Klipdrift Shelter, southern Cape, South Africa: preliminary report on the Howiesons Poort layers.

Christopher Henshilwood, Karen van Niekerk, Sarah Wurz, Anne Delagnes, Simon Armitage, Riaan Rifkin, Katja Douze, Petro Keene, Magnus Haaland, Jerome Reynard, Emmanuel Discamps, Samantha Mienies

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Surveys for archaeological sites in the De Hoop Nature Reserve, southern Cape, South Africa resulted in the discovery of a cave complex comprising two locations, Klipdrift Cave and Klipdrift Shelter. Excavations commenced in 2010 with Later Stone Age deposits initially being recovered at the former site and
Middle Stone Age deposits at the latter. The lithic component at Klipdrift Shelter is consistent with the Howiesons Poort, a technological complex recorded at a number of archaeological sites in southern Africa. The age for these deposits at Klipdrift Shelter, obtained by single grain optically stimulated luminescence, spans the period 65.5 4.8 ka to 59.4 4.6 ka. Controlled and accurate excavations of the discrete layers have resulted in the recovery of a hominin molar, marine shells, terrestrial fauna, floral remains, organic materials, hearths, lithics, ochre, and ostrich eggshell. More than 95 pieces of the latter,distributed across the layers, are engraved with diverse, abstract patterns. The preliminary results from Klipdrift Shelter presented in this report provide new insights into the Howiesons Poort in this subregion and contribute further to ongoing knowledge about the complex behaviours of early Homo sapiens in southern Africa. Excavations at the Klipdrift Complex will continue in the future.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)284-303
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science
Early online date31 Jan 2009
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2014


  • Middle Stone Age
  • Howiesons Poort
  • Homo sapiens
  • Modern human behaviour
  • Coastal subsistence
  • Southern Africa

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