Changement climatique - Recherche française (avec laboratoires CNRS) - 2010-2015


Multiproxy record of late Quaternary climate change and Middle Stone Age human occupation at Wonderkrater, South Africa

Publication Year


  • Backwell, Lucinda R.
  • McCarthy, Terence S.
  • Wadley, Lyn
  • Henderson, Zoe
  • Steininger, Christine M.
  • deKlerk, Bonita
  • Barre, Magali
  • Lamothe, Michel
  • Chase, Brian M.
  • Woodborne, Stephan
  • Susino, George J.
  • Bamford, Marion K.
  • Sievers, Christine
  • Brink, James S.
  • Rossouw, Lloyd
  • Pollarolo, Luca
  • Trower, Gary
  • Scott, Louis
  • d'Errico, Francesco
QUATERNARY SCIENCE REVIEWS Volume: 99 Pages: 42-59 Published: 2014

Here we provide a multiproxy record of climate change and human occupation at Wonderkrater, a spring and peat mound site situated in the interior of southern Africa. Recently extracted sediment cores yielded a number of Middle Stone Age (MSA) artefacts, prompting exploratory excavation of the sediments to understand better the geomorphology of the site, age of the sediments, cultural lithic sequence, vegetation and faunal remains, and to try to establish whether human use of the site was to some extent climatically driven. Excavations yielded late Pleistocene mammal fauna and flora, and three small MSA lithic assemblages with age estimates of 30 ka, >45 ka and 138.01 +/- 7.7 ka. The upper layers comprise peat that preserves macrobotanical and faunal remains, implying local fen conditions in Acacia savanna woodland at 12 ka. Below the upper peat layers, a 1 m-thick layer of white sand yielded two MSA lithic assemblages in association with faunal remains dated to between 30.8 +/- 0.7 ka and >45 ka. Clay underlying the sand has an OSL age of 63.1 +/- 5.8 ka, and sandy peat below it has an Infrared Stimulated Luminescence (IRSL) age of 70 +/- 10 ka. Faunal remains in the lower sand levels, and dental stable carbon isotope analysis of herbivores, indicate a substantial grassland component in the landscape during late MIS 3 (>45 ka). Charcoal, phytolith and pollen data show a change from moderately warm and dry grassy savanna woodland in the lower sand levels, to cooler and wetter grassland with woody shrubs in the uppermost levels by 30 ka. The conditions that resulted in the deposition of the sand also attracted people to the site, but whether it served as an oasis in an arid landscape, or was occupied during wet phases, is unclear. The composition of the lithic assemblages, which include many tools suitable for cutting, suggest that the peat mound may have been used as a place to harvest reeds, process plant materials and butcher animals that were either deliberately or accidentally trapped in mud or peat. (C) 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Author Keyword(s)
  • Late Pleistocene
  • Palaeoenvironment
  • Peat mound
  • Optically stimulated luminescence
  • MSA
KeyWord(s) Plus
ESI Discipline(s)
  • Environment/Ecology
  • Geosciences
Web of Science Category(ies)
  • Geography, Physical
  • Geosciences, Multidisciplinary

[Backwell, Lucinda R.; Wadley, Lyn; Steininger, Christine M.; deKlerk, Bonita; Bamford, Marion K.; Sievers, Christine; Trower, Gary] Univ Witwatersrand, Evolutionary Studies Inst, ZA-2050 Johannesburg, South Africa; [Backwell, Lucinda R.; McCarthy, Terence S.; Steininger, Christine M.; Susino, George J.; Bamford, Marion K.; Trower, Gary] Univ Witwatersrand, Sch Geosci, ZA-2050 Johannesburg, South Africa; [Wadley, Lyn; Woodborne, Stephan; Sievers, Christine; Pollarolo, Luca] Univ Witwatersrand, Sch Geog Archaeol & Environm Sci, Johannesburg, South Africa; [Henderson, Zoe; Brink, James S.; Rossouw, Lloyd] Natl Museum, ZA-9300 Bloemfontein, South Africa; [Brink, James S.] Univ Free State, Ctr Environm Management, ZA-9300 Bloemfontein, South Africa; [Henderson, Zoe] La Trobe Univ, Fac Humanities & Social Sci, Bundoora, Vic 3086, Australia; [Barre, Magali; Lamothe, Michel] Univ Quebec, Dept Sci Terre & Atmosphere, Lab Luminescence Lux, Montreal, PQ H3C 3P8, Canada; [Chase, Brian M.; d'Errico, Francesco] Univ Montpellier 2, CNRS, UMR 5554, Inst Sci Evolut Montpellier, F-34095 Montpellier 5, France; [Chase, Brian M.] Univ Bergen, Dept Archaeol Hist Cultural & Religious Studies, N-5020 Bergen, Norway; [Woodborne, Stephan] Univ Witwatersrand, iThemba Labs, ZA-2050 Johannesburg, South Africa; [Scott, Louis] Univ Free State, Dept Plant Sci, ZA-9300 Bloemfontein, South Africa; [d'Errico, Francesco] Univ Bordeaux 1, PACEA, CNRS UMR 5199, F-33405 Talence, France

Reprint Adress

Backwell, LR (reprint author), Univ Witwatersrand, Evolutionary Studies Inst, Private Bag 3, ZA-2050 Johannesburg, South Africa.

  • Australia
  • Canada
  • France
  • Norway
  • South Africa
CNRS - Adress(es)
  • De la Préhistoire à l'Actuel : Culture, Environnement et Anthropologie (PACEA), UMR5199
  • Institut des Sciences de l'Evolution de Montpellier (ISEM), UMR5554
Accession Number
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