Dr Ghilraen Laue, Human Sciences Department, KwaZulu-Natal Museum is currently working on an archaeological excavation directed by Professor Lyn Wadley, Evolutionary Studies Institute, University of the Witwatersrand. She is also joined by Dr Chrissie Sievers, GAES, University of the Witwatersrand and Dr Carolyn Thorp, formerly of the KwaZulu-Natal Museum. The site, Woodstock Rocks, is situated on Kaingo Private Nature Reserve in the Waterberg, Limpopo Province. Over the coming days Ghilraen will be updating us on the progress of the excavation.
The site Woodstock Rocks is situated in a shallow overhang overlooking the Mokolo River. Occasionally a crocodile can be seen cruising by. (Photo: L. Wadley)
We cleared the excavation area of bush, baboon droppings, and spiders and set up a 2 metre by 2.5 metre grid. (Photo: L. Wadley)
On the way back to our accommodation we were very excited to see some zebra. (Photo: G. Laue)
Scattered on the floor of the shelter were many pieces of pottery, some of them decorated. The decorations imply that the pottery is just under 2000 years old.
Another special surface find was an exquisite Middle Stone Age bifacial point made of agate.
We started excavating two metre squares removing the surface layer. It was full of dassie droppings, leaves and many seeds from the large variety of edible fruits in the area. Fat cut worms were also buried in the sediment.
The excavated deposit is sieved and then sorted into different categories such as bone, charcoal, seeds and stone. Here Dr Sievers and Dr Thorp sorting. (Photo: G. Laue)
Close up of the Ochna natalitia flower close to our parking place near the river. (Photo: L. Wadley)
Flowers on Sterculia rogersii on the steep path to the site. (Photo: L. Wadley)
Walking the steep path to and from the site daily we record the current vegetation on the south-west-facing hillside. Our modern records are a useful comparison for the plants identified in the archaeological excavation through seed identification and charcoal analysis.
Small coloured flags mark the positions of different archaeological finds such as pieces of ochre, stone tools and animal bones. (Photo: L. Wadley)
A Nikon electronic measuring device (EDM) is used to plot the position of the finds. This information shows us how people used their living space in the past. (Photo: C. Sievers)
A red-headed weaver has started building a nest close to the EDM. He does not seem to be disturbed by our presence. (Photo: L. Wadley)
There are fine-line San paintings at Woodstock Rocks. Much of the rock art is faded and difficult to see. Some of the better-preserved images can only be reached by climbing a ladder. (C. Sievers)
This panel has the white outline of an eland with a white-painted head and neck, and some unidentified red and white antelope. (Photo: L. Wadley)
Sable Antelope (Photo: G. Laue)
Klipspringer. (Photo: L. Wadley)
On the road to and from the site we have seen a variety of antelope including sable, klipspringer, waterbuck, impala, kudu and wildebeest.
The Woodstock Rocks Team: Dr Ghilraen Laue, Dr Carolyn Thorp, Professor Lyn Wadley and Dr Chrissie Sievers.
We have now excavated the surface layers and in the Very Dark Greyish Brown layer below we are finding Middle Stone Age stone tools.
Beetle Larvae have caused some disturbance in the deposits.
The above photo shows two squares we are excavating. On the left, in square F2, the stone artefacts in the Dark Brown layer have been flagged so they can be mapped with the EDM. In the square on the right, F3, we are coming onto a rock fall that will be removed in the coming days (Photo: G. Laue).
Below are some examples of the Middle Stone Age stone tools we have excavated:
A quartzite blade (left) and a quartzite flake (right) (Photo: L. Wadley)
A siltstone blade (left) and a siltstone flake (right) (Photo: L. Wadley)
Traffic on the road to work (Photo: L. Wadley).
Woodstock Rocks has the faded remains of San rock paintings scattered across the walls. The paintings have faded due to natural weathering and dust. To minimise dust while we are excavating we have covered the area around the excavation and the walkways on the site with a geotextile which can be seen in the previous photos of the site.
Below we have used a programme, DStretch, to enhance the images and make some of these faded paintings clearer:
(Photos: G. Laue)
(Photos: G. Laue)
(Photos: G. Laue)
An early morning view of the Mokolo River below the site, taken from where we parked our car. (Photo: G. Laue)
As we excavated deeper we needed to remove some of the rocks that had fallen from the cliff face. (Photo: C. Sievers)
The red-headed weaver has completed his first nest, but his partner does not seem to approve. When she comes to look at it she chirrups a lot and he has now started weaving a second nest. (Photo: G. Laue)
Wim Biemond, an Iron Age archaeologist based in Botswana, has joined us for a few days. Here he is checking the surface for pottery fragments and recording the upper and lower grindstones strewn around the site. (Photo: C. Sievers)
A selection of upper grindstones found on the surface at Woodstock Rocks. This image shows the variety of shapes and sizes of the grindstones collected by Wim Biemond (Photo: L. Wadley)
Lower grindstones At least 46 upper grindstones and many lower grindstones were counted by Wim Biemond on the surface of the site. (Photo: L. Wadley)
One of the routes to and from the site took us past a small dam teaming with birdlife. (Photo: G. Laue)
The images on our Woodstock Rocks t-shirts were copied from the rock art panel viewed at the top of the ladder (see Day 5). Here we are looking at some of the faded rock art at the site. (Photo: R. Wadley)
We were delighted to see not only many large mammals and varied birdlife, but also an amazing array of plants and different insects.
(Photo: G. Laue)
(Photo: G. Laue)
The excavation trench is getting deeper. Here Prof Wadley is using a tablet to take a picture of the flagged tools before mapping them with the EDM. Bedrock can be seen in the left of square F3, and there is a large rock taking up a little less than half of square F2, but the other areas of the trench continue to yield Middle Stone Age artefacts. (Photo: G. Laue)
Dr Thorp, Prof Wadley and Dr Sievers at Woodstock Rocks with the view of the Mokolo River below. (Photo: G. Laue)
Three sediment cores were carefully removed by hammering plastic pipes into the section walls. The sediment in the pipes will be used for dating Stone Age occupations at the site. The method, optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) dating, involves measuring the luminescence from quartz grains that have not been exposed to light since the time of their burial. (Photo: L. Wadley)
Many of the stone tools at Woodstock are made on siltstone. This rock originates in the Vaalwater Formation that outcrops less than ten kilometres from the site.(Photo: L. Wadley)
At the end of a long days work we are treated to views of spectacular sunsets from our accommodation. (Photo: G. Laue)
The excavation is drawing to an end. We are near bedrock across the whole of the trench. After the last few bucketsful of deposit are removed and artefacts mapped we will draw the section profiles which show the different stratigraphic layers through which we have excavated. At the deepest, the excavation reaches just below 60 cm. (Photo: G. Laue)
(Photo: G. Laue)
(Photo: L. Wadley)
One of the many exciting sightings on our way back to our accommodation: a giraffe eating newly sprouted leaves. (Photo: C. Sievers)
The last day at the site involved much hot and dirty work. We dismantled and packed up all our equipment and rehabilitated the site to leave it looking as if we had never been there. We filled sandbags with soil from the sieve heap and placed these in the excavated trench. The sandbags were then covered with a layer of soil and a few rocks so that in time no one will be able to see any sign that an excavation once took place at Woodstock Rocks.
The excavated artefacts and selected surface finds will be taken away to laboratories for further analysis. In the near future, we will publish our interpretations of what happened at the site in the past.
The site a couple of days before the end of the excavation. (Photo: G. Laue)
The site as we left it. This picture is taken from a slightly different angle from the one above, but the excavation trench and gazebo were originally in the centre of this frame. (Photo: G. Laue)
This photo was taken on our way home: a fitting last view of an elephant on our last day at Kaingo Private Nature Reserve. (Photo: G. Laue)