Late Pleistocene human occupation in the Maloti-Drakensberg region of southern Africa: New radiocarbon dates from Rose Cottage Cave and inter-site comparisons
Rose Cottage Cave, near Lesotho's western border with South Africa, is a rare archive of late Pleistocene hunter-gatherer behavioural variability in a montane environment, a setting that is poorly represented in regional ethnographic archives. Here, we present an updated chronology for the site based on high-resolution AMS radiocarbon dates and Bayesian and Kernel Density Estimation (KDE) methods. We draw on broader anthropological approaches to lithic evidence and behavioural modelling to test hypotheses about hunter-gatherer provisioning and mobility systems across the Maloti-Drakensberg Escarpment environmental transect. We compare the modelled ages and stone tool evidence from Rose Cottage Cave to other well-dated archaeological sequences in the region, including the comparably well-dated site of Sehonghong in highland Lesotho, as well as Ha Makotoko, Ntloana Tšoana, and Strathalan sites A and B. These comparisons reveal differences in the organization of lithic technologies and activity traces across the region, which can be explained by a combination of responses in hunter-gatherer mobility to local environmental gradients and climate shifts during the climatically variable late Pleistocene. Our results shed light on the relationship between patterns of behavioural change and palaeoenvironmental variability in southeastern southern Africa specifically, and on hunter-gatherer behavioural variability in montane environments more generally.