Investigating the archaeological implications of environmental change during the Middle Stone Age: a contribution from the geochemical analysis of speleothems in the southern Cape , South Africa

Adigun, Jane Sabina
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In current Middle Stone Age research there is interest in understanding whether climatic and environmental factors played a role in behaviours related to subsistence, mobility patterns and material culture production. From a palaeoenvironmental perspective, the southern Cape is recognized as an important study region for exploring the link, if any, between past environmental conditions and key MSA occurrences. The research presented in this thesis aimed to contribute to the existing database of past environments in the southern Cape through the geochemical analysis of speleothems from a previously uninvestigated locality in the De Hoop Nature Reserve. Together, the De Hoop speleothems provide a discontinuous record of environmental change from marine oxygen isotope stage MIS 5a to MIS 3 (and the Holocene). Results from the De Hoop records indicate warm summer rain and C4 vegetation in early MIS 5a (c. 85 ka to 80 ka) but more variability by late MIS 5a (c. 79 ka to 74 ka). At Klasies River main site, also on the southern Cape coast, the upper MSA II is associated with the warm early MIS 5a conditions. At Blombos Cave, another important coastal MSA site, the Still Bay occurring within terminal MIS 5a was linked to warm but more variable late MIS 5a conditions. While early MIS 4 (c. 73 ka to 68 ka) was comparatively cooler, conditions were similar to those in early MIS 5a. From this research, the earlier phase of the Howiesons Poort at Klasies River main site and the Howiesons Poort at Klipdrift Shelter were correlated with the early MIS 4 conditions in De Hoop. By late MIS 4 (c. 67 ka to 60 ka), conditions remained cool, but were seemingly more variable than during the earlier part of this iii stage
A thesis submitted to the Faculty of Science, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. Johannesburg, 2016.