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New Results for the Classification of the African Middle Stone Age

31.10.2008
Scientist at the University of Cologne succeeds in dating this period

The Cologne archaeologist Dr. Ralf Vogelsang from the Africa Research Centre of the Institute of Prehistoric Archaeology and a team of international researchers have succeeded in dating layers in South Africa that provide information about stone tool innovation on the Middle Stone Age.

This archaeological epoch began at the same time as the earliest appearances of humans (homo sapiens sapiens), about 200,000 years ago, in Africa and differs from the European Middle Stone Age chronologically. It is categorized as an era of change and marked by the development of regional stone tool traditions, the appearance of many innovations and the emergence of significant new behaviour such as the production of art and jewellery.

It seems to be apparent that this surge in innovation is linked to the appearance of this new human form of anatomically more modern humans, who spread from Africa to Europe and superseded the Neanderthals. However, the chronological classification of the stone tool industry has always been very difficult.

With the help of the OSL method (Optically Stimulated Luminescence Dating) and under the direction of Dr. Zenobia Jacobs and Professor Richard Roberts from University of Wollongong (Australia), scientists have been able to date layers from new sites at the stone tool industries of Still bay and Howieson’s Poort. The OSL method measured when grains of quartz were last irradiated by sunlight at these sites.

According to the results, both industries operated between 60,000 and 80,000 years ago, were short-lived and did not coexist. The reasons for the rise and fall of these two cultural groups has been unclear until now, however, climate change does not seem to have played a significant role. Interestingly, the dispersion of modern man from Africa, which ultimately resulted in the in the supersession and extinction of the Neanderthals in Europe, occurred at the same time.

www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/sci;322/5902/733?maxtoshow=&HITS=10&hits=10&RESULTFORMAT=&fulltext=vogelsang&searchid

=1&FIRSTINDEX=0&resourcetype=HWCIT

Patrick Honecker | alfa
Further information:
http://www.uni-koeln.de

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