Howiesons Poort

Howiesons Poort (also called HP) is a lithic technology cultural period in the Middle Stone Age in Africa named after the Howieson’s Poort Shelter archeological site near Grahamstown in South Africa.[1] It seems to have lasted around 5,000 years between roughly 65,800 BP and 59,500 BP (Jacobs 2008).[2]

Humans of this period as in the earlier Stillbay cultural period showed signs of having used symbolism[3] and having engaged in the cultural exchange of gifts.[4]

Howiesons Poort culture is characterized by tools that seemingly anticipate many of the characteristics, 'Running ahead of time',[5] of those found in the Upper Palaeolithic period that started 25,000 years later around 40,000 BP. Howiesons Poort culture has been described as “both ‘modern’ and ‘non-modern’”.[6]

The Middle Stone Age
Early Stone Age
pre-Still Bay
Howiesons Poort
post-Howiesons Poort
final MSA phases
Later Stone Age


Modern research using optically stimulated luminescence dating has pushed back the date of its remains and it is now estimated to have started 64.8 ka and ended 59.5 ka with a duration of 5.3 ka.[2] This date matches the oxygen isotope stage OIS4 which was a period aridity and sea level lowering in southern Africa.[7]

In the South African Middle Stone Age sequence culture it occurs following a gap of 7 ka after the Stillbay period.[2] The culture occurs in various sites around mainly South Africa but also Namibia and Zimbabwe.

Artifacts from it were first described in 1927 by Rev. P. Stapleton, a Jesuit schoolteacher at St Aidan's College and John Hewitt a zoologist and the director of the local Albany museum.[8][9] The period name was given to their finds by AJH Goodwin and Clarence van Riet Lowe in 1929.[10] After this and until the mid-1970s, Howieson’s Poort industry was taken to be a variety of Magosian and so intermediate in time and technology between the Middle Stone Age and Late Stone Age.


Outils en silcrète traités thermiquement
Stone tools showing early Evidence for the Extensive Heat Treatment of Silcrete from Howiesons Poort at Klipdrift Shelter (Layer PBD, 65 ka), South Africa.

Howiesons Poort is associated with various archaeological artifacts. The most notable come from composite weapons. These were made from “geometric backed” blades that were hafted together with heated ochre and gum compound glue.[11] These blades are sometimes called segments, crescents, lunates or microliths are the type fossils for identifying a technology as Howiesons Poort. Blades from the Howiesons Poort assemblages were produced by soft hammer percussion on marginal platforms and the backed tools of this industry subsequently fashioned from these flakes.[12] Organic residues preserved on the tips of these stone tools show not only that they were hafted but also that they were used as hunting weapons.[13] Sarah Wurz's study shows that the general assemblage, frequency of retouch pieces, and the variability in formal tool morphologies still need to be looked into further. Meanwhile, Harper's study at Rose Cottage contain a confusion concerning the backed pieces and laterally crested blades[6]

From this period at Sibudu Cave the earliest bone arrow and needle come has been excavated.[14] The presence of a high percentage of the small antelope small blue duiker remains have been suggested as evidence of the use of traps.[15]

Fine-grained stone such as silcrete and quartz make up a large percentage of Howiesons Poort artifacts than in both earlier and later Middle Stone Age cultures.[4] Howiesons Poort tools seem not to differ greatly in shape from those of the Late Stone Age lithic tools such as those manufactured by Wilton culture though they tend to be larger but somewhat smaller than the typical flake and blade tools elsewhere in the Middle Stone Age.[4] They have indeed been described as ‘fully “Upper Palaeolithic” in almost every recognized technological and typological sense’.[5] The Howiesons Poort Industry is anomalous not only for its early appearance, which Vishnyatsky[5] calls ‘running ahead of time’, but because it is replaced by Middle Stone Age industries that are similar to those of pre-Howiesons Poort. This change seems to have happened gradually.[6]


Like the earlier Stillbay industry, the Howiesons Poort culture produced symbolic artifacts such as engraved ochre, ostrich eggshells and shell beads.[3] There is a particularly abundant and diverse use of ochre as a pigment and this has been interpreted as reflecting an increasingly complex symbolic culture.[3]

It has been noted that “Not only was ochre collected and returned to the site but there is evidence in the ochre 'pencils' with ground facets that it was powdered for use. Ochre may have had many uses but the possibility that it was used as a body paint, and therefore had served a symbolic purpose”[16]


Howiesons Poort culture did not survive and this has raised questions as to why. For example, Lyn Wadley has noted that “if the Howiesons Poort backed blade production was an important marker of modern human behaviour it is difficult to explain why it should have lasted for more than 20,000 years and then have been replaced by ‘pre-modern’ technology?” [17]p. 203

It has been suggested that backed blades played a role in gift exchanges of hunting equipment, and this ceased with culture changes that stopped this exchange and so the need for their manufacture. This idea is supported by evidence that the long-distance transport of non-local raw materials (which such gift culture would have encouraged) is reduced after the Howiesons Poort period.[4][18]

While the end of this culture might be due to climate change this seems unlikely since its disappearance does not link to any identifiable climatic event.[2]

Although the Howiesons Poort occurred during a period of climatic warming, this was also the case for the late and final MSA occupations at Sibudu. The Stillbay and post-Howiesons Poort periods cannot be reliably associated with either warm or cool intervals. Accordingly, we cannot identify any particular climatic attribute that is consistently and uniquely associated with any MSA industry the Stillbay coincided (within error) with the Toba volcanic super-eruption and with the end of megadroughts in tropical Africa, whereas the Howiesons Poort is not associated with any such known events. Environmental factors may have been responsible for episodic occupation and abandonment of rock shelters, but they were not necessarily the driving force behind technological change. …
The cause of these two bursts of technological innovation, closely spaced yet separated in time, remains an enigma, as does the reason for their disappearance. But, intriguingly, both fall within the genetic bottleneck that occurred 80 to 60 ka and the subsequent expansions of modern human populations within and out of Africa.
Zenobia Jacobs and colleagues Science 2008[2]



The chain of operations followed in the making of the Howiesons Poort backed artefacts goes beyond that necessary for purely functional tasks.
Sarah Wurz South African Archaeological Bulletin 1999[16]
The Upper Palaeolithic illustrates intensification in the use of symbols that may be associated with crowding or density dependent behaviour. … The Upper Palaeolithic was not a global stage and no equivalent of the Upper Palaeolithic has been recorded in sub-Saharan Africa or other regions outside the Upper Palaeolithic spread. In such regions, the emergence of symbolic behaviour would be indicated in different context specific markers. The importance of the evidence of the Howiesons Poort is that symbolic behaviour can be recognised in an African context at a significantly earlier time. Then, as now, symbolic communication was an essential in daily life.
Sarah Wurz South African Archaeological Bulletin 1999[16]
Relationship to the Late Stone Age
The Howiesons Poort was a very original and innovative industry; but it did not persist and did not give rise to the LSA. In a sense it was both ‘‘modern’’ and ‘‘non-modern’’. This is why it is interesting.
Sylvain Soriano, Paola Villa, Lyn Wadley Journal of Archaeological Science 2007[6]p. 700
The Howiesons Poort can no longer be seen as the product of 'Neo-anthropic influences' emanating out of Europe but it would be equally mistaken to see the Howiesons Poort as precociously anticipating the Upper Palaeolithic.
Sarah Wurz South African Archaeological Bulletin 1999[16]
The exploitation of animal bones, antlers and ivory as raw materials for the production of mundane or ritual tools as well as for art objects became a common practice in the Upper Paleolithic, although these raw materials were available to Middle Paleolithic humans. … The exception is the rich assemblages of the Howiesons Poort entity in South Africa, and in particular in Bloombos cave, generally dated to 80–60,000 years ago. For the time being this cultural phenomenon is unique, isolated, stratigraphically and chronologically intercalated between two Middle Stone Age industries lacking bone tools. One may hypothesize that the makers of this culture did not survive to a later age and thus their innovative venture had no relationship to the appearance of similar bone and antler tools, beads and pendants in Eurasia.[20]
Palaeolithic people could foresee their technological future no more, or even less, than we are able to. They never said, ‘The Middle Palaeolithic has gone on quite long enough – now we’d better get on with a transition to the Upper.’ So what is one to make of those precocious lithic industries which prefigure key features of later innovations, the industries which ‘run ahead’ of their own time?
LB Vishnyatsky Antiquity 1994[5]


  1. ^ Deacon, J. (1995). "An Unsolved Mystery at the Howieson's Poort". South African Archaeological Bulletin. 50 (162): 110–120. doi:10.2307/3889060. JSTOR 3889060.
  2. ^ a b c d e Jacobs, Z; Roberts, RG; Galbraith, RF; Deacon, HJ; Grün, R; Mackay, A; Mitchell, P; Vogelsang, R; Wadley, L.; et al. (2008). "Ages for the Middle Stone Age of southern Africa: implications for human behavior and dispersal". Science. 322 (5902): 733–5. CiteSeerX doi:10.1126/science.1162219. PMID 18974351.
  3. ^ a b c Watts, I (2002). "Ochre in the Middle Stone Age of southern Africa: ritualized display or hide preservative?". S. Afr. Archaeol. Bull. 57 (175): 64–74. doi:10.2307/3889102. JSTOR 3889102.
  4. ^ a b c d Ambrose, SH (2006). "Howiesons Poort lithic raw material procurement patterns and the evolution of modern human behavior: a response to Minichillo (2006)". Journal of Human Evolution. 50 (3): 365–9. doi:10.1016/j.jhevol.2005.12.006. PMID 16464488.
  5. ^ a b c d Vishnyatsky, L. B. (1994). "'Running ahead of time' in the development of Palaeolithic industries". Antiquity. 68 (258): 134–140. doi:10.1017/S0003598X00046287. Archived from the original on 2012-12-22.
  6. ^ a b c d Soriano, S; Villa, P; Wadley, L. (2007). "Blade technology and tool forms in the Middle Stone Age of South Africa: the Howiesons Poort and post-Howiesons Poort at Rose Cottage Cave". Journal of Archaeological Science. 34 (5): 681–703. doi:10.1016/j.jas.2006.06.017.
  7. ^ Feathers, JK. (2002). "Luminescence dating in less than ideal conditions: case studies from Klasies River main site and Duinefontein". South Africa. J. Archaeol. Sci. 29 (2): 177–194. doi:10.1006/jasc.2001.0685.
  8. ^ Stapleton, P; Hewitt, J. (1927). "Stone implements from a Rock-Shelter at Howieson's Poort near Grahamstown". S. Afr. J. Sci. 24: 574–587.
  9. ^ Stapleton, P; Hewitt, J (1928). "Stone implements from a Howieson's Poort, near Grahamstown". S. Afr. J. Sci. 25: 399–409.
  10. ^ Goodwin AJH. van Riet Lowe C. (1929). The Stone Age cultures of South Africa. Annals of the South African Museum, 27.
  11. ^ Wadley, L; Hodgskiss, T; Grant, M (Jun 2009). "From the Cover: Implications for complex cognition from the hafting of tools with compound adhesives in the Middle Stone Age, South Africa". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 106 (24): 9590–4. doi:10.1073/pnas.0900957106. ISSN 0027-8424. PMC 2700998. PMID 19433786.
  12. ^ Soriano, S; Villa, P; Wadley, L (2007). "Blade technology and tool form in the Middle Stone Age of South Africa: the Howiesons Poort and post-Howiesons Poort at Rose Cottage Cave". Journal of Archaeological Science. 34 (5): 681–703. doi:10.1016/j.jas.2006.06.017.
  13. ^ Lombard, M. (2008). "Finding resolution for the Howiesons Poort through the microscope: micro-residue analysis of segments from Sibudu Cave, South Africa". Journal of Archaeological Science. 35 (1): 26–41. doi:10.1016/j.jas.2007.02.021.
  14. ^ Backwell, L; Errico, F; Wadley, L. (2008). "Middle Stone Age bone tools from the Howiesons Poort layers, Sibudu Cave, South Africa". Journal of Archaeological Science. 35 (6): 1566–1580. doi:10.1016/j.jas.2007.11.006.
  15. ^ Clark, JL; Plug, I (2008). "Animal exploitation strategies during the South African Middle Stone Age: Howiesons Poort and post-Howiesons Poort fauna from Sibudu Cave". Journal of Human Evolution. 54 (6): 886–98. doi:10.1016/j.jhevol.2007.12.004. PMID 18234284.
  16. ^ a b c d e f g Wurz, S. (1999). "The Howiesons Poort Backed Artefacts from Klasies River: An Argument for Symbolic Behaviour Author(s)". South African Archaeological Bulletin. 54 (169): 38–50. doi:10.2307/3889138. JSTOR 3889138.
  17. ^ Wadley, L. (2001). "What is Cultural Modernity? A General View and a South African Perspective from Rose Cottage Cave". Cambridge Archaeological Journal. 11 (2): 201–221. doi:10.1017/S0959774301000117.
  18. ^ Deacon, HJ. (1992). "Southern Africa and modern human origins". Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 337 (1280): 177–83. doi:10.1098/rstb.1992.0095. PMID 1357692.
  19. ^ Singer, R; Wymer, J (1982). The Middle Stone Age at Klasies River Mouth in South Africa. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-76103-9.
  20. ^ Bar-Yosef, O. (2007). "The Archaeological Framework of the Upper Paleolithic Revolution". Diogenes. 214 (2): 3–18. doi:10.1177/0392192107076869.
Art of the Middle Paleolithic

The oldest undisputed examples of figurative art are known from Europe and from Sulawesi, Indonesia, dated about 35,000 years old (Art of the Upper Paleolithic).

Together with religion and other cultural universals of contemporary human societies, the emergence of figurative art is a necessary attribute of full behavioral modernity.

There are, however, some examples of non-figurative designs which somewhat predate the Upper Paleolithic, beginning about 70,000 years ago (MIS 4).

These include the earliest of the Iberian cave paintings, including a hand stencil at the Cave of Maltravieso, a simple linear design, and red paint applied to speleothems, dated to at least 64,000 years ago and as such attributable to Neanderthals. Similarly, the Blombos Cave of South Africa yielded some stones with engraved grid or cross-hatch patterns, dated to some 70,000 years ago, but they are attributed to Homo Sapiens.

In September 2018, scientists reported the discovery of the earliest known drawing by Homo sapiens, which is estimated to be 73,000 years old, much earlier than the 43,000 years old artifacts understood to be the earliest known modern human drawings found previously.

Behavioral modernity

Behavioral modernity is a suite of behavioral and cognitive traits that distinguishes current Homo sapiens from other anatomically modern humans, hominins, and primates. Although often debated, most scholars agree that modern human behavior can be characterized by abstract thinking, planning depth, symbolic behavior (e.g., art, ornamentation), music and dance, exploitation of large game, and blade technology, among others. Underlying these behaviors and technological innovations are cognitive and cultural foundations that have been documented experimentally and ethnographically. Some of these human universal patterns are cumulative cultural adaptation, social norms, language, and extensive help and cooperation beyond close kin. It has been argued that the development of these modern behavioral traits, in combination with the climatic conditions of the Last Glacial Maximum causing genetic bottlenecks, was largely responsible for the human replacement of Neanderthals, Denisovans, and the other species of humans of the rest of the world.Arising from differences in the archaeological record, a debate continues as to whether anatomically modern humans were behaviorally modern as well. There are many theories on the evolution of behavioral modernity. These generally fall into two camps: gradualist and cognitive approaches. The Later Upper Paleolithic Model refers to the theory that modern human behavior arose through cognitive, genetic changes abruptly around 40,000–50,000 years ago. Other models focus on how modern human behavior may have arisen through gradual steps; the archaeological signatures of such behavior only appearing through demographic or subsistence-based changes.

Blombos Cave

Blombos Cave is an archaeological site located in Blomboschfontein Nature Reserve, about 300 km east of Cape Town on the Southern Cape coastline, South Africa. The cave contains Middle Stone Age (MSA) deposits currently dated at between c. 100,000 and 70,000 years Before Present (BP), and a Late Stone Age sequence dated at between 2000 and 300 years BP. The cave site was first excavated in 1991 and field work has been conducted there on a regular basis since 1997, and is ongoing.The excavations at Blombos Cave have yielded important new information on the behavioural evolution of anatomically modern humans. The archaeological record from this cave site has been central in the ongoing debate on the cognitive and cultural origin of early humans and to the current understanding of when and where key behavioural innovations emerged among Homo sapiens in southern Africa during the Late Pleistocene. Archaeological material and faunal remains recovered from the Middle Stone Age phase in Blombos Cave – dated to ca. 100,000–70,000 years BP – are considered to represent greater ecological niche adaptation, a more diverse set of subsistence and procurements strategies, adoption of multi-step technology and manufacture of composite tools, stylistic elaboration, increased economic and social organisation and occurrence of symbolically mediated behaviour.

The most informative archaeological material from Blombos Cave includes engraved ochre, engraved bone ochre processing kits, marine shell beads, refined bone and stone tools and a broad range of terrestrial and marine faunal remains, including shellfish, birds, tortoise and ostrich egg shell and mammals of various sizes. These findings, together with subsequent re-analysis and excavation of other Middle Stone Age sites in southern Africa, have resulted in a paradigm shift with regard to the understanding of the timing and location of the development of modern human behaviour.

On 29 May 2015 Heritage Western Cape formally protected the site as a provincial heritage site.Cross-hatching done in ochre on a stone fragment found at Blombos Cave is believed to be the earliest known drawing done by a human in the world.

Canteen (bottle)

A canteen is a drinking water bottle designed to be used by hikers, campers, soldiers and workers in the field. It is usually fitted with a shoulder strap or means for fastening it to a belt, and may be covered with a cloth bag and padding to protect the bottle and insulate the contents. If the padding is soaked with water, evaporative cooling can help keep the contents of the bottle cool. Many canteens also include a nested canteen cup.

Primitive canteens were sometimes made of hollowed-out gourds, such as a calabash, or were bags made of leather.

Later, canteens consisted of a glass bottle in a woven basket cover. The bottle was usually closed with a cork stopper.

Designs of the mid-1900s were made of metal — tin-plated steel, stainless steel or aluminum — with a screw cap, the cap frequently being secured to the bottle neck with a short chain or strap to prevent loss. These were an improvement over glass bottles, but were subject to developing pinhole leaks if dented, dropped or bumped against jagged rocks.

Contemporary designs are almost exclusively made of one of several types of plastics, especially polyethylene or polycarbonate. They are typically as light as, or lighter than, their metal equivalents and are quite resistant to developing leaks, even when dropped or severely bumped.

Hunter-gatherers in the Kalahari use ostrich eggshell as water containers in which they puncture a hole to enable them to be used as canteens. The presence of such eggshells dating from the Howiesons Poort period of the Middle Stone Age at Diepkloof Rock Shelter in South Africa suggests canteens were used by humans as early as 60,000 years ago.

Diepkloof Rock Shelter

Diepkloof Rock Shelter is a rock shelter in Western Cape, South Africa in which has been found some of the earliest evidence of the human use of symbols, in the form of patterns engraved upon ostrich eggshell water containers. These date around 60,000 years ago.The symbolic patterns consist of lines crossed at right angles or oblique angles by hatching. It has been suggested that "by the repetition of this motif, early humans were trying to communicate something. Perhaps they were trying to express the identity of the individual or the group."

Egg decorating

Egg decorating is the art or craft of decorating eggs. It is quite a popular art/craft form because of the attractive, smooth, oval shape of the egg. Any bird egg can be facilitated in this process, but most often the larger and stronger the eggshell is, the more favoured it will be by decorators.

Gymnosporia nemorosa

Gymnosporia nemorosa is a spiny, somewhat sprawling evergreen shrub or small tree with drooping branches growing to some 5 m tall and found along forest edges in Mpumalanga, Swaziland, KwaZulu-Natal south to the Garden Route in the Southern Cape. In Maputaland the species adopts the form of a geoxylic suffrutex or ‘underground’ tree, with shoots sprouting from its woody, underground axis.Its fragrant white, unisexual flower clusters grow in the axils of leaves on lateral shoots having the form of spines. Dusky-pink, pear-shaped, pendulous fruits are about 15mm in length and the same in diameter, dehiscing along three longitudinal lines to produce 3 valves curling back from the distal end to reveal orange arils enclosing the seeds. Leaves are alternate or tufted, hairless, leathery, 25-50mm long, with slightly serrate margins, ovate to round in shape, glossy and dark green above, paler beneath, emarginate to acute, depressed apex. Branchlets are spiny and densely spotted with pale lenticels. Larvae of the African moth Drepanogynis cambogiaria (Guenée, 1858) feed on this species and on other members of the Celastraceae. This is one of the species frequently browsed by Black Rhino in the Hluhluwe–iMfolozi Park.

Celastrus nemorosus - Glabrous, spiny; spines strong; leaves tufted, solitary on the twigs, elliptical, rounded, obtuse, or shortly emarginate, margined, dentato-serrate, shortly cuneate at base, sub-coriaceous, veiny; panicles axillary, cymose, shorter than the leaf, or equalling it; capsules trigonous, 3–2-seeded. Very like the preceding, but differing in the broader and rounder leaves, not much attenuate at base, evidently serrate or toothed. Also allied to C. verrucosus which is distinguished by its foliage, warty branches, and different fruit. Branches terete, sometimes sub-verrucose; twigs somewhat angular. Leaves glaucous above, livid below, with raised nerves, the larger 2–2 1/2 inches long, 1–1 1/2 inch wide; the smaller uncial. Panicle many flowered, in β. looser and longer. Flowers of C. buxifolius. Capsule 3 lines long. Collected at Kragga kamma, Adow, Olifantshoek, Hassagaisbosch, Howiesons Poort and Port Natal.

Hilary Deacon

Hilary John Deacon (10 January 1936 – 25 May 2010) was a South African archaeologist and academic. He was Professor of Archaeology at the University of Stellenbosch in Stellenbosch, South Africa. His research focused on the emergence of modern humans and African archaeology. He was principal researcher at the Klasies River Caves, one of the oldest known sites of anatomically modern humans, who lived there circa 125,000 years ago.

Howieson's Poort Shelter

Howieson’s Poort Shelter is a small rock shelter in South Africa containing the archaeological site from which the Howiesons Poort period in the Middle Stone Age gets its name. This period lasted around 5,000 years, between roughly 65,800 BP and 59,500 BP.

This period is important as it, together with the Stillbay period 7,000 years earlier, provides the first evidence of human symbolism and technological skills that were later to appear in the Upper Paleolithic.

John Hewitt (herpetologist)

John Hewitt (23 December 1880 – 4 August 1961) was a South African zoologist and archaeologist of British origin. He was born in Dronfield, Derbyshire, England, and died in Grahamstown, South Africa. He was the author of several herpetological papers which described new species.

Lyn Wadley

Lyn Wadley is an honorary professor of archaeology, and also affiliated jointly with the Archaeology Department and the Institute for Evolution at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Middle Stone Age

The Middle Stone Age (or MSA) was a period of African prehistory between the Early Stone Age and the Later Stone Age. It is generally considered to have begun around 280,000 years ago and ended around 50–25,000 years ago. The beginnings of particular MSA stone tools have their origins as far back as 550–500,000 years ago and as such some researchers consider this to be the beginnings of the MSA. The MSA is often mistakenly understood to be synonymous with the Middle Paleolithic of Europe, especially due to their roughly contemporaneous time span, however, the Middle Paleolithic of Europe represents an entirely different hominin population, Homo neanderthalensis, than the MSA of Africa, which did not have Neanderthal populations. Additionally, current archaeological research in Africa has yielded much evidence to suggest that modern human behavior and cognition was beginning to develop much earlier in Africa during the MSA than it was in Europe during the Middle Paleolithic. The MSA is associated with both anatomically modern humans (Homo sapiens) as well as archaic Homo sapiens, sometimes referred to as Homo helmei. Early physical evidence comes from the Gademotta Formation in Ethiopia, the Kapthurin Formation in Kenya and Kathu Pan in South Africa.


Poort means port in Dutch and may refer to

Places in the NetherlandsAlmere Poort, a borough (stadsdeel) of Almere

Almere Poort railway station

Amsterdamse Poort (disambiguation)

Gebouw Delftse Poort, a twin-tower skyscraper in Rotterdam

Haagse Poort, an office building in The HaguePlaces in South AfricaHex River Poort Pass, a mountain pass

Howieson's Poort Shelter, an archeological site

Howiesons Poort, a cultural period in the Stone Age named after the shelter

Wyllie's Poort, a road passOtherPoort (surname)

Sewing needle

A sewing needle, used for hand-sewing, is a long slender tool with a pointed tip at one end and a hole (or eye) at the other. The earliest needles were made of bone or wood; modern needles are manufactured from high carbon steel wire and are nickel- or 18K gold-plated for corrosion resistance. High quality embroidery needles are plated with two-thirds platinum and one-third titanium alloy. Traditionally, needles have been kept in needle books or needlecases which have become objects of adornment. Sewing needles may also be kept in an étui, a small box that held needles and other items such as scissors, pencils and tweezers.

Sibudu Cave

Sibudu Cave is a rock shelter in a sandstone cliff in northern KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. It is an important Middle Stone Age site occupied, with some gaps, from 77,000 years ago to 38,000 years ago.

Evidence of some of the earliest examples of modern human technology has been found in the shelter (although the earliest known spears date back 400,000 years). The evidence in the shelter includes the earliest bone arrow (61,000 years old), the earliest needle (61,000 years old), the earliest use of heat-treated mixed compound gluing (72,000 years ago), and the earliest example of the use of bedding (77,000 years ago).The use of glues and bedding are of particular interest, because the complexity of their creation and processing has been presented as evidence of continuity between early human cognition and that of modern humans.


Silcrete is an indurated soil duricrust formed when surface sand and gravel are cemented by dissolved silica. The formation of silcrete is similar to that of calcrete, formed by calcium carbonate and ferricrete, formed by iron oxide. It is a hard and resistant material, and though different in origin and nature, appears similar to quartzite. It is common in the arid regions of Australia and Africa often forming the resistant cap rock on features such as the breakaways of the Stuart Range of South Australia. Silcrete can be found at a lesser extent throughout the world especially England and France.In Australia, silcrete was widely used by Aboriginal people for stone tool manufacture, and as such, it was a tradeable commodity, and silcrete tools can be found in areas that have no silcrete groundmass at all, similar to the European use of flint.

Tools made out of silcrete which has not been heat treated are difficult to make with flintknapping techniques. It is widely believed by stone tool experts that the technology to treat silcrete by burying under a hot fire was known 25,000 years ago in Europe. Heating changes the stone structure making it more easily flaked. This process may have been the first use of so-called pyrotechnology by early mankind.

In South Africa at Pinnacle Point researchers have determined that two types of silcrete tools were developed between 60,000 and 80,000 years ago and used the heat treatment technique. There is evidence to suggest the technique may have been known as early as 164,000 years ago.The peoples of the African Middle Stone Age (MSA) showed a preference for silcrete tools, sourcing the material from up to 200 km to use in place of more accessible quartz and quartzite. MSA quarries have recently been found in Botswana south of the Okavango Delta. Evidence was found that raw silcrete blanks and blocks were transported prior to heat treating during the MSA. The geochemical signatures of the fragments can be used to identify where many of the individual pieces were quarried.


The Stillbay (also Still bay) industry is the name given by archaeologists A. J. H. Goodwin and C. van Riet Lowe in 1929 to a Middle Stone Age stone tool manufacturing style after the site of Stilbaai (also called Still Bay) in South Africa where it was first described. It may have developed from the earlier Acheulian types. In addition to Acheulian stone tools, bone and antler picks were also used.

Its start and end are calculated at 71.9 ka and 71.0 ka. At present, too few data exist to limit the 95% confidence intervals of these date to more than 4 to 5 ky. However, available data are consistent with a duration of less than 1 ky.Sampson in 1974 questioned its existence on the grounds that sites were not properly described and they lacked stratigraphic

integrity However, more recent work from sites such as Blombos Cave and Sibudu Cave attest to its existence.

It is broadly analogous to the Mousterian culture in Europe.

Olduvai Gorge has within its many ages of tools, some of the Stillbay variety.


Tongaat is a town in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, about 37 kilometres (23 mi) north of Durban and 28 kilometres (17 mi) south of Stanger. It now forms part of eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality, or Greater Durban area. Its population is mostly people of Indian descent. The area is home to the oldest Indian community in South Africa, having been where the first indentured Indian laborers settled in 1860 to work in the sugar-cane plantations. Much of the architectural style in the town was the work of Ivan Mitford-Barberton, and many buildings are in the Cape Dutch style of architecture.

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