Technological Change and the Importance of Variability: The Western Cape of South Africa from MIS 6-2
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The South African Cape provides important evidence of behavioral and technological complexity in the period from MIS 6-2. Understanding the meaning of discontinuous temporal patterns in the distribution of technological systems is hampered by traditional culture historic approaches and culture evolutionary interpretations. These historical effects lead to depictions of the past as a series of stadial, progressive units. Evidence of variability is commonly suppressed and presumptions about what makes a technology advantageous go unquestioned. In this paper, key data used to generate existing stadial systems are considered from four sites in the Western Cape. Data are presented using the maximum available stratigraphic resolution within the constraints of the excavation systems used. Variability is shown to be a recurrent feature of technological systems. Rather than a series of discrete packages of innovation, technological change in this area is better understood in terms of the differential persistence of continually generated variation. The resulting picture is one of technologically flexible groups adapting rapidly and in some cases dramatically to changing circumstances through the Late Pleistocene.