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Excavations at Border Cave 2022

Border Cave is located in the Lebombo mountain range in KwaZulu-Natal overlooking eSwatini. This site is one of a few sites dotted around the African continent and the Near East showing early evidence of complex behaviour and symbolism in the form of pigment use, beads, bone tools, burials, and grass bedding construction. An intermittent Stone Age sequence from around 227 thousand years ago to 24 thousand years with unusually good organic preservation is found in the cave.

border cave 1View of the excavations from the back of the cave (photo: G. Laue)

 

Many different excavation teams have worked at the cave, starting in 1934. Much of this earlier archaeological work missed the fine details and the differences between occupation levels. In 2015 a team headed by Lucinda Backwell, Lyn Wadley, and Francesco d’Errico resumed excavations in the cave in order to get a better understanding of the long cultural sequence preserved at Border Cave.

border cave 2Location of Border Cave and a plan of the site showing the position of the various excavations from 1934 to 2019. The orange overlay shows the most recent excavations from 2015 onwards. The inset at the top right shows the names of the excavated squares according to the North and East lines e.g. N108 E117 (L. Backwell, L. Wadley, F. d’Errico et al. 2022)

 

Ghilraen Laue from the KwaZulu-Natal Museum’s Human Sciences Department has had the privilege to join the excavation team in 2017, 2018 and most recently in October 2022. During the most recent field season, Ghilraen was excavating deposits dated to approximately 58 – 62 thousand years ago. Some of the finds included ancient grass bedding, stone tools and wood and bone remains.

border cave 3Ghilraen brushing away some of the deposit to expose a fragile piece of wood (Photo: A. Paladea Rojo).

 

Border Cave is open to the public and has a small museum with information about the site. Click here for more information

 

 

 

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