The Middle Stone Age (MSA) was a time of great human adaptation and innovation. In southern Africa, coastal locations have been viewed as key places for the development of human resource use and behaviour, with the dryness of the continental interior after c.130 ka regarded as both an obstacle to occupation and a limit on behaviour. Newly excavated MSA sites on the floor of the now-dry palaeolake Makgadikgadi basin, central Botswana, along with accompanying environmental data, have provided a significant opportunity to reassess the nature of MSA adaptation to, and behaviour under, dry conditions. Excavated sites dated to 80–72 ka and post 57 ka reveal purposeful early human use of an extensive 60,000 km2 lacustrine basin during dry, as opposed to lake-high, phases, as well as highlighting movement strategies for tool-making resource procurement. Findings have significant implications for theories of early human mobility and innovation, as well as for understanding the drivers, constraints and opportunities for the use of drylands. The deliberate selective movement of lithic raw materials within the basin for artefact manufacture evidences thoughtful adaptation to dry conditions within the lake basin. This research shows that open-air sites in the Kalahari drylands of central southern Africa can make important contributions to debates surrounding the development of human-environment relationships during the MSA, as well as challenging narratives of a hostile and largely empty landscape.
|Journal||Quaternary Science Reviews|
|Publication status||Published - 28 Oct 2022|
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The project was funded by the Leverhulme Trust , award no. RPG-2015-344, DSGT Principal Investigator, SLB, SDC and DJN Co-Investigators. Additional funding and resources were gratefully received from the University of Botswana, the University of Ottawa , the University of Brighton , and the University of Oslo .
We gratefully acknowledge the additional support of The National Museum of Botswana for this research, providing laboratory space for artefact analysis and the loan of additional equipment. Our appreciation goes to the local communities of Gweta, Nata and small settlements on the fringe of Makgadikgadi, to Ralph Bousfield and Uncharted Africa/Natural Selection for advice and access to the field research camp used as a base in 2016, and to the owners and staff of Gweta Lodge, our base in 2017, for storage facilities, advice and sharing of local knowledge. We also wish to thank Eric and Karin Walker of Upington, South Africa for years of support, equipment provision and storage, and hospitality at the start and end of field seasons. Ailsa Allen is thanked for producing or finalising the figures.
The project was funded by the Leverhulme Trust, award no. RPG-2015-344, DSGT Principal Investigator, SLB, SDC and DJN Co-Investigators. Additional funding and resources were gratefully received from the University of Botswana, the University of Ottawa, the University of Brighton, and the University of Oslo.
© 2022 The Authors
- Middle Stone Age
- Makgadikgadi palaeolake