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.
This paper presents new information obtained from a recent excavation and reassessment of the stratigraphy, chronology, archaeological assemblages and environmental context of the Apollo 11 rockshelter, which contains the longest late Pleistocene and Holocene archaeological sequence in Namibia. The Middle Stone Age (MSA) industries represented at the site include an early MSA, Still Bay, Howieson’s Poort and late MSA. Optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) dating of individual quartz grains yielded numerical ages for the Still Bay and Howieson’s Poort, and indicated the presence of a post-Howieson’s Poort phase. OSL dating also verified conventional and accelerator mass spectrometry radiocarbon ages for a further two later MSA phases. The timing of the transition from the MSA to the early Later Stone Age was also investigated. Improved resolution of the excavation and a more detailed stratigraphy revealed the presence of near-sterile cultural layers, which in some cases assisted in subdividing the MSA cultural phases. Such information, in combination with the new radiocarbon and OSL chronologies, helps address questions about the duration and continuity of MSA occupation at the site. Analyses of the faunal and archaeobotanical remains show some differences between the occupation phases at the site that may be associated with changing environmental conditions.