The Border Cave South Africa History Essay

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5/12/16 History Reference this

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Mr. Barton W. E at first exhumed Border Cave in the year 1940. Throughout the periods of 941-1942, numerous Middle Stone Age industries were exposed. Additionally, an infant interment was established in the assemblage. These discoveries directed archaeologists to believe that there might have been previous hominid occupation in the Border cavern location. Geologist H. B. S. Cooke did geological studies of the Border Cave assemblages. In 1974, a hominid mandible was found during an excavation along with younger MSA layers. In recent years, other archaeologists including K. W. Butzer, P. B. Beaumont, and J. C. Vogel have done further excavations that revealed the youngest layers of the MSA to be 49,000 BP (Butzer, Beaumont, and Vogel 317).


Border Cave is a cave, which is located within Zululand in South Africa. This is approximately about 400 m from Swaziland. The cave’s mouth opens west towards the Lembobo Mountains. These mountains are 650 meters in height and stretch north and south along 35 km wide Loweld plain. At the steps of the mountain, there are steep cliffs and escarpments. The major river of Ngwavuma River cuts through the Lembodo Mountains. The drainage lines in this area flow from west to East and have created many valleys. The Lembodo Mountains consist of many different types of rocks, but most of these types of rock are geomorphic including basalts, and ecca shale’s. The formation of The Border cave is attributed to differential weathering. Due to the rates of erosion, it has been determined that the large amount of the cave formed during the Pleistocene. Today, the Border Cave is circular in shape and is 40 m in width (20).

The climate at Border Cave is hot in the summer and dry during the winter. From

Mozambique to the Coastal Plain, the climate is a warm tropical savannah. In addition, the Lowveld is warm-mesothermal, semi-arid, without any large areas of water. Finally, the Lebomdo Mountains has climate that is sub humid. Actual rainfall numbers vary from 500m in the lowlands and 900 m in the highlands. Most of the rainfall about 75-80 % occurs during the summer. The average temperatures as measured in Nsoko records the highest mean temperature occurring during the month of January – 25-26 degrees Celsius, and that the coldest monthly average occurs during June – 10-0 degrees Celsius. Daily ranges can be extreme in a tropical climate. Although frosts due occur sporadically at Lowveld; Border Cave is frost-free (24).


The four hominid specimens found in Border Cave site layers of BC1, BC2,

BC3 and BC4 are believed to be examples of anatomically modern humans. According to the assemblages and dates, these layers represent the MSA industries. The hypothesis of an early Pleistocene appearance of Modern Homo sapiens is supported by the findings at Border Cave. However, many archaeologists have questioned the validity of these findings because of the inconsistencies in the stratigraphic sequences (Rainer Beaumont and Christopher 22). The archaeologists used a number of dating methods in order to accurately date the layers of BC1, BC2, BC3, and BC4. Electron Spin Resonance (ESR) was used on 25 teeth found in the layers. The ESR measurements were done by two to four pieces of enamel from each tooth. Next, the uranium concentrations of the enamel and dentin were measured by neutron activation analysis (Grun, Beaumont and Stringer 1990). Based on these findings, BC1 and BC2 is ~less than 90 kya, BC3 is ~70-80 kya, and BC5 is ~50-65 kya. In addition, based on the ESR results the MSA-LSA transition is shown to occur ~35 kya earlier than often believed, and Howiesons Poort lithic industry is 45-75 kya (68).

The dating of the lower levels at Border Cave has never been dated by one method. The Radiocarbon dating of these layers has been characterized as “unreliable” in the past. Due to this fact, it has been impossible to compare oxygen isotope record with the paleo-environment matches (Grun, Beaumont and Stringer 1990). According to the radiocarbon dating done on charcoal, the ages of the Border Cave are as follows, “.65 kyr to 28.5 kyr for level 1BS.UP (below iron age layers), 33 kyr to 38.6 kyr for level 1BS.LR, 33 kyr to 45 kyr for level 1WA, and >41 kyr to 49.1 kyr for level 2BS.UP” (33).

Activity Areas

Much evidence is present that shows that fires were quite abundant in the many of the layers of Border Cave. For example, in unit 1B, the bedrock is weathered and the colours of the sediments are discoloured to yellowish-brown. Diffuse organic matter causes this discoloration. Very dark-gray or black lenticular hearths can be found in about half of the strata. In addition, reddish oxidized aggregates have been found in unit 8. These findings show that the fires that were made in these areas burned longer and hotter than those in other areas.

Also, bone ash has been found in units 3, 6, 8, and 11a. 139,000 bone fragments have been found in excavation 3A; however, only 313 bones can be identified that are not rodent. Excessive trampling of the bones around the fires caused many of the fragments to become unrecognizable (Butzer, Beaumont, and Vogel 1978).With regards to artefacts, micro-debitage was found in samples from units 3, 4, 9, 11a and 13. Most of the tools were found in units 5c, 6, 7b, and 10. The raw materials that were used include chert, rhyolite, quartz, and chalcedony. Some bone and wooden tools have been found in the later MSA layers, and ostrich egg shell beads have been found in the LSA layers (44).

Given that written language was not rampart in several African cultures until the last century or two, past records of Africa’s history are uncommon. Yet, broken pots and buried beads, bricks and stones, as well as graves and bones may articulate as clearly as words on a page to palaeontologists, archaeologists, in addition to others competent to interpret them. Archaeology, the study of the material traces left by persons of the ancient times, is the most important resource regarding how Africans have lived at various times in the during their long history.

Between 1920 and 1930, Archaeologists’ first discovered fossils of humanlike australopithecines. The significance of these finding was not instantaneously acknowledged, but ultimately palaeontologists become conscious of the fact that australopithecines are the most primitive human ancestors. Most possible they survived on wild foods as well as scavenging carcasses slain by large animals. A number of of the australopithecine fossils discovered in the region were persons exterminated by animals, and the sites where they were established do not essentially signify the places where they lived or made stone and bone equipments. a number of archaeological sites in southern Africa, such as Klasies River Mouth on the coast of South Africa and Border Cave in Swaziland, harbour skeletons of Homo sapiens alongside the substantiation of “modern” behaviour such as the progress of family groups, food sharing, and the premeditated use of resources. These locations may be more than 100,000 years old.

Archaeological substantiation has revealed that, throughout the Late Stone Age, individuals of southern and central Africa were principally nomadic, moving with the periods linking low-lying lands and mountainous areas. They ensnared and hunted animals, collected a wide range of plant foods, and used aquatic resources such as shellfish. In addition, they also carefully buried their deceased, occasionally placing different objects in the grave, as well as decorated multifarious images on the walls of the shelters made of stone.

The potential significance of the findings to be discovered derives largely from their relevance. During analysis of the stone artefact assemblage, a small particularly with reference to Border Cave was found to have potential for future research and significant contribution to future MSA studies. The artefact was recovered from an MSA context and thus necessarily Lithostratigraphy of Border Cave, Kwa Zulu, South Africa: a Middle Stone Age sequence beginning c.195000 from Sibudu.

The micro mammalian fauna from Border Cave is analysed in terms of community composition and structure. Changes in these aspects are interpreted as indicative of changes in vegetation and climate in the vicinity of the cave during the period of deposition. It would appear that vegetation comprised relatively extensive forest or thick bush and dense grass during wetter phases and fairly open savannah woodland, even open grassland, during drier periods. Variation through time in mean mandibular size in two species of Crocidura (musk shrew) was different both in the two species and from what was expected.

It now seems likely that the size change constitutes a response to complex phenomena and not simply to changes in temperature. Comparison with the Boomplaas A sequence indicates that the same general pattern of change is reflected at both sites but that there was greater amplitude of change at Boomplaas A and that 18O stage 4 was dry at this site but wet at Border Cave. Evidence for periodic changes in the distribution of various species, and in some cases the mutually exclusive occurrence of ecologically equivalent species, has implications for the zoogeography of the species involved. In particular, the occurrence of Pelomys fallax (creek rat) in the lower half of the sequence is of interest in view of its present distribution 600 + km north of Border Cave.

Hominids from the site of Border Cave purportedly provide direct evidence for the early emergence of anatomically modern humans (AMH) in Southern Africa. ESR dating of Border Cave faunal enamel has confirmed the antiquity of the sediments, although questions persist regarding the provenience of the hominid specimens. Here we establish that, at Border Cave as elsewhere, bone mineral crystallinity, measured as the infrared (IR) splitting factor (SF), distinguishes between contemporary and recent bones on the one hand, from Middle Stone Age (MSA) bones on the other. Two hominid postcranial bones recovered in 1987 from a slumped profile, having essentially no provenience, are shown to have crystallinity indices consistent with the MSA fauna, while two of the purportedly ancient AMH specimens (BC3 and BC5) have values consistent with recent fauna. We conclude that BC3 and BC5 may be considerably younger than the sediments from which they were recovered.

The archaeological deposits at Border Cave date back more than 150 000 years and are evidence of Africa having most certainly been the origin of modern humans. The site was first investigated by Prof. Raymond Dart in 1934 and he demonstrated a Middle Stone Age sequence to be present to the bedrock. In 1941 and 1942 H.B.S. Cooke, B.D. Malan and L.H. Wells returned to the site and extended Dart’s excavations … Theirs, and subsequent excavations, have yielded incredibly rich archaeological material, including the remains of an infant, dating back about 100 000 years, buried in a grave with a shell pendant and red ochre staining suggesting that the body had been sprinkled with ochre at burial.

Recent excavations have helped to clarify the cultural and stratigraphic sequences at Border Cave, and human skeletal remains recovered at this South African site may well be associated with a Middle Stone Age industry. A partial adult cranium is of particular interest, and this was originally described as quite different both from African Negro and from Bushman individuals. Eleven measurements were taken on the fossil, and these provide a basis for comparison of Border Cave with other crania drawn from extant African populations. Discriminate analysis shows clearly that the cranium lies close to the Hottentot male centroid and is within the range of modern African variation for the measurements employed.

It is heavily constructed but not archaic in the fashion of Florisbad or Broken Hill. If the case for antiquity is regarded as firm, then the Border Cave skeleton suggests the presence of Homo sapiens in southern Africa before 50,000 B.P. and perhaps as early as 115,000 B.P. Hottentot or Bushman-like people may thus have inhabited southern Africa for a long time. This would be consistent with a phyletic view of human evolution, postulating an in situ transition from archaic to more modern man. Whether migration and replacement of populations may have occurred elsewhere is another question, and there is no reason to exclude this as a possibility on a local level, even if waves of replacement did not sweep the Old World late in the Upper Pleistocene.

The hominid and archaeological site of Border Cave (KwaZulu, South Africa) has a stratigraphic progression that covers the Middle and Later Stone Ages. It has been projected that four hominid specimens discovered there characterize very early instances of anatomically present humans, and thus supporting the idea of an early late-Pleistocene emergence of modern Homo sapiens in Africa. This early emergence, on the other hand, has been queried, basically because of suspicions concerning the stratigraphic positions linked with the specimens and for the reason that of short of a steadfast chronology for the stratigraphic sequence. The results of the first complete radiometric dating study of Border Cave, by means of electron spin resonance (ESR) on teeth within sediment layers – although younger than some age estimates – supported the early incident of anatomically modern humans at Border Cave.

Recently, human geneticists and some paleoanthropologists have also proposed an African origin for anatomically modern humans (Homo sapiens), although much of the proof cited is from non-African sources – mainly Europe and the Middle East. Fortunately these models have stimulated reassessment of the sub-Saharan Middle Stone Age (MSA), the archaeological phase between 200,000 and 30,000 years ago which represents the beginnings of regional variation in technology and cultural adaptation as well as the period in which modern humans appeared. Long ignored by East African archaeologists in favour of the earliest cultural record, or, at the other extreme, Neolithic and Iron Age research, the MSA is critical to the evaluation of models of the emergence of our own species.

The current arguments concerning the origin and dispersal of modern humans have been reviewed, and the importance of the MSA for the resolution of the problem. It also describes the results from a 1990 survey for MSA sites conducted in south-western Tanzania within the framework of these current models. Industrial development is represented in terms of early industries like Oldowan , Acheulian, Middle Stone Age, Later Stone Age, Lupemban Industry and Sangoan Industry Paleolithic archaeologists working in Africa divide pre-history into the Earlier, Middle and Late stone Ages, while the workers in Europe use the terms Lower, Middle and Upper Paleolithic.

Lupemban industry a sub-Saharan African stone tool industry dating from the late Pleistocene, and began in like 40,000 years ago. This industry was copied from and substituted by the Sangoan industry, which is eminent in the sub-Saharan forested areas of Africa. The Lupemban industry is characterized by reasonably small, well-shaped tools such as “chisels, adzes, planes (probably demonstrating intensive woodworking), side scrapers, and blades” (Archaeology and Prehistory ¶1-6). The most distinguishing feature of Lupemban tool is an elongated, lance late bifacial tip that is habitually very beautifully and finely flaked.

Sangoan industry, sub-Saharan African stone tool industry of Acheulean origin dating from about 130,000 to 10,000 years ago. It is more or less contemporary with the Faure smith industry of southern Africa. The Sangoan industry was discovered in 1920 at Sango Bay, Uganda, and is also found in other countries such as Zambia, Kenya Congo and Angola. Alternative forms of Sangoan are found in South Africa and Zimbabwe. The Sangoan industry is categorized by a class of pick, huge planes for woodworking, flake knives, scrapers, and hand axes.

Early Oldowan sites span ~2.0 to 2.6 Ma and are found in Ethiopia, Kenya, Zaire,

Malawi, possibly South Africa, and are associated with Homo sapiens, Homo habilis and Homo rudolfensis. Classic Oldowan industries are characterized by bipolar and direct percussion, cores and flakes plus choppers, discoids, spheroids, and standardized small tools, including scrapers on flakes or fragments, rare burins and protobifaces, utilized unmodified flakes; and rare worked bone. Developed Oldowan stone technology is similar to Classic Oldowan but with a reduced percentage of core-choppers, discoids, polyhedrons and heavy-duty scrapers; more refined light-duty scrapers, denticulates, burins, the first appearance of awls and edge-trimmed flakes. Working of bone tools continues. In later phases of the Developed Oldowan a few crude bifaces may appear, at least where there is influence of contemporaneous Early Acheulian as in Africa.

The Early Acheulian represents a major new innovation in stone knapping, the production of flake blanks, which are, in turn, used as cores for flaking more useable flakes. Products include crude ‘hand axes’ with sinuous edges and large flake scars, trihedral picks, rare cleavers. The Early Acheulian has a large component of flakes; chopper, polyhedron, spheroid, heavy-duty scrapers. There is an absence of Levallois or other prepared core reduction techniques.

Middle Acheulian tool technology (~500 ka to ~1 Ma) is characterized by standardization of blank shape and reduction techniques (e.g., Kombewa, Victoria West in Africa); more regularized hand axe shapes (cord form, amydaloid, lanceolate, oval), cleavers with bits made using a single flat surface scar, trihedral picks, and flake tools (mostly denticulates, notches, scrapers). Some assemblages have only core-choppers and flakes and these may be interpreted as different technological traditions, for example, persistence of Developed Oldowan, or just different ‘function’ assemblages within the same tradition.

Later Acheulian tool technology is characterized by bifaces that are more symmetrical and refined than in the Middle Acheulian, with well-made, sometimes beautiful, cordiform, amygdaloid, and ovate hand axes. In some assemblages ovates dominate. There is greater use of soft hammer; increase use of Levallois technique, but some sites no Levallois; disappearance of core-choppers; and often the length of hand axes decreases. Denticulates, notches, and scrapers continue. In Africa late sites contemporaneous with Final Acheulian, may have stone assemblages that contain a few blades. Just as the Developed Oldowan was contemporaneous with the Early Acheulian innovation, so the Final Acheulian is contemporaneous with the Middle Paleolithic/Middle Stone Age. Final Acheulian tool technology is characterized by multiple reduction strategies, Acheulian bifaces, sometimes made on Levallois flakes, Levallois and disc cores; variable presence of hand axes, cleavers as well as points and blades.

Early Middle Paleolithic (Early Middle Stone Age) (~150 to 300 ka). Just as the Early Acheulian innovation was contemporaneous with the Developed Oldowan, so the MiddlePaleolithic (Middle Stone Age) is contemporaneous with the Final Acheulian. First appearing in Africa and Southwestern Asia, Early Middle Paleolithic/Middle Stone Age tool technology is characterized by elongated or large, relatively thick, blades and point blanks flaked from radial, single or opposed platform cores, recurrent and some Levallois, with minimal preparation of striking platform; retouched points-many elongated, prismatic blades, end scrapers and burins common; no backed microliths; evidence of hafting points and blades (tangs, grooves, mastic); intra-regional point styles suggesting diverse cultural traditions; and use of colour pigments, which becomes extensive by Mid-MSA/MP. This technological innovation is associated with archaic Homo sapiens, such as Homo helmei in Africa.

Mid-Middle Palaeolithic (Mid-Middle Stone Age) (~60 to 150 ka). This is the key time period for Homo sapiens out-of-Africa hypotheses. The Mid-MSA/MP technological mode appears in Africa around 150 ka and fades into the Late-Middle Paleolithic (Late MSA), which, in Africa, marks the emergence of the Later Stone Age (Upper Paleolithic) technology mode around 60 ka. I acknowledge this 60 ka lower boundary for the Mid-MSA as somewhat arbitrary; it is for purposes of simplification but also perhaps-at least from the limited perspective of my review-more fitting than, for instance, a 50 ka boundary as some would argue. In palaeoclimate terms, Mid-MSA assemblages appear to correlate pretty much with Oxygen Isotope Stage (OIS) 4 (~59-74 ka) and OIS 5 (~74-130 ka).

Upper Paleolithic (Later Stone Age) (~5 to 60 ka; OIS3 ~24-59 ka; African dry spell 20- 60 ka). Early, Middle and Late Upper Paleolithic/Early, Middle and Late Later Stone Age tool industries are characterized by retouched blades and bladelets, scrapers on blades, small and microlithic tools; bone tools, soft hammer, and even more art than prior periods.

Micro-Bladelet Mid- and Late-UP. As the focus of this meta-review has been the

question of the occurrence of major ‘waves’ of globalization in modes of tool making and symbolic behaviour and given the mass of research findings available on Upper Paleolithic sites across the regions, I gathered only highlights of a partial subset of sites. Keeping this limitation in mind, considering Mid-UP assemblages, especially those using micro blade core reduction for bladelets and backed blades and bladelets, by region it appears that this specialized technology appears in Africa around 30 ka. Backed microliths occur at Enkapune ya Muto Shelter, Kenya, from the earliest EUP level almost ~50 ka (AS1998), though if counted as EUP, then early micro blades occur, for example, at Ntumot, Ntuka River, Kenya, (14C, AAR) ~30-32 ka (AS2002).

Border Cave has now yielded more than one million Stone Age implements, as well as the remains of at least 43 mammal species, including elephant and three others that are now extinct. Also revealed in the cave was the Lebombo Bone,one of the few oldest known artefact related to the essential arithmetical activity of counting. Dated to 37 000 BP, the Lebombo Bone is a little section of baboon fibula which has been engraved with 29 notches, similar to the calendar sticks still used by Bushmen in the Kalahari today. The remains of Early and Middle Stone Age people have been found, especially Middle Stone Age from the ‘pulse’ in the warm period, maybe 125,000 years ago. The Border Cave archaeological site in the Lebombo Mountains on the modern border between KwaZulu-Natal and Swaziland are of more importance in Africa, and the world, with continuity of occupation at least from that time.

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