Guest Staff Member
My overarching research interests cover the African Middle and Later Stone Age, the European Middle Palaeolithic and hunter-gatherer subsistence behaviour. For example, to understand Middle Stone Age coastal foraging behaviour and (the impact of) local climatic variation, I analysed shellfish from Blombos Cave (South Africa). I found for instance that the hunter-gatherers at Blombos timed their visits to the coast with low tides; in addition, the distance from the cave to the coastline determined which shellfish species they would bring to the site (Fig 1).
Details: Fig 1: One of the conclusions from my work on the Blombos shellfish is that transport decisions changed when sea levels changed. During the occupation of M3 phase the sea was closer to the site compared to the M2 and M1 phases. The bar graph gives the percentage shellfish MNI per volume (liter) at the three Blombos phases. Note how important M3 species decline in the M2 and M1 in favour of brown mussel (Perna perna) (from Langejans et al. 2012, Fig 6).
Details: Fig 2: I worked extensively on the taphonomy of residues and this figure is an example of a residue distribution map of a Sterkfontein (South Africa) artefact. The dorsal side shows numerous contaminant residues. P1–P6 indicate the tool portions; grey area is the tool label and consists of ink and nail varnish. B: bone, F: fat, P: plant fibre, X: brightly coloured fat-like deposit. The bold labels are potential use-related remains and remains in regular font are not use-related. Inset 1: Pale green fat-like deposits, 2: Fat and bone on top of the label, 3: Plant fibre on top of soil, 4: Purple fat-like deposit and a blue fibre (from Langejans 2012, Fig 9).
Currently, I am applying residue and use-wear studies to scrapers and grindstones from several southern African Stone Age sites (Fig 2). My goal is to illuminate the exploitation of plant resources, a generally overlooked food category for this period. However, preliminary results reveal at least some scrapers were used to work hide, of which we also know little. One of the recurring residues I find on the scrapers is a possible adhesive mix that contains ochre. These finds sparked another research project on prehistoric adhesive technology. To properly unravel adhesives and other residues, I am revisiting the use of spectrographic and chemical material analysis. Currently, I am also co-developing a fieldwork project to study the Middle to Later Stone Age transition in southern Africa.
- gastonderzoek, redacteur