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University of Oxford (2013)

Late Holocene archaeology in Namaqualand, South Africa : hunter-gatherers and herders in a semi-arid environment

Orton, Jayson David John

Titre : Late Holocene archaeology in Namaqualand, South Africa : hunter-gatherers and herders in a semi-arid environment

Auteur : Orton, Jayson David John

Université de soutenance : University of Oxford

Grade : Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) 2013

Résumé
This study examines mid- to late Holocene Later Stone Age archaeological residues – specifically flaked stone artefacts, ostrich eggshell beads and pottery – from Namaqualand, north-western South Africa. Through its implication in all models so far proposed, Namaqualand is crucial to understanding the introduction of herding to the southern African subcontinent. Despite numerous publications on early herding, many key debates remain unresolved.
The study focuses on the northern and central Namaqualand coastline, but sites from other parts of Namaqualand are also described. The stone assemblages are grouped according to variation in materials and retouch and then, along with data from ostrich eggshell beads and pottery, analysed graphically for temporal and other patterning. A cultural sequence is then presented.
Using this sequence, key debates on early herding are explored and a hypothesis on its origins is constructed. Indigenous hunter-gatherers occupied the region throughout the Holocene and made Group 1 lithic assemblages from quartz and cryptocrystalline silica with frequent retouched tools primarily in cryptocrystalline silica. A new population – likely Proto-Khoekhoe-speaking hunter-gatherers with limited numbers of livestock – entered the landscape approximately 2000 years ago. They made Group 3 assemblages from clear quartz focusing on backed bladelets. Diffusion of stock and pottery among the local population occurred during this period. Later, c. AD 500, a new wave of migrants appeared. These last were the ancestors of the historically observed Khoekhoe pastoralists ; they made Group 2 lithic assemblages on milky quartz without retouched tools. Bead diameter generally increases with time and contributes nothing to the debate. The pottery sequence is still too patchy for meaningful interpretation but differs from that elsewhere. Overall, the differing cultural signatures in western South Africa suggest that, although many questions will likely remain unanswered, a better understanding of southern African early herding will only be possible with a study addressing all regions simultaneously.

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