Abstract

One of the conventional ways to construct Late Quaternary chronostratigraphic frameworks for archaeology in southern Africa is through archaeological technocomplexes. This practice is more developed in South Africa and Lesotho than in the northern areas of the region. The Still Bay, Howiesons Poort, Robberg, Oakhurst, and Wilton technocomplexes are widely recognized, whereas more ambiguity is associated with the Bambata, Tshangula, Pietersburg, Mossel Bay, Sibudu, Sibudan and early Later Stone Age. Technocomplexes are frequently defined in relation to generalized, typological attributes from lithic assemblages excavated over several decades at different sites with various levels of resolution. This might lead to coarse-level data that do not necessarily relate to changes in culture, cognition, climate or the environment. Here the relationship between lithic technology and the palaeoenvironment is explored from a constrained chronostratigraphic context in two technocomplexes from the southern Cape coast, the Mossel Bay from Klasies River Main site, and the Oakhurst from Klipdrift Cave. Significant changes in the shore habitat are not reflected at technocomplex level, but lithic densities and dimensions of the products vary more closely with environmental shifts. Although a close relationship between Marine Isotope Stages and technocomplexes cannot be unambiguously demonstrated, some aspects of lithic technology seem to be sensitive to palaeoenvironmental change. Technocomplexes have heuristic value to identify cultural patterns through time and space and they are useful in determining where gaps in evidence occur. Ordering stone tool assemblages using technocomplexes remains one of the main ways to construct archaeological chronologies, especially when refined dating results are not available, and for exploring archaeological cultural developments against the backdrop of paleoclimate fluctuations, especially between MIS 6 and 1.

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