We report on excavations of a small rock shelter — Putslaagte 8 (PL8) — located on the arid interior fringe of South Africa’s Fynbos biome. The shelter preserves a long sequence of Holocene and late Pleistocene occupation dating back beyond 75,000 years BP. This paper presents data on the technological, faunal and chronological sequence. Occupation is markedly pulsed and includes three late Pleistocene Later Stone Age (LSA) units (macrolithic, Robberg and early LSA), as well as several distinct Middle Stone Age (MSA) components from Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 3–5. Pulsing may reflect the arid and possibly marginal environments in which the shelter is situated, and to that end some elements of the sequence contrast with occupational patterns towards the coast. Viewed in a regional setting PL8 suggests: 1) complementarity of resource movements between the coast and interior in terminal MIS 2; 2) distinctions in material selection, and possibly technology, between the coast and interior in earlier MIS 2; 3) an MSA lasting to at least 40,000 years before present; 4) a weak Howiesons Poort and post-Howiesons Poort in the interior; 5) possibly distinct periods of denticulate manufacture within the MIS 5 MSA; 6) highly localised patterns of material acquisition in the earlier MSA.
Emphasis on the production of small unretouched blades is the strongest defining technological characteristic of southern African assemblages referred to as the Robberg – a ‘technologically uniform’ technocomplex identified across the sub-continent. This paper explores the spatial organisation of Robberg blade technology from three rockshelter sites in the Doring River catchment of the eastern Cederberg Mountains. The Doring is both a key source of water and toolstone, and the three sites are located at varying distances from it. Blades and blade cores from these sites are used to explore the influence of distance to source on the abundance of raw materials, staging of production and maintenance/reduction of transported artefacts. Results suggest key differences in procurement and provisioning strategies for different materials. Hunter-gatherers ‘geared up’ with hornfels and silcrete blades at the river before moving up the tributaries where toolkits were supplemented by small numbers of blades made from transported silcrete cores and the situational use of local rock types such as quartz. Results demonstrate the importance of understanding local-scale controls on technological organisation before inferring patterns of broader behavioural import.