The North of Kuruman Project: Newly discovered Middle and Later Stone Age rockshelter deposits in the Kalahari Basin at Gamohana Hill
Dr. Jayne Wilkins will present the Department of Archaeology seminar with a talk entitled, "The North of Kuruman Project: Newly discovered Middle and Later Stone Age rockshelter deposits in the Kalahari Basin at Gamohana Hill".
Investigations at Kathu Pan 1, South Africa support an early chronology (500 ka) for hafted spears, pigments, and Middle Stone Age (MSA) lithic technologies. These finds come from an open-air context and their chronology has not yet been replicated at other sites. If a population of hominins inhabited the southern Kalahari Basin ~500 ka, then there should be evidence at nearby locales that can be investigated using high-resolution excavation and dating methods. I report results of the North of Kuruman Project, which was developed to expand the domain of archaeological excavations in the Kalahari Basin. Reconnaissance identified several potential rockshelter and pan sites in the lesser-explored region north of Kuruman. Test excavations at two rockshelter sites, Gamohana Hill North (GHN) Shelter and Gamohana Hill South (GNS) Shelter, revealed in situ MSA and Later Stone Age (LSA) deposits. The MSA deposit at GHN includes lithic artifacts, fauna, ostrich eggshell, and charcoal within an ashy silt matrix. The lithic artifacts are in fresh condition, lay flat and exhibit random orientations, consistent with little post-depositional disturbance. The assemblage is characterized by points and blades, prepared cores, and prepared platform flakes, consistent with an MSA-designation. Excavations vertically exposed nearly 1 m of MSA deposit and bedrock was not encountered. GHS yielded ~40 cm of an in situ LSA deposit immediately overlying bedrock. In collaboration with Robyn Pickering (Department of Geological Sciences), U-series analysis conducted on carbonate materials from the shelter walls and talus slope provides age constraints for the formation and evolution of the rockshelter system. Charcoal samples from the excavations provide age constraints for the archaeological deposits. Excavations at Gamohana Hill set the foundation for establishing a regional diachronic study of Pleistocene hunter-gatherer adaptation in the southern Kalahari Basin, and further addressing the question of an early chronology for the MSA. The project also provides new opportunities for student field work and research projects in archaeological science.