African Archaeological Review

, Volume 29, Issue 1, pp 7–50 | Cite as

Still Bay and Howiesons Poort Foraging Strategies: Recent Research and Models of Culture Change

Review Article


The Still Bay (SB) and Howiesons Poort (HP) industries, endemic to southern Africa and dating to approximately 72–59 ka, have received a great deal of archaeological attention by virtue of their striking patterns of technology and their close association with some of the earliest unambiguously symbolic objects found in southern Africa. This paper reviews recent literature concerning SB and HP lithic assemblages, faunal remains, paleoenvironmental contexts, and chronological information. It argues that SB biface-dominated technology was designed to be multifunctional and to economize lithic raw material, a strategy well-suited to foragers moving frequently across a wide range of ecological zones in which access to resources and prey encounters were unpredictable. In contrast, HP blade-based tools, using backed blades as modular components in compound weapons, were efficient and reliable hunting weapons designed for specific tasks. More costly and difficult to maintain, HP technology resulted from the targeting of known, localized, and seasonal resources through planned logistical forays. We argue that these complicated patterns of innovation represent separate cultural responses to environmental instability during Marine Isotope Stage 4 and demographic pressures in southern Africa at this time. Against the backdrop of environmental and demographic shifts, the emergence of these innovative tools and associated symbolic objects reflects distinct but quintessentially modern cultural behaviors ethnographically associated with risk reduction, reciprocity, and information sharing.


Middle Stone Age Still Bay Howiesons Poort Organization of technology Behavioral ecology 


Les industries lithiques de Still Bay (SB) et de Howiesons Poort (HP), omniprésentes en Afrique australe et datant approximativement de 75–59 ka, ont reçu beaucoup d’attention de la part des archéologues en raison de leurs patterns technologiques frappant, ainsi qu’à leur association aux plus anciens objets symboliques trouvés dans cette région africaine. Cet article révise la littérature récente portant sur les assemblages lithiques et fauniques, les contextes paléoenvironnementaux, ainsi que les données chronologiques des industries SB et HP. L’article soutient que la technologie SB, dominée par les bifaces, fut créé pour être multifonctionnelle et pour économiser du matériel lithique brut; une stratégie bien adaptée à des groupes de chasseurs-cueilleurs se déplaçant fréquemment à travers différentes zones écologiques, où l'accès aux ressources et au gibier était imprévisible. Inversement, les outils laminaires HP, utilisant des lames supportées comme composants modulaires dans la fabrication d’armes composites, étaient spécifiquement fabriquées pour être des armes de chasse efficaces et fiables. Étant plus coûteuse et difficile à entretenir, la technologie HP fut le résultat d’une adaptation à des ressources bien connues, localisées et saisonnières, procurées le biais d’incursions logistiques planifiées. Nous soutenons que ces innovations technologiques complexes représentent des adaptations culturelles différentes, adaptées à l'instabilité environnementale du Marine Isotope Stage 4, ainsi qu’aux pressions démographiques ayant lieu en Afrique australe à cette période. Relativement à ces pressions environnementales et démographiques, l'émergence de ces outils innovateurs et de ces objets symboliques reflète des comportements distincts, mais parfaitement modernes, qui sont ethnographiquement associés à la réduction de risque, la réciprocité, et l'échange d’informations.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyTulane UniversityNew OrleansUSA
  2. 2.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of IowaIowa CityUSA

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