Landscape archaeology of the Kalahari: How did major hydrological shifts affect Stone Age mobility and landscape use in the late Quaternary?

Project Details


This project addresses a fundamental gap in the landscape archaeology of dryland central southern Africa. 
The region has experienced major climatic and hydrological changes during the last 250,000 years. These included the waxing and waning of a 90,000 km² palaeolake, Makgadikgadi, in the middle of the Kalahari Desert, Botswana. Scatters of archaeological stone tools on the dry lake floor, and in association with ancient shorelines marking the margins of the palaeolake, indicate that Makgadikgadi was used extensively by our human ancestors. 
This project combines archaeological, palaeoenvironmental, geochronological and geochemical methods to test hypotheses about ancient human interactions with changing environmental and hydrological conditions. It aims to establish a framework for Stone Age landscape use and mobility, with implications for wider theories about early human interactions with changing environments.

The main objectives of the project are to:
1. Characterise and classify the extensive lithic industries of the Makgadikgadi basin and its feeder fluvial systems;
2. Identify the source locations of lithic material used by ancestral humans, by comparing artefact geochemical data against similar data for silcrete outcrops sampled from around the basin and a database of silcrete outcrop geochemistry;
3. Generate new palaeoenvironmental data for the Late Quaternary, focusing on hydrological changes pertinent to the region's occupation;
4. Test a series of hypotheses to enhance both archaeological understanding in southern Africa and contribute to wider debates about early human behaviour.

Key findings

The project runs until the end of April 2019. Key findings, and links to publications, will be added here as they appear.
Short titleLandscape archaeology of the Kalahari
Effective start/end date1/05/1630/04/19


  • Leverhulme


  • Kalahari
  • Botswana
  • Stone Age archaeology
  • luminescence dating
  • geochemical provenancing


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