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Bartolomeu Dias Museum Complex

(25.07.2002 , South Africa, Mossel Bay )
Archaeology Excavations at Mossel Bay!

TRIAL EXCAVATIONS were initially conducted at the Pinnacle Point archaeology site in July 2000 under leadership of Dr. Peter Nilssen (SA Museum) and Dr. Curtis Marean (Arizona State University).

In the last 20 years there has been a burst of progress in the study of the origins of modern humans. Much of this new research indicates that modern humans evolved first in Africa, and then spread throughout the world, replacing closely related species like the Neanderthals.

Because of favorable geological conditions that often form caves and preserve fossil bone, South Africa has one of the richest Stone Age records in the world. This makes South Africa a focus for international science. Mossel Bay, with its rich archaeological resources can make an important contribution to answering some gripping questions.

At Pinnacle Point in Mossel Bay, a long-term field study of the Middle Stone Age (MSA) is currently taking place. The MSA covers a time range dating roughly from 250, 000 to 35, 000 years ago. Primary research goals are to test several competing models concerning the behavioral modernity of MSA people in Africa and thus contributing to our knowledge of the origins of modern humans.

Three caves were test excavated and well-preserved MSA deposits with faunal preservation were discovered in two of these. Beginning a large intensive excavation at one cave has already yielded two hominid fossil specimens and MSA lithic and faunal remains. The animal remains retrieved from the tested sites contain adequate quantities of well-preserved bone to answer research questions relating to faunal exploitation strategies employed by people in the MSA. More can be discovered about the strategies employed by prehistoric people for acquiring and processing animal products for consumption and/or use as raw materials for making tools and clothes.

The sample of human fossil remains from the MSA in South Africa is very small. Two hominid fossils (a cranial fragment and an incisor) were however, found in deposits at Pinnacle Point.

Based on the importance of the sites in the Mossel Bay area, the public is urged to avoid the caves and archaeological sites until organized and supervised tours are in place. Initially it is planned that excavations will take place for about 2 months each year. Joined to that effort will be a continuing survey of the surrounding region, with the goal of finding and documenting other potentially valuable sites. This will help in developing long-range plans for future research and conservation of Mossel Bay’s Stone Age record.

- Information edited and obtained from MOSSEL BAY ARCHAEOLOGY PROJECT (MAP) final report by Marean, Nilssen (March 2002). Please contact John Thackray at the Bartolomeu Dias Museum for further information.
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