Palaeoenvironments and cultural sequence of the Florisbad Middle Stone Age hominid site, South Africa

Kathleen Kuman, Moshe Inbar, R. J. Clarke

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Florisbad, an open-air spring site with 7 m of strate, has yielded the type assemblage of Middle Stone Age (MSA) fauna, the cranium of an archaic hominid in 1932 and an extensive sequence of MSA artefacts in the 1980s. The cultural assemblages include an early MSA dated broadly to 279,000 ± 47,000 years, a highly retouched form of MSA at 157,000 ± 21,000 years and a minimally retouched, expedient MSA assemblage from a series of occupation horizons at 121,000 ± 6000 years. The latter represents multiple brief visits to a hunting and butchery site on the edge of an active spring pool, where periodic sedimentation gently buried occupation debris in a near-pristine context. Periods of lower spring discharge are represented by organic horizons as swampy vegetation encroached on the springs, while periods of higher spring discharge created pools. Overall the spring sequence indicates low-energy subaqueous environments similar to lakes, ponds or backwater sites. The sequence is characterized by fine sands, silts and clays responsible for the good archaeological preservation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1409-1425
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1999

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank the National Museum (Bloemfontein) for financing the Florisbad excavation and research. Study of the sediments was supported by a Senate Research Committee grant from the University of the Witwatersrand to R.J.C. and was performed in the Geomorphologic Laboratory of the Department of Geology, University of California, Berkeley, and at the Laboratory of Geomorphology at the University of Haifa. SEM work was conducted at the Geological Survey of Israel in Jersusalem. Shannon Raugust and Lea Wittenberg assisted with the sedimentological analysis. Tina Coombes drew Figures 4–7; Wendy Voorvelt and Alan Marshall also assisted with some of the drawings. The Boise Fund of the University of Oxford, the L.S.B. Leakey Foundation and the University of Pennsylvania provided field grants to K. K. in 1981–1982. We thank Dr Gail Ashley, Dr Andre Keyser and the anonymous reviewers for their comments on various drafts of this work and James Brink and Zoe Henderson for helpful discussions.


  • Archaic Homo Sapiens
  • Florisbad
  • Florisian land mammal age
  • Homo Helmei
  • Middle Stone Age
  • Palaeoenvironments
  • Pleistocene

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology


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