The Sedimentary Context of Open-Air Archaeology: A Case Study in the Western Cape’s Doring River Valley, South Africa

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Soil Systems


Despite the wealth of Late Pleistocene archaeology that exists across southern Africa’s open landscape, it is routinely neglected in favour of rock shelter (re)excavation, biasing interpretation of human–environment interaction. This is compounded by the scarcity of open-air studies that use geoarchaeological methods to investigate the history and processes involved in their formation. The open-air archaeology of the Doring River Valley is an example of this, despite nearly a decade of dedicated study and publication. Consequently, there remains a limited and untested understanding of the valley’s formation history. This paper rectifies this by providing a sedimentary context for the surface archaeology exposed across one of the Doring River Valley’s artefact-baring localities, Uitspankraal 7 (UPK7). Characterisation, particle size, mineralogical, morphometric, and geophysical analysis of UPK7′s sand mantle resulted in the identification of four artefact-bearing sedimentary units, the aeolian and pedogenic processes involved in their formation, and their proposed order of deposition. This provides a stratigraphic, taphonomic, and environmental context against which chronometric dating and an analysis of the taphonomic, spatio-temporal, and technological composition of UPK7′s surface archaeology can be compared. This work is the first vital step towards understanding the depositional and behavioural history of a landscape, irrespective of context type.

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Funding Sponsor

Australian Research Council



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