Miniaturized stone tools made by controlled fracture are reported from nearly every continent where archaeologists have systematically looked for them. While similarities in technology are acknowledged between regions, few detailed inter-regional comparative studies have been conducted. Our paper addresses this gap, presenting results of a comparative lithic technological study between Klipfonteinrand and Sehonghong – two large rock shelters in southern Africa. Both sites contain Late Glacial (~18-11 kcal BP) lithic assemblages, though they are located in regions with different geologies, climates and environments. Results demonstrate that lithic miniaturization manifests differently in these different regions. Both assemblages provide evidence for small blade production, though key differences exist in terms of the specific technological composition of this evidence, the raw materials selected, the role played by bipolar reduction and the manner in which lithic reduction was organized. Patterned variability of this nature demonstrates that humans deployed miniaturized technologies strategically in relation to local conditions.
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.
Decisions related to the production of lithic technology involve landscape-scale patterns of resource acquisition and transport that are not observable in assemblages from any one single site. In this study, we describe the stone artifacts from a discrete cluster of stone artifacts assigned to the Robberg technocomplex (22-16 ka) at the open-air locality of Uitspankraal 9 (UPK9), which is located near two major sources of toolstone in the Doring River catchment of Western Cape, South Africa. OSL dating of the underlying sediment unit provides a terminus post quem age of 27.5 ± 2.1 ka for the assemblage. Comparison of near-source artifact reduction at UPK9 with data from three rock shelter assemblages within the Doring watershed – Putslaagte 8 (PL8), Klipfonteinrand Rock Shelter (KFR), and Mertenhof Rock Shelter (MRS) – suggests that “gearing-up” with cores and blanks occurred along the river in anticipation of transport into the wider catchment area. The results reveal an integrated system of technological supply in which raw materials from different sources were acquired, reduced, and transported in different ways throughout the Doring River region.