Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences

, Volume 11, Issue 7, pp 3239–3266 | Cite as

Revisiting Mwulu’s Cave: new insights into the Middle Stone Age in the southern African savanna biome

  • P. de la PeñaEmail author
  • A. Val
  • D. J. Stratford
  • F. Colino
  • I. Esteban
  • J. M. Fitchett
  • T. Hodgskiss
  • J. Matembo
  • R. Moll
Original Paper


In this paper, we present a revised stratigraphy and results of preliminary analyses of the archaeological material from Mwulu’s Cave. This arises from two excavation campaigns conducted in 2017, 71 years after the site was initially investigated by P.V. Tobias. This cave, located in Limpopo Province (South Africa), preserves one of the few known Middle Stone Age sequences in the northeastern part of the country. Here, we revisit the stratigraphic sequence of the site and provide new analyses of sediments, palynomorphs, phytoliths, ochre and lithics. The renewed excavations and reappraisal of the archaeological material from Mwulu’s Cave form part of a larger research project exploring Middle Stone Age variability in the northeastern part of South Africa, with a specific focus on the so-called Pietersburg industries.


Stratigraphy Sedimentology Pollen Phytoliths Ochre Lithics Pietersburg industry 



The authors would like to thank Judy Maguire, Gary Trower, Lucinda Backwell, Deon Richter and Moloko Madibana, who helped to locate the site, as well as Chris Thornhill, who helped during the two excavation campaigns. J.M. Maíllo, María del Carmen Arriaza Dorado and Lyn Wadley kindly read and gave advice for an early draft of this manuscript. We thank the Shamane Magashula community for kindly giving us permission to excavate in Mwulu’s Cave. The support of the DST/NRF Centre of Excellence in Palaeosciences (CoE in Palaeosciences) towards this research is hereby acknowledged. Opinions expressed and conclusions arrived at are those of the authors and are not necessarily to be attributed to the CoE in Palaeosciences. We are grateful to The Palaeontological Scientific Trust (PAST), Johannesburg, South Africa and CoE in Palaeosciences for providing three research grants for Mwulu’s Cave project.

Supplementary material

12520_2018_749_MOESM1_ESM.xlsx (582 kb)
Supplementary Table 1 (XLSX 581 kb)
12520_2018_749_MOESM2_ESM.xlsx (17 kb)
Supplementary Table 2 (XLSX 17 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Evolutionary Studies InstituteUniversity of the WitwatersrandJohannesburgSouth Africa
  2. 2.School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental StudiesUniversity of the WitwatersrandJohannesburgSouth Africa
  3. 3.Department of Early Prehistory and Quaternary EcologyUniversity of TübingenTübingenGermany
  4. 4.GEM (Guías de Espeleología y Montaña)MadridSpain
  5. 5.African Centre for Coastal PalaeoscienceNelson Mandela UniversityPort ElizabethSouth Africa
  6. 6.Origins CentreUniversity of the WitwatersrandJohannesburgSouth Africa

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