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The evolution of Still Bay points at Sibudu

Abstract

The Still Bay is a key technocomplex within the Middle Stone Age (MSA), and Sibudu, in Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa, provides one of the longest and richest pre-Still Bay to Still Bay sequences. It has been hypothesised that the Still Bay industry emerged through technological revolution or alternatively through gradual change. In this paper we conduct a geometric morphometric (GM) assessment of the shape differences between the pre-Still Bay and Still Bay points at Sibudu to assess their implication for technological evolution. Pre-Still Bay points are often thought of as unifacial and single-pointed, and Still Bay points as bifacial and double-pointed. Our analysis reveals a more complex and evolving pattern, lending support for the gradual change hypothesis. When the earliest pre-Still Bay points are compared with the Still Bay points, a significant difference in shape is seen. However, intermediate units provide evidence of an evolutionary continuum between those distinct ends of the continuum.

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Acknowledgements

AW would like to thank Lyn Wadley for sponsoring the post-doctoral fellowship which allowed the data for this paper to be collected and for her ongoing support to complete this research. AW would also like to thank Paloma de la Pena for her assistance in accessing the collection and for the many fruitful conversations on MSA lithics. The authors would also like to thank two anonymous reviewers for their attentive review and insightful comments.

Funding

AW was supported by the Department of Science and Technology – National Research Foundation (DST-NRF) Centre of Excellence in Palaeosciences (South Africa) postdoctoral funding. PH was supported by the Tom Austen Brown Endowment, University of Sydney.

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AW conceived of the project, formulated the sample, photographed specimens, and undertook the conventional technological analysis. PH landmarked the points and carried out the geometric morphometrics analysis. Both AW and PH contributed to writing the paper.

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Correspondence to Amy Mosig Way.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Way, A.M., Hiscock, P. The evolution of Still Bay points at Sibudu. Archaeol Anthropol Sci 13, 122 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12520-021-01359-4

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Keywords

  • Sibudu
  • MSA
  • Stone points
  • Still Bay
  • Geometric morphometrics
  • Pre-Still Bay