Island archaeology is a well-established and increasingly active field of the wider discipline. Most studies, however, draw solely upon Pacific and Mediterranean examples, with Africa’s islands correspondingly neglected. This paper reviews previous archaeological work on Africa’s islands and asks what could be obtained from more systematic research on them. Several themes are identified, to all of which a comparative archaeology of Africa’s islands could contribute: patterns of colonisation and abandonment; transformations of island ecology wrought by human settlement; the role of islands in systems of international trade; the establishment of plantation economies; and the constitution and development of distinctive island cultures. Emphasis is also placed on the contribution that such a comparative archaeology could make to island archaeology as a whole and to enhancing the global profile of Africanist archaeological research.
Significant numbers of fish bones have been identified from three Later Stone Age sites in the Lesotho Highlands. They comprise two rock-shelters on the Sehonghong River, Sehonghong and Pitsaneng, and one open-air campsite on the banks of the Senqu River, Likoaeng. Pitsaneng was occupied during the second millennium AD and Likoaeng for much of the Postclassic Wilton, ca 4000-1200 bp. Sehonghong, in contrast, has a history of fish exploitation spanning at least 26,000 years, from before the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) to the second millennium AD. Fish were identified from all levels of this site, but three distinct periods can be distinguished when fishing was of particular importance, namely around 20,000 bp, 12,200 bp and again after 1700 bp. The same five species were identified throughout the deposits. Labeobarbus aeneus overwhelmingly dominates all the assemblages, but Labeo capensis and Austroglanis sclateri may have become more important during the Holocene. Standard Length estimates reveal that fishes caught during the Holocene were mostly of pre-breeding size, whereas the fishes caught during the Pleistocene were mostly of breeding age. Sehonghong and Pitsaneng show similarities in the relative abundances of different fish, but present a marked contrast with Likoaeng. The likely ages of the fish also differ. Overall, the Sehonghong sequence confirms the late Pleistocene antiquity of fishing in the interior of southern Africa and helps contest suggestions that fishing only became important in the late Holocene.
Stratigraphically extensive sites with good organic preservation that date to the Pleistocene/Holocene transition are rare in southern Africa outside the Fynbos Biome of the Cape. However, the Caledon Valley, which forms Lesotho’s western border with South Africa, boasts an unusual concentration of such sites, especially in its central portion. Archaeological fieldwork ahead of the impoundment of the Metolong Dam provided a renewed — and final — opportunity to investigate two of these sites, Ha Makotoko and Ntloana Tšoana, as part of a much larger study of the area’s cultural heritage by the Metolong Cultural Heritage Management (MCRM) Project. This paper reports on the assemblages from the earlier part of the Later Stone Age sequence from Ha Makotoko. As well as confirming the presence of two distinct phases of occupation by makers of the Oakhurst Complex during the early Holocene, new excavations identified an earlier , Robberg Industry occupation of terminal Pleistocene age. These assemblages are described and those of early Holocene date compared to observations from the earlier 1989 excavation at Ha Makotoko. Strongly defined patterning in the overall organisation of the use of space at the site is recognised, along with the potential to begin exploring such sites to answer questions about social practices relevant at a human timescale. Comparison of Ha Makotoko with other sites in the Caledon Valley suggests that such opportunities may also exist elsewhere in the region and reinforces its significance for studies of the Pleistocene/Holocene transition at a sub-continental scale.
This paper describes a previously unrecorded rock art site in the highlands of Lesotho, southern Africa. It then explores the significance of the paintings at this site, which adds to the still small number of locations in the wider Maloti-Drakensberg region at which fishing scenes are depicted. Unusually, paintings of fish at this site are closely associated with that of a rain-animal and with other images, including dying eland and clapping and dancing human figures, that have clear shamanistic references. Drawing also on the local excavated archaeological record, we argue that these images may collectively refer to the power of Bushman shamans to harness and make rain, using that power to produce socially desirable benefits, including perhaps opportunities for group aggregation around seasonally restricted spawning runs of fish.