The ‘MSA 1’ of Elands Bay Cave (South Africa) in the context of the southern African Early MSA technologies<br />


  • V. C. Schmid Universität Tübingen
  • N. J. Conard Universität Tübingen
  • J. E. Parkington University of Cape Town
  • P.-J. Texier Université de Bordeaux
  • G. Porraz Institut Français d’Afrique du Sud


The Early Middle Stone Age (EMSA) of southern Africa represents a poorly defined period in terms of chronology, palaeoenvironments, subsistence strategies and technological traditions. This lack of understanding is directly related to the low number of EMSA deposits that have been excavated, but concomitantly, it also reflects the poor interest accorded by most of the recent archaeological projects. In this context, the excavation that we undertook at Elands Bay Cave (EBC) in the West Coast of South Africa in 2011 provides a good opportunity to discuss the oldest occupations at the site, which have been assigned to the ‘MSA 1’ by T. Volman (1981) and which purportedly belong to the earliest MSA traditions of southern Africa.
In the present paper, we provide a technological study of the ‘MSA 1’ lithic assemblage. Our results demonstrate the near-exclusive use of local quartzite by the inhabitants of EBC. This raw material was preferentially selected in the form of slabs and large flakes to produce blanks that were used without further retouching. We identified various reduction sequences that we unify under a concept referred to as ‘POL-reduction strategy’. Furthermore, we perform intersite technological comparisons and conclude that on technological grounds the ‘MSA 1’ of Elands Bay Cave dates back to MIS 6, in agreement with the luminescence dating. We acknowledge current difficulties in building a chrono-cultural framework at a subcontinental scale. Thus, we discuss the relevance of the term ‘MSA 1’ and instead advocate a more neutral and generic label of ‘EMSA’ (understood here as late Middle Pleistocene MSA technologies). The analysis of the EMSA of EBC sheds new light on the patterns and changes that characterise behaviours and organisations of Anatomically Modern Humans over the last 200 ka.



How to Cite

Schmid, V. C., Conard, N. J., Parkington, J. E., Texier, P.-J., & Porraz, G. (2016). The ‘MSA 1’ of Elands Bay Cave (South Africa) in the context of the southern African Early MSA technologies<br />. Southern African Humanities, 29, 153-201. Retrieved from

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