What is it about?
The Mid-Holocene Altithermal (MHA) was a period analogous to the current climate change scenario. In terms of the west coast of South Africa, the MHA consisted in a general reduction in precipitation and vegetation cover and also higher sea levels around 2-3 meters than today, resulting in dramatic shoreline and habitat changes along this coastline. Archaeologists thought initially that people avoided this region altogether because it was inhospitable. Nevertheless, this study shows that people did visit the South African west coast, and that they did so by adopting a few useful strategies: forming small groups, moving frequently, and settling near sources of water. Also, groups moved over large distances in order to procure particular rocks for making the tool kits used in hunting, working with hides, and other tasks. Local shellfish colonies are plentiful today, but they were less productive then because of unfavourable growing conditions due to high sediment abundances that were brought about by rising sea levels. People ate some marine foods (such as seals, shellfish, lobsters), but focussed on terrestrial animals that are well adapted to arid conditions, such as small antelopes and tortoises. There are also many undatable sites (due to lack of organics) near local rivers, but with a formal tool profile very similar to that in sites radiocarbon dated to the MHA. It is thus possible that the central west coast was visited more often than previously thought.
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This page is a summary of: Human Resilience in the Face of Mid-Holocene Climate Change on the Central West Coast of South Africa, Journal of African Archaeology, January 2022, Brill,
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