Stone Age tools reveal people settled 58,000 years ago 

  • Evidence from a cave in South Africa suggested that people began to settle
  • People moved from a more mobile living strategy to one of reduced mobility
  • There was a switch to coarse rocks that could be collected close to the cave
  • And burnt sedge suggests that people used grass bedding which can get infested with pests, so people can either burn it to clean the camp or move out

About 58,000 years ago, Stone Age humans began to settle down, staying in one area for longer periods, a new study has found. 

Evidence from a cave called Sibudu in South Africa, including grindstones and grass bedding, suggest that people moved from a more mobile living strategy to one of reduced mobility.

The ancient Stone Age cave also contains many finely-worked, crescent-shaped stone tools fashioned from long, thin blades, as well as bone tools such as bone arrowhead, from the era that preceded the reduced mobility period. 

Grindstones from the post-Howiesons Poort era from Sibudu Cave, near Tongaat in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa. The cave contains tools from the Howiesons Poort era, such as finely-worked stone tools, as well as tools from the post-Howiesons Poort era

Grindstones from the post-Howiesons Poort era from Sibudu Cave, near Tongaat in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa. The cave contains tools from the Howiesons Poort era, such as finely-worked stone tools, as well as tools from the post-Howiesons Poort era

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Witwatersrand, also gives a potential answer to why the Howiesons Poort, a specific technological cultural period in the Middle Stone Age in Africa, appears to have suddenly disappeared at that time. 

Dr Paloma de la Peña and Dr Lyn Wadley, both researchers at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa and the authors of the study, explored the changes observed between the Howiesons Poort period (dated about 65,000 to 62,000 years ago at Sibudu) and the one that followed it about 58,000 years ago. 

Sibudu, a rock shelter near Tongaat in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa, contains tools from the Howiesons Poort era, such as finely-worked stone tools made on dolerite (a subvolcanic rock), hornfels (a metamorphic rock), and, to a lesser extent, quartz.

These ‘segments,’ as they are called, were attached to handles using compound adhesives that sometimes included red ochre (an iron  oxide). 

The Howiesons Poort era also includes a diverse bone tool kit, and what may be the world’s oldest bone arrowhead. 

A range of hunting techniques was used at the time, including perhaps the first use of snares for capturing small animals. 

THE SIBUDU CAVE: REVELATIONS OF LIFE IN THE STONE AGE

Sibudu, a rock shelter near Tongaat in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa, contains evidence of the changes that occurred between the Howiesons Poort period (dated about 65,000 to 62,000 years ago at Sibudu) and the one that followed it about 58,000 years ago.

Researchers uncovered tools from the Howiesons Poort era,such as finely-worked finely-worked, crescent-shaped stone tools fashioned from long, thin blades made on dolerite (a subvolcanic rock), hornfels (a metamorphic rock), and, to a lesser extent, quartz.

The Howiesons Poort era also includes a diverse bone tool kit, and what may be the world’s oldest bone arrowhead. 

A range of hunting techniques was used at the time, including perhaps the first use of snares for capturing small animals. 

The animal remains brought to Sibudu reflect this diversity, as there are bones from large plains game like zebra, tiny blue duiker, and even pigeons and small carnivores.

Sibudu, a rock shelter near Tongaat in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa, contains tools from the Howiesons Poort era, such as finely-worked stone tools made on dolerite (a subvolcanic rock), hornfels (a metamorphic rock), and, to a lesser extent, quartz

Sibudu, a rock shelter near Tongaat in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa, contains tools from the Howiesons Poort era, such as finely-worked stone tools made on dolerite (a subvolcanic rock), hornfels (a metamorphic rock), and, to a lesser extent, quartz

At 58,000 years ago, the long, thing blades of the Howiesons Poort era was replaced by a simple technology that could be rapidly produced. 

A switch to coarse rocks like quartzite and sandstone took place, and these could be collected close to Sibudu. 

Post-Howiesons Poort tools were part of were part of an unstandardized toolkit with triangular or irregularly-shaped flakes.  

Many grindstones, dating from 58,000 years ago and were used to grind ochre and/or bone, were found in Sibudu.  

Other evidence suggests that by 58,000 years ago people stayed in Sibudu longer than before. 

For example, there was a considerable, rapid accumulation of sediments built up in millimeter-thicl lenses from stacked layers of burnt sedge and grass bedding. 

Grass bedding gets infested with pests, so people can either burn bedding to clean the camp or move out. 

View over an excavation area inside the Sibudu cave. The cave contains evidence of the changes that occurred between the Howiesons Poort period (dated about 65,000 to 62,000 years ago at Sibudu) and the one that followed it about 58,000 years ago

View over an excavation area inside the Sibudu cave. The cave contains evidence of the changes that occurred between the Howiesons Poort period (dated about 65,000 to 62,000 years ago at Sibudu) and the one that followed it about 58,000 years ago

The animal remains brought to Sibudu reflect this diversity, as there are bones from large plains game like zebra, tiny blue duiker, and even pigeons and small carnivores. 

And during the Howiesons Poort, soft clayey ochre pieces, which are useful for applying as paint, were collected at a considerable distance from Sibudu. 

At 58,000 years ago, the long, thing blades of the Howiesons Poort era was replaced by a simple technology that could be rapidly produced. 

A switch to coarse rocks like quartzite and sandstone took place, and these could be collected close to Sibudu. 

Post-Howiesons Poort tools were part of were part of an unstandardized toolkit with triangular or irregularly-shaped flakes. 

Tiny, scaled pieces were also produced using a technique that involves smashing a small piece of rock with a hammerstone. 

Many grindstones, dating from 58,000 years ago and were used to grind ochre and/or bone, were found in Sibudu. 

Different tools found in the post-Howiesons Poort layers of Sibudu Cave. Most of the pieces demonstrate an unstandardized toolkit. Nonetheless, typical Howiesons Poort segments (B, D and F) still were produced. 

Different tools found in the post-Howiesons Poort layers of Sibudu Cave. Most of the pieces demonstrate an unstandardized toolkit. Nonetheless, typical Howiesons Poort segments (B, D and F) still were produced. 

Ochre use also changed – silty ochre found close to Sibudu was popular 58,000 years ago, as people may have wanted to collect raw materials close to their camp. 

Other evidence suggests that by 58,000 years ago people stayed in Sibudu longer than before. 

For example, there was a considerable, rapid accumulation of sediments built up in millimeter-thick lenses from stacked layers of burnt sedge and grass bedding. 

Grass bedding gets infested with pests, so people can either burn bedding to clean the camp or move out. 

The researchers say that environmental factors do not seem to have caused the time-related changes that were observed. 

The researchers say that ‘social transformation’ may have been the reason. 

It’s possible that changes in band size and/or membership to the group influences decisions about whether to stay in Sibudu. but researchers don’t know whether group size was larger 58,000 years ago than before, or whether small groups occupied the site for a long time. 

What the researchers can say is that the people using the simple post-Howiesons Poort tools were ‘homebodies’ who preferred to collect the raw materials they needed from close to their camp. 

A range of hunting techniques was used during the Howiesons Poort era, including perhaps the first use of snares for capturing small animals. The animal remains brought to Sibudu cave reflect this diversity, as there are bones from large plains game like zebra and even pigeons

A range of hunting techniques was used during the Howiesons Poort era, including perhaps the first use of snares for capturing small animals. The animal remains brought to Sibudu cave reflect this diversity, as there are bones from large plains game like zebra and even pigeons






Courtesy: Daily Mail Online

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *