Stone tools connected communities: Study


November 10, 2018 23:41 IST

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– Rajat Sharma


Washington DC. [USA]November 10 (ANI): In a recent study, archaeologists have pointed out that the interaction between distant communities can be understood more clearly by studying the type of stone tools they used.
The tools – mainly knives and knives supported by Howiesons Poort – were found in several layers at the Klipdrift Shelter in the South Cape. They were examined by a group of lithic specialists who found distinct similarities with local tools in the Western Cape of South Africa, more than 300 km away, in particular with the local Diepkloof Rock Shelter.
Dr. Katja Douze, a lead author of the study, said: "While there are regional specificities in the tools of various sites, the similarities of Klipdrift Shelter to the Diepkloof Rock Shelter site are astonishing." The study was published in PLOS ONE.
The team, under the leadership of Professor Christopher Henshilwood, examined thousands of seven-tier excavated stone tools representing a time period between 66,000 years ago and 59,000 years ago to establish differences in stone tool design over of time. They then compared the stone tools to various other websites in Howiesons Poort.
"The Klipdfrift Shelter site is one of the few that contains a long archaeological sequence that provides data on cultural changes over time during Howiesons Poort, which makes it perfect to study change in culture over time," Douze said.
What was even more exciting to the researchers was the fact that for the first time they were able to show interdependent interaction between distant communities through the way they designed stone tools.
Douze said: "There was a near perfect combination between the tools of the Klipdrift and Diepkloof shelters, which shows us that there was regular interaction between these two communities." This is the first time we can draw a parallel between different sites based on robust sets of data, and show that there was mobility between the two sites, which is unique to the Middle Stone Age.
The Middle Stone Age in Africa stretches from 350,000 years ago to 25,000 years ago and is a key period for understanding the development of the first Homo sapiens, their behavioral changes over time, and their movements into and out of Africa.
Named after Howieson's Poort Shelter, an archaeological site near Grahamstown in South Africa, the Howiesons Poort is a specific technological culture within the Middle Stone Age that evolves in Southern Africa after 100,000 years in the Diepkloof Shelter, but between 66,000 and 59,000 years on most other Howiesons Poort sites.
The characteristics of Howiesons Poort are strongly different from other Stone Age industries because they are characterized by the production of small blades and supported tools used for both hunting armor and meat cutting, while other MSA industries show flakes, large blades, and point of productions.
The tools found in the deeper layers of the Klipdrift Shelter, which represent the initial stages of Howiesons Poort, were made from thermally treated silcrete, while those from later stages were made from less homogeneous rocks such as quartz and quartzite. This change happens in conjunction with changes in tooling strategies. "Changes over time seem to reflect cultural changes, rather than immediate changes forced on designers by changes in climate," Douze said.
Douze also added, "Our preconceived notion of prehistoric groups is that they just struggled to survive, but in fact they were very adaptable to environmental circumstances. There seems to be no synchronization between the change in design choices and environmental changes However, acidification of the area over time may have led to a very gradual shift that led to the end of Howiesons Poort. "
The team also tried to establish why and how the Howiesons Poort ended, and to see if it came to a sudden or gradual end.
"The decline of Howiesons Poort in the Klipdrift Shelter shows a gradual and complex pattern of change, from which the first" symptoms "can be observed long before the ultimate cessation of technology and the typical Howiesons Poort toolkits," Douze said.
"The fact that a similar pattern of gradual change has been described by at least three other South African sites in Howiesons Poort (Rose Cottage Cave, Diepkloof Rock Shelter and Klasies River main site) in addition to determining convergent developments in cultural trajectories, rather than isolated groups readily respond to locally determined pressures. " (ANI)


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