Before Farming

Hunters or herders?

Evidence from the cultural assemblages at Bakoond, Western Cape, South Africa

Before Farming (2009), 2009, (4), 1–16.

Abstract

Hunters and herders have long been distinguished in the Western Cape based on a now hotly debated model in which different cultural material dictated ethnicity and economy. Bakoond lies near Yzerfontein on the west coast of South Africa and provides observations pertinent to the debate. Stone artefacts were dominated by silcrete in the lower levels (before c 1000 BC) in both excavations with almost all other artefacts being quartz. Among the quartz the high incidence of small backed tools distinguishes the later assemblage as possibly belonging to an industry better known from Namaqualand to the north. Pottery occurs, with three sherds displaying decoration engraved into the surface post-firing; this technique has not been recorded elsewhere. With one exception, all ostrich eggshell beads were less than 6 mm maximum dimension and nine Donax scrapers, one perforated, were recovered. Although Holocene occupation began some 5500 years ago, the more interesting deposits seem to date within the last 2000 years, the period during which sheep and pottery were present in South Africa. Despite fairly substantial changes through time, the Bakoond finds offer support for the model in that the cultural signature strongly suggests occupation only by hunter-gatherer people, presumably the Bushmen, and not by Khoekhoe pastoralists.

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Orton, Jayson