublished Ph.D Thesis. Université de Paris vi Paris.

PomièsM.P.MorinG. & VignaudC. 1998. xrd study of the goethite-hematite transformation: Application to the identification of heated prehistoric pigments. European Journal of Solid State and Inorganic Chemistry 35 (1) 9-25.

PorrazG.Texier P.-J.ArcherW.PibouleM.RigaudJ.-P. & TriboloC. 2013. Technological successions in the Middle Stone Age sequence of Diepkloof Rock Shelter, Western Cape, South Africa. Journal of Archaeological Science 40 (9) 3376-3400.

RifkinR.F. 2011. Assessing the efficacy of red ochre as a prehistoric hide tanning ingredient. Journal of African Archaeology 9 (2) 131-158.

RifkinR.F.d’ErricoF.DayetL. & SummersB. 2015. Assessing the photoprotective effects of red ochre on human skin by in vitro laboratory experiments. South African Journal of Science 111 (314) 1-8.

RollandN. & DibbleH.L. 1990. A new synthesis of middle Paleolithic assemblage variability. American Antiquity 55480-499.

RudnerI. 1982. Khoisan Pigments and Paints and their Relationship to Rock Paintings. South African MuseumCape Town.

SackettJ. 1982. Approaches to style in lithic archaeology. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 159-112.

SaggersonE.P. & TurnerL.M. 1995. A review of metamorphism in the Republic of South Africa and the kingdoms of Lesotho and Swaziland. Council for Geoscience, Geological Survey of South AfricaPretoria.

SchmidtP.PorrazG.SlodczykA.Bellot-GurletL.ArcherW. & MillerC.E. 2013. Heat treatment in the South African Middle Stone Age: temperature induced transformations of silcrete and their technological implications. Journal of Archaeological Science 40 (9) 3519-3531.

SchmidtP.PorrazG.Bellot-GurletL.FebruaryE.LigouisB.ParisC.TexierP.-J.ParkingtonJ.-E.MillerC.E.NickelK.G. & ConardN.J. 2015. A previously undescribed organic residue sheds light on heat treatment in the Middle Stone Age. Journal of Human Evolution 8522-34.

SingerR. & WymerJ. 1982. The Middle Stone Age of Klasies River Mouth in South Africa. University PressChicago IL.

SoressiM. & d’ErricoF. 2007. Pigments, gravures, parures: les comportements symboliques controversés des Néandertaliens. In: VandermeerschB. & MaureilleB. (eds.) Les Néandertaliens biologie et cultures. C.T.H.S. Documents préhistoriquesParis pp. 297-309.

SorianoS.RobertA. & HuysecomE. 2011. Percussion bipolaire sur enclume : choix ou contrainte ? L’exemple du Paléolithique d’Ounjougou (Pays dogon, Mali). In: MourreV. & JarryM. (eds.) Entre le marteau et l’enclume… La percussion directe au percuteur dur et la diversité de ses modalités d’application. s.a.m.r.a.paleo 2009-2010 numéro spécial pp. 123-132.

SorianoS.VillaP.DelagnesA.DeganoI.PollaroloL.LucejkoJ.J.HenshilwoodC.S. & WadleyL. 2015. The Still Bay and Howiesons Poort at Sibudu and Blombos: Understanding Middle Stone Age technologies. PLoS one 10 (7) 1-46.

TexierP.-J.PorrazG.ParkingtonJ.RigaudJ.-P.PoggenpoelC. & TriboloC. 2013. The context, form and significance of the msa engraved ostrich eggshell collection from Diepkloof Rock Shelter, Western Cape, South Africa. Journal of Archaeological Science 403412-3431.

TexierP.-J.PorrazG.ParkingtonJ.RigaudJ.-P.PoggenpoelC.MillerC.TriboloC.CartwrightC. Coudenneau A. Klein R. Steele T. & Verna C. 2010. A Howiesons Poort tradition of engraving ostrich eggshell containers dated to 60,000 years ago at Diepkloof Rock Shelter, South Africa. PNAS 107 (14) 6180-6185.

ThackerayA.I. 1989. Changing fashions in the Middle Stone Age: the stone artefact sequence from Klasies River main site, South Africa. African Archaeological Review 733-57.

ToerienD.K. & HillR.S. 1989. The Geology of the Port Elizabeth Area. Explanation of the sheet 3324 scale 1:250 000Geological Survey, Department of Mineral and Energy AffairsPretoria.

TriboloC.MercierN.DouvilleE.JoronJ.-L.ReyssJ.-L.RuferD.CantinN.LefraisY.MillerC.E.PorrazG.ParkingtonJ.E.RigaudJ.-P. & TexierP.-J. 2013. osl and tl dating of the Middle Stone Age sequence at Diepkloof Rock Shelter (South Africa): a clarification. Journal of Archaeological Science 4034013411.

Van PletzenL. 2000. The large mammal fauna from Klasies River. Unpublished ma thesis University of Stellenbosch Stellenbosch.

VillaP.PollaroloL.DeganoI.BiroloL.PaseroM.BiagioniC.DoukaK.VinciguerraR.LucejkoJ.J. & WadleyL. 2015. Milk and ochre paint mixture used 49,000 years ago at Sibudu, South Africa. PLoS one 10 (6) e0131273.

VillaP.SorianoS.TeyssandierN. & WurzS. 2010. The Howiesons Poort and MSA iii at Klasies River main site Cave 1A. Journal of Archaeological Science 37 (3) 630-655.

VogelJ.C. 2001. Radiometric dates for the Middle Stone Age in South Africa. In: TobiasP.V.RaathM.A.Moggi-CecchiJ. & DoyleG.A. (eds.) Humanity from African Naissance to Coming Millennia: Colloquia in Human Biology and Palaeoanthropology. Florence University PressFlorence pp. 261268.

VolmanT.P. 1984. Early prehistory of Southern Africa. In: KleinR.G. (ed.) Southern African Prehistory and Paleoenvironments. BalkemaRotterdam pp. 169-220.

WadleyL. 2013. Recognizing complex cognition through innovative technology in Stone Age and Palaeolithic sites. Cambridge Archaeological Journal 23 (2) 163183.

WadleyL.HodgskissT. & GrantM. 2009. Implications for complex cognition from the hafting of tools with compound adhesives in the Middle Stone Age, South Africa. PNAS 106 (24) 9590-9594.

WadleyL.WilliamsonB.S. & LombardM. 2004. Ochre in hafting in Middle Stone Age southern Africa: a practical role. Antiquity 78661-675.

WatariF.van LanduytJ.DelavignetteP.AmelinckxS. & IgataN. 1982. X-Ray peak broadening as a result of twin formation in some oxides derived by dehydration. Physica status solidi (a) 73 (1) 215-224.

WattsI. 2002. Ochre in the Middle Stone Age of Southern Africa: Ritualised display or hide preservative? The South African Archaeological Bulletin 57 (175) 1-14.

WattsI. 2009. Red ochre, body painting, and language: Interpreting the Blombos ochre. In: BothaR. & KnightC. (eds.) The Cradle of Language. Oxford University PressOxford pp. 62-92.

WattsI. 2010. The pigments from Pinnacle Point Cave 13B, Western Cape, South Africa. Journal of Human Evolution 59 (3-4) 392-411.

WattsI.ChazanM. & WilkinsJ. 2016. Early Evidence for Brilliant Ritualized Display: Specularite Use in the Northern Cape (South Africa) between ~500 and ~300 Ka. Current Anthropology 57 (3) 287-310.

WhiteR. 1996. Actes de substance : de la matière au sens dans la représentation paléolithique. Technè 329-38.

WurzS. 1999. The Howiesons Poort backed artefacts from Klasies River: an argument for symbolic behaviour. South African Archaeological Bulletin 5438-50.

WurzS. 2000. The Middle Stone Age at Klasies River South Africa. Ph.D. Thesis University of Stellenbosch.

WurzS. 2002. Variability in the Middle Stone Age lithic sequence, 115,000-60,000 years ago at Klasies River, South Africa. Journal of Archaeological Science 29 (9) 1001-1015.

Figures

  • View in gallery
  • View in gallery
    Location of Klasies River main site and the other Howiesons Poort sites cited in the text. drs: Diepkloof Rock Shelter; krm: Klasies River Main site; krs: Klipdtrift Rock Shelter; rcc: Rose Cottage Cave; sb: Sibudu Cave; umh: Umlhatuzana. Differences in font-size illustrate differences in information available, from data discussed in this study to references of purely qualitative data.
  • View in gallery
    Photos of ‘ochre’ pieces from layer 13 to 16 of the Singer and Wymer excavations at Klasies River showing the main types of raw materials and anthropogenic modifications identified in this study. The collection is mainly composed of shale pieces (A to G), some of which are enriched in iron oxide (‘ferricrete’, H), along with fragments of iron crusts (‘ferricrete’, I), calcium phosphates (J and possibly K) and sandstones (L). Grinding facets recut by negative scars of percussion are observed on pieces A to C and one of the largest piece bearing at least two grooves (A).
  • View in gallery
    sem images and eds analyses illustrating the different micro-structures and composition observed within the studied ‘ochre’ sample of Klasies River (A to E), compared to one piece from Diepkloof (F). A: platy-flow micro-structure of a shale fragment (ref13850); B: micro-structure of a fragment of shale with no organization (ref13896). C: crystalline micro-structure of a fragment of iron crust (‘ferricrete’, ref13836). D: platy-flow micro-structure of an iron enriched piece (ref13865). E: particles of calcium phosphates constituting one of the light coloured lumps (ref13889). F: platy-flow structure of a shale-ferricrete from the Howiesons Poort layer of Diepkloof (ref13689).
  • View in gallery
    Geological map of the area of Klasies River and main hypotheses of provenance for the studied ‘ochre’ sample.
  • View in gallery
    The different types of use-wear traces identified on the largest piece of the studied ‘ochre’ sample from Klasies River (ref13849). A: grinding facet exhibiting parallel striations (visible light); B: One of the grooves under visible light; C and D: the same groove under the sem (C: backscattered electron image; D: secondary electron image).
  • View in gallery
    xrd patterns of red samples that may have been heated according to the unusual features of the hematite peaks (anisotropic broadening; overlapping with maghemite). A: standard hematite in a sample of shale. B: inversion of intensity of hematite peaks in a sample of ferricrete (either an anisotropic hematite or a mixture of hematite and maghemite); C: anisotropic broadening of hematite peaks in a sample of shale. Legend: H: hematite; Q: quartz; K: kaolinite; I/M: illite/muscovite; M: maghemite/magnetite.
  • View in gallery
    Proportions of each type of raw material knapped (A) and ground (B) in the Klasies River ‘ochre’ sample.
  • View in gallery
    Colorimetric coordinates of a representative sample from the Howiesons Poort of Klasies compared to a representative sample of Diepkloof. All the data have been presented in order to take into account the variability of each piece. The colour names indicated refer to Munsell chart categories. Munsell coordinates were directly calculated from the cielab coordinates. Symbols with black borders represent pieces bearing striated facets.

Index Card

Content Metrics

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 17 17 8
Full Text Views 12 12 12
PDF Downloads 1 1 1
EPUB Downloads 0 0 0