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Welcome to African Archaeology!

The Journal of African Archaeology is an international peer-reviewed periodical appearing half-yearly since 2003. It publishes original papers addressing recent research and developments in African archaeology and related disciplines. The journal's main purpose is to provide scholars and students with a new pan-African forum for discussing relevant topics on the cultural dynamics of past African societies.

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Vol. 12 (1) 2014

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G. Hall, L. Wadley & S. Woodborne

Past Environmental Proxies from the Middle Stone Age at Sibudu, Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa

Journal of African Archaeology, Volume 12 (1), 2014, pages 7-24, DOI 10.3213/2191-5784-10246

Abstract
Middle Stone Age technological and behavioural developments in southern Africa are central to understanding the emergence of modern humans, and elucidating the role of environmental change in this trajectory is dependent on emerging palaeoclimatic reconstructions. Climate proxies from Middle Stone Age sites are often poorly preserved, coarsely resolved or subject to anthropogenic selection and are not considered in favour of global environmental proxies despite the fact that the modern climate regimes at the relevant archaeological sites differ profoundly. Sibudu has a well-preserved Middle Stone Age sequence that has yielded abundant palaeoclimate proxy data. Isotopic analysis of charcoal, charcoal anatomy and species representation, macro- and micro-faunal remains, sediment texture, mineralogy and magnetic susceptibility, pollen and macrobotanical remains provide evidence for the environmental succession specific to this site. The isotopic data suggest that archaeological charcoal was not significantly post-depositionally altered. During the Howiesons Poort (65–62 ka) the local environment was thickly forested, moist and more humid than during the 58 ka occupations. The environment changes during the post-Howiesons Poort occupation (~58 ka) into the late MSA occupation (~48 ka); conditions became drier and colder than present with vegetation shifting to open savanna grassland or woodlands.

Résumé
Les évolutions technologiques et comportementales du Middle Stone Age dans le sud de l'Afrique sont essentielles pour comprendre l'émergence de l'Homme moderne, et la compréhension du rôle des changements environnementaux dans cette trajectoire dépend des reconstitutions paléo-climatiques émergentes. Les données indirectes liées au climat du MSA sont souvent mal conservées, de résolution grossière ou soumis à une sélection d'origine anthropique et sont abandonnées au profit des données indirectes liées aux conditions environnementales globales, en dépit du fait que les régimes climatiques modernes sur les sites archéologiques étudiés diffèrent profondément. Sibudu a une séquence bien conservée du Middle Stone Age qui a fournit d'abondantes données paléoclimatiques indirectes.
L'analyse isotopique de charbons de bois, l'anatomie du charbon de bois et la représentation des espèces, des restes de faunes macroscopiques et microscopiques, la texture des sédiments, la minéralogie et la susceptibilité magnétique, le pollen et les restes macrobotaniques fournissent des indices de l'évolution de l'environnement spécifique à ce site. Au cours de la période Howiesons Poort (65–62 ka), l'environnement local est couvert de forêts épaisses et humide, plus humide encore lors des occupations de 58 ka. L'environnement change au cours de l'occupation post-Howiesons Poort (~ 58 ka) jusqu'a la fin de l'occupation MSA (~ 48 ka) : il devient plus sec et plus froid qu'à présent et la végétation se mue en grande savane herbeuse ou boisée.


Keywords: charcoal, environmental proxies, Howiesons Poort, Middle Stone Age, Sibudu, stable carbon isotopes


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Shadreck Chirikure, South Africa
A. Catherine D'Andrea, Canada
Manfred K.H. Eggert, Germany
Elena Garcea, Italy
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Susan Keech McIntosh, USA
David W. Phillipson, UK
Gilbert Pwiti, Zimbabwe
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Robert Vernet, France
Lyn Wadley, South Africa

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