The Umhlatuzana Rock Shelter sequence: 100 000 years of Stone Age history


  • J. Kaplan Natal Museum


Umhlatuzana Rock Shelter was excavated in 1985. A long and detailed sequence of Middle Stone Age (MSA) and Later Stone Age (LSA) stone artefacts were recovered. These provide important information on the MSA, MSA/LSA transition, the Robberg LSA, as well as the relationship between hunter-gatherers and farmers between AD 400-800. The excavation, stratigraphy, stone artefacts, animal and plant remains, worked bone tools, beads, pottery and ochre finds are described. Thereafter I interpret the remains from the site focusing on the following issues: 1. The MSA, which emphasis on the Howiesons Poort. 2. The MSA/LSA transition. 3. The origins of the Late Pleistocene LSA microlithic bladelet assemblages. 4. Interaction between hunter-gatherers and iron-producing farmers.

Evidence is presented to show that the MSA/LSA transition occurred between 35000-20000 BP. This transition is gradual with MSA technology being replaced by increasing bladelet production. Pre-dating 18000 BP and post-dating 12000 BP, the bladelet-rich assemblages recovered from Umhlatuzana Rock Shelter are the first of their kind to be positively identified in Natal. They show that assemblages of this nature were produced earlier in Natal than elsewhere in southern Africa. 



How to Cite

Kaplan, J. (2021). The Umhlatuzana Rock Shelter sequence: 100 000 years of Stone Age history. Southern African Humanities, 2, 1–94. Retrieved from