New insights from old collections
The KwaZulu-Natal Museum’s Human Sciences department is hosting three visiting researchers from Europe, Dr Gregor Bader, Dr Gerrit Dusseldorp and Dr Viola Schmid. They are examining stone artefacts from the site of Umhlatuzana (near Hillcrest) which are part of the Museum’s Archaeological Collection. The artefacts were excavated in 1985 by Jonathan Kaplan.
Dr Bader (Senckenberg Centre for Human Evolution and Palaeoenvironment (HEP), University of Tübingen, Germany), Dr Schmid (Department Prehistory & WANA Archaeology, Austrian Archaeological Institute, Austrian Academy of Sciences) and Dr Dusseldorp (Faculty of Archaeology, University of Leiden, Netherlands), at work in the Archaeology Lab at the Museum (Photo: G. Laue).
The site of Umhlatuzana was re-excavated by Dr Dusseldorp and a Leiden University team in 2018 and 2019 to gain a better understanding of the different archaeological layers at the site. The stone artefacts from these excavations were analysed by Dr Schmid. Dr Bader’s recent fieldwork at the nearby site of Umbeli Belli has yielded similar lithics including iconic hollow-based points already described by Kaplan at Umhlatuzana.
Examination, under a microscope, of a hollow-based point from the Kaplan excavations at Umhlatuzana (Photo: G. Laue)
To date hollow-based points are only known from three sites in KwaZulu-Natal, Umhlatuzana, Umbeli Belli and Sibhudu. The research team is re-examining the artefacts from the Kaplan excavation in order to better understand this unique expression of the final stages of the Middle Stone Age (approximately 40-35 000 years ago). This research shows how people in southern Africa developed increasingly different cultural traditions on a regional scale.