The 1992–1993 excavations at the die kelders middle and later stone age Cave Site, South Africa

Graham Avery, Kathryn Cruz-Uribe, Paul Goldberg, Frederick E. Grine, Richard G. Klein, Michael J. Lenardi, Curtis W. Marean, W. Jack Rink, Henry P. Schwarcz, Anne I. Thackeray, Michael L. Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

76 Scopus citations


Renewed excavations at Die Kelders Cave 1, South Africa, have confirmed and augmented prior findings. The new excavations focused on the Middle Stone Age (MSA) deposits, but they added seeds, pips, and crayfish to the categories of Later Stone Age (LSA) food debris and artifacts recovered earlier. With respect to the MSA deposits, the principal new findings are: 1) previously unrecognized site formation processes, including phosphatization by guano, microfaults, and slippage faces, and numerous minor interruptions in sand accumulation that correspond to Short occupation episodes; 2) ESR dates that place the top of the MSA sequence between 80,000 and 60,000 years b.p.; 3) fine-grained rock types, flake-blade sizes and other features that suggest the top of the sequence contains either the Howieson's Poort or a similar silcrete-rich variant of the MSA; 4) a pattern of artifact and bone abundance in newly recognized microstrati-graphic units that suggests that eagle owls (rather than people) accumulated the dune molerat bones that dominate the MSA faunal assemblages; and 5) new human teeth that resemble previously described ones in their large size and in their basic morphological similarity to modern African homologues. The teeth need not imply that the Die Kelders MSA people were fully modern, but they are consistent with other sub-Saharan evidence suggesting that modern people evolved in Africa before 60,000 years b.p., when Neandertals were the sole inhabitants of Europe. Ongoing excavations to enlarge the MSA artifact and faunal samples should allow fresh behavioral inferences and reduce residual uncertainty about the age and industrial affiliation of the MSA layers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)263-291
Number of pages29
JournalJournal of Field Archaeology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 1997
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology


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