ref: Before Farming 2005/1 article 1

Charring patterns on reconstructed ceramics from Dunefield Midden: implications for Khoekhoe vessel form and function

Brian A Stewart
Institute of Archaeology, University of Oxford, 36 Beaumont St, Oxford OX1 2PG

Keywords: Ceramics, Khoekhoe, Later Stone Age, southern Africa, experimental archaeology


Ethnographic observations from ceramic-using cultures around the world highlight a direct connection between ceramic vessel form and function. In southwestern southern Africa archaeological assemblages containing ceramic vessels associated historically with Khoekhoen pastoralists are heavily dominated by pots that conform to a very uniform shape - namely, amphora-like vessels with restricted necks and pointed bases. This paper uses charring patterns evident on the reconstructed ceramic assemblage from the late Holocene/pre-colonial Later Stone Age (LSA) site of Dunefield Midden, and additional ethnographic, ethnohistoric and experimental data, to identify which morphological attributes were adopted to facilitate the use of these vessels in cooking. It concludes that the observed charring patterns were caused by a cooking technique whereby the vessel bases were settled directly into the 'soft' cooking hearths at Dunefield Midden, and that the use of pointed bases represents a technological adaptation well suited to the Khoekhoen lifeway, one characterised by a high degree of mobility in largely arid landscapes.

ref: Before Farming 2005/1 article 2

The concepts of 'Neolithic' and 'Neolithisation' for Africa?

Andrew B Smith
Department of Archaeology, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch 7700, South Africa

Keywords: Neolithisation, North Africa, South Africa, animal domestication


The use of the term 'Neolithic', although seen by some researchers as a convenient shorthand, has a great deal of baggage associated with it, which makes it problematic for use in Africa. This is particularly true for southern Africa where the process of introduction of food production was probably different from that experienced in the Middle East, Europe, or even North Africa, as no wild progenitors of the domestic plants or animals existed south of the Equator. The suggestion that a southern African 'Neolithic' might have existed makes certain assumptions that are dependent on how one interprets the archaeological record.

ref: Before Farming 2005/1 article 3

A Siberian perspective on the north European Hamburgian Culture: a study in applied hunter-gatherer ethnoarchaeology

Ole Grøn
Institute of Archaeology, University College London, 31-34 Gordon Square, London WC1H 0PY

Keywords: Ethnoarchaeology, cultural ecology, reindeer-hunters, Late Palaeolithic, cultural small-scale variations, cultural identity


The paper discusses the use of ethnoarchaeology in the interpretation of prehistoric hunter-gatherer cultures, and takes as a case study the application of observations made on the Evenk reindeer hunters (Olenok area, Siberia) to interpreting patterning in the Late Glacial Hamburgian archaeological record of northern Europe. It is argued that a focus on repeatedly appearing cultural features seen in relation to a holistic framework which incorporates the entire range of social behaviours can form a useful interface between archaeology and ethnoarchaeology, because it allows an integrated approach to phenomena with both material and spiritual aspects. The latter are too often ignored in ethnoarchaeology despite their evident impact on spatial patterning in the material record of contemporary hunter-gatherers. It is also suggested that archaeology and ethnoarchaeology should be used in an interactive way, including the development of archaeological strategies for checking the ethnoarchaeological extrapolations.

ref: Before Farming 2005/1 article 4

Shoreline displacement chronology of rock paintings at Lake Saimaa, eastern Finland

Oula Seitsonen
Department of Archaeology, PO Box 59, FI-00014 University of Helsinki, Finland

Keywords: Rock-art, hunter-gatherers, Finland, shoreline displacement


Finnish hunter-gatherer rock paintings are situated on steep cliff faces that typically face onto bodies of water. Because of isostatic land uplift and lake level changes some rock paintings are situated several metres above present day lake level. Using the shoreline displacement history of Lake Saimaa, a relative chronology of different rock painting motifs is presented. There has hitherto been almost no study of diachronic change in Finnish rock-art motifs. This study presents some general stylistic and orientational shifts in the rock painting tradition, shifts that are most pronounced mostly towards the end of Subneolithic period; pictorial display seems to become more one-sided and schematic towards the end of the rock painting tradition from 2500 Cal BC onwards. Changes seem relatively synchronous throughout the Lake Saimaa catchment. Thereafter the painting tradition diminishes as Early Metal Period ceramic styles and early agriculture becomes more established in the area after 2000 Cal BC. These developments could reflect changes in the socio-economic organisation and ideology.


© Western Academic & Specialist Press Ltd 2005