Reconstructing Middle Stone Age mobility patterns from raw material transfers in South Africa’s Still Bay (77–70 ka) technocomplex
Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences
South Africa’s Still Bay technocomplex (77–70 ka) is an early example of a technological system organised around the production of bifacial points. Noting the diversity of raw materials used and the frequency of non-local raw materials found among excavated bifacial point assemblages, numerous researchers have argued that Still Bay foragers were highly mobile. This pattern, however, is in contrast to that observed in some open-air surface Still Bay assemblages, where raw material diversity among bifacial points is low and local rocks dominate. We resolve this apparent discrepancy by combining information on raw material distribution, least-cost path analysis, and artefact data from two rock shelters and numerous open-air sites located along the Doring and Olifants Rivers in South Africa. The results demonstrate that raw material selection for bifacial point production was responsive to geological resources within river catchments but that bifacial points were transported regularly between catchments over minimum distances of 30–60 km. Our data appears to support the inference that Still Bay foragers were wide-ranging.
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