In late spring of 2016 I joined the excavation at Pinnacle Point for the beginning of their season. The site is directed by palaeoanthropologist Prof. Curtis Marean and the team uses a highly technical excavation system where everything is shot into total stations and all recording is computerized.
Pinnacle Point is a large rock shelter situated on the coast of the Western Cape province. There is a long record of human occupation at this site (approximately 90 000 – 50 000 years ago) and the archaeological evidence has helped to tell the story of our earliest human ancestors.
From the site comes the earliest evidence of projectile points. Using optically stimulated luminescence dating it was determined that the earliest micro-liths (tiny human-made stone blades) from the site date to 71 000 years ago. These tiny stone points allowed humans to throw their weapons for the first time, instead of having to use a thrusting weapon at close range.
Prof. Marean is particularly interested in the origins of modern humans and the occupation of coastal ecosystems. He has suggested that it was the exploitation of coastal resources during downturns in climatic conditions that allowed the humans to thrive and eventually spread outwards from Africa. This focus on concentrated resource exploitation, as opposed to wider ranging terrestrial foraging, may have also led to the development of inter-kin co-operative relationships as well as inter-group conflicts over territory.
This is the only project I joined in 2016 that is based in Africa and it is a very exciting one. Also exciting is the fact that I left Pinnacle Point to head to Naxos and the Stelida Naxos Archaeological Project to excavate the material culture of some of the earliest humans to colonise Europe from Africa. Essentially, I followed the trail of the Homo sapiens spread ‘out of Africa’.
More information on the Pinnacle Point site and Prof. Marean’s theories can be found here: