A Revised Chronology for Pastoralism in Southernmost Africa: New Evidence of Sheep at C. 2000 B.P. from Blombos Cave, South Africa

By Henshilwood, Christopher | Antiquity, December 1996 | Go to article overview

A Revised Chronology for Pastoralism in Southernmost Africa: New Evidence of Sheep at C. 2000 B.P. from Blombos Cave, South Africa


Henshilwood, Christopher, Antiquity


New excavation at Blombos Cave, in the southern Cape of South Africa, and new radiocarbon dates for its sequence further illuminate the chronology of pastoralism in southern Africa, and the relations between pottery-using and shepherding.

Sheep in southern Africa

Sheep, not indigenous to southern Africa, were first introduced by pastoral people before 2000 b.p. (Klein 1986; Webley 1992; Sealy & Yates 1994). A number of routes for the introduction of stock to southernmost Africa have been proposed. Stow (1905) and Cook (1965) favour a westerly route from Zambia and Zimbabwe, respectively, to Namibia and along the southwest coast to the Cape [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 1 OMITTED]. From linguistic evidence, Elphick (1977) traces the origins of southern African pastoral peoples to the 'Central Bush' speakers in northern Botswana, with a southern movement to the Orange River, thence a split westwards and southwards, with both 'groups' ultimately occupying the Cape littoral [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 1 OMITTED].

No one model is correct if there were multiple introductions along various routes at different times (Klein 1986; Sealy & Yates 1994). Whatever the route, clearly pastoralism was introduced to the southernmost Cape from the north. Chronologically, then, the suite of radiocarbon dates from southern Africa sites containing sheep should reflect this southward movement.

Until recently this appeared not to be the case: the oldest dates for sheep, obtained for the layers in which they occurred, centred around 2000 b.p. at both the southernmost sites and in the more northerly regions (cf. J. Deacon 1984: 276-7; Klein 1986: 6-7; Sealy & Yates 1994: 59-62). The oldest reliable dates (cf. Sealy & Yates 1994: 59-60) for sheep in the northwestern Cape are from/Ai tomas (Webley 1992a) and Spoegrivier (Webley 1992a; 1992b) dated at 1980[+ or -]120 b.p. and 1920[+ or -]40 b.p. respectively [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 2 OMITTED]. Sites in the southernmost Cape with early sheep dates fall within the same period, notably Die Kelders, 1960[+ or -]85 b.p. (Schweitzer 1974; 1979), Byneskranskop 1, 1880[+ or -]50 b.p. (Schweitzer & Wilson 1982) and Nelson Bay Cave, 1930[+ or -]60 b.p. (Inskeep 1987). Inskeep (1987: 258), raising doubts about the early date for sheep at Nelson Bay Cave, pointed to the unreliability of dating sheep bone by association with dated units. A sheep bone, recovered from a Nelson Bay Cave layer radiocarbon dated at 193060 b.p., was submitted for direct dating by AMS which dated the bone to 1100[+ or -]80 b.p. (Gowlett et al 1987; Inskeep 1987).

Recently the accuracy of the 'indirect' method of dating sheep was queried by Sealy & Yates (1994). They submitted sheep bones from dated layers at four sites in the Cape for direct AMS dating. With the exception of one site, Spoegrivier, the oldest direct date they obtained for sheep in the Cape is from Kasteelberg A, 1630[+ or -]60 b.p. Sealy & Yates (1994: 64) cautiously interpret this new evidence as 'consistent with a west coast route' and suppose 'we may be starting to detect a southerly progression of stock'.

As archaeological evidence has supported the simultaneous arrival of pottery and sheep at the Cape, these two elements have seemed a 'package' brought to the region by migrating herder groups (cf. Deacon 1984; Klein 1986). [TABULAR DATA FOR TABLE 1 OMITTED] At c. 2000 b.p. pottery is frequent in southern African sites (cf. Deacon 1984: 276-7; Klein 1986). A number of authors record that 'early dates for pottery are more common than those for sheep' (e.g. Deacon 1984; Klein 1986; Mazel 1992; Sealy & Yates 1994: 64). Taking account of the new 'direct' dates indicating the appearance of sheep in the southernmost Cape at c. 1600 b.p. and the well-recorded presence of pottery at c. 2000 b.p., Sealy & Yates (1994: 63), suggest that sheep and pottery may not have constituted a 'package' that arrived together.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

A Revised Chronology for Pastoralism in Southernmost Africa: New Evidence of Sheep at C. 2000 B.P. from Blombos Cave, South Africa
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.