February 14, 2016

How different is Howieson Port Middle Paleolithic tech from its neighbors and successors?

Quickies

That's what a recently published paper discusses. Oh, by the way, context for the casual reader: Howieson Port and related industries are among the oldest ones in South Africa, yet they are very advanced for their time, suggesting that our species was innovating in ways that our (now essentially extinct) cousins were not doing. See also: this entry on African Middle Paleolithic.

Paloma de la Peña, Refining Our Understanding of Howiesons Poort Lithic Technology: The Evidence from Grey Rocky Layer in Sibudu Cave (KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa). Open accessLINK [doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0143451]

Abstract

The detailed technological analysis of the youngest Howiesons Poort occupation in Sibudu Cave, layer Grey Rocky, has shown the importance of blade production (with different knapping methods involved), but also of flaking methods in coarse grained rock types. Moreover, new strategies of bifacial production and microlithism were important. Grey Rocky lithic technology shows a really versatile example of reduction strategies that were highly influenced by the characteristics of the rock types. This lithic assemblage is another example of the technological variability linked to the Howiesons Poort technocomplex. The reasons for this variability are still difficult to elucidate. Discrepancies between sites might be for different reasons: diachronic variations, functional variations, organizational variations or maybe different regional variations within what has been recognized traditionally and typologically as Howiesons Poort. The technological comparison of the Grey Rocky assemblage with assemblages from other Howiesons Poort sites demonstrates that there are common technological trends during the late Pleistocene, but they still need to be properly circumscribed chronologically. On the one hand, Howiesons Poort characteristics such as the bifacial production in quartz are reminiscent of production in some Still Bay or pre-Still Bay industries and the flake production or the prismatic blade production described here could be a point in common with pre-Still Bay and post-Howiesons Poort industries. On the other hand, the detailed analysis of the Grey Rocky lithics reinforces the particular character of this Howiesons Poort technocomplex, yet it also shows clear technological links with other Middle Stone Age assemblages.

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