Partners in grime: results of multi-disciplinary archaeology at Sibudu Cave


  • L. Wadley University of the Witwatersrand


Multidisciplinary archaeological research at Sibudu Cave has enhanced understanding of behaviour at the site and of local environmental conditions from before ~60 ka to ~37 ka. The Middle Stone Age (MSA) sequence includes pre-Still Bay, Still Bay, Howiesons Poort and more recent MSA lithic assemblages, all of which include either worked bone or worked shell. The marine shell in the cave appears to have been used as a raw material and not as a source of food. Cyperaceae seeds imply the use of sedges for bedding, perhaps in the form of mats. Discrete hearths and ash-patches are present in all occupations, while palimpsests of hearths are characteristic of the ~50 ka occupations. The people who lived at Sibudu were skilled encounter-hunters who were able to kill a wide range of bovids of all sizes. Their prey included zebra and dangerous species such as buffalo and bushpig. For much of the time that the cave was occupied, its inhabitants seem to have used unifacially or bifacially retouched lithic points as parts of weapons for hunting, but, at times, some points may have been used as butchery implements. Use-trace analysis supports both interpretations. 



How to Cite

Wadley, L. (2021). Partners in grime: results of multi-disciplinary archaeology at Sibudu Cave. Southern African Humanities, 18(1), 315–41. Retrieved from

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