Karen Loise Van Niekerk
- Phone+47 55 58 38 14
- Visitor AddressØysteinsgate 3
- Postal AddressPostboks 78055020 Bergen
SapienCE - Tracing the origins of behaviourally modern Homo sapiens in southern Africa
Our project focuses explicitly on the period between 100-50 ka (thousand years ago), a time of remarkable technological and behavioural expansion amongst ancestral modern humans. This project is unique and innovative in taking a macro and micro-scale approach to examine the links between material culture, innovation, subsistence and micro-environments. Currently we have only episodic views or ‘snapshots’ of early human behaviour. Also existing ages of occupations at post-100 ka archaeological sites in southern Africa are queried and need review, as does the reliance on environmental proxies disconnected from the human record. Focusing on the southern Cape, a key locus for early human occupation, our research teams analysed materials excavated from three Middle Stone Age archaeological sites Blombos Cave, Klipdrift Shelter, Klipdrift Cave Lower and one Later Stone Age site, Klipdrift Cave. Our 2015-2016 published results about these sites have demonstrated their unequalled richness and integrity, and highlights their ground-breaking contribution to our understanding of modern humans in this region, indeed for Africa as a whole. The benefits of our team using precision excavation and recording techniques, innovative analytical and dating methods, and new theoretical approaches are demonstrated in our publications that highlight the behavioural innovations and subsistence practices that emerged in this region after 100 ka. Additionally our publications have directly linked these cultural records to changing environmental conditions observed in site-based archives. Our integrated macro- and microscale approach is defining a new paradigm in international archaeological research. With our inter-disciplinary team of archaeologists, dating specialists and climatologists, we believe that our research group will continue to establish a new scientific standard for assessing the relationships between human culture and the natural world in which it operates.
- 2018. An abstract drawing from the 73,000-year-old levels at Blombos Cave, South Africa. Nature. 562: 115-118. doi: 10.1038/s41586-018-0514-3
- 2018. Shellfishing at Klipdrift Cave during the Oakhurst, ca. 12–10 ka, in the southern Cape coast, South Africa: human predation pressure, dietary and climatic implications.
- 2017. Identifying early modern human ecological niche expansions and associated cultural dynamics in the South African Middle Stone Age. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 114: 7869-7876. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1620752114
- 2016. Large mammal remains from the 100 ka Middle Stone Age layers of Blombos Cave, South Africa. South African Archaeological Bulletin. 71: 46-52.
- 2016. Climate, environment and early human innovation: Stable isotope and faunal proxy evidence from archaeological sites (98-59ka) in the southern Cape, South Africa. PLOS ONE. 11:e0157408. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0157408
- 2017. The Technology of the Early Oakhurst Lithic Techno-Complex from Klipdrift Cave, Southern Cape, South Africa. African Archaeological Review. 34: 93-119. doi: 10.1007/s10437-017-9246-2
- 2016. Occupational intensity and environmental changes during the Howiesons Poort at Klipdrift Shelter, southern Cape, South Africa. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology. 449: 349-364. doi: 10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.02.035
- 2016. Blombos Cave: Middle Stone Age ochre differentiation through FTIR, ICP OES, ED XRF and XRD. Quaternary International. 404: 20-29. doi: 10.1016/j.quaint.2015.09.041
- 2016. Subsistence strategies in the southern Cape during the Howiesons Poort: Taphonomic and zooarchaeological analyses of Klipdrift Shelter, South Africa. Quaternary International. 404: 2-19. doi: 10.1016/j.quaint.2015.07.041
- 2015. A human deciduous molar from the Middle Stone Age (Howiesons Poort) of Klipdrift Shelter, South Africa. Journal of Human Evolution. 82: 190-196. doi: 10.1016/j.jhevol.2015.03.001
- 2014. Rock hyraxes (Procavia capensis) from Middle Stone Age levels at Blombos Cave, South Africa. African Archaeological Review. 31: 25-43. doi: 10.1007/s10437-014-9154-7
- 2013. Thinking strings: Additional evidence for personal ornament use in the Middle Stone Age at Blombos Cave, South Africa. Journal of Human Evolution. 64: 500-517. doi: 10.1016/j.jhevol.2013.02.001
- 2014. Klipdrift Shelter, southern Cape, South Africa: preliminary report on the Howiesons Poort layers. Journal of Archaeological Science. 45: 284-303. doi: 10.1016/j.jas.2014.01.033
- 2011. A 100,000-Year-Old Ochre-Processing Workshop at Blombos Cave, South Africa. Science. 334: 219-222. doi: 10.1126/science.1211535
- 2012. Middle Stone Age shellfish exploitation: Potential indications for mass collecting and resource intensification at Blombos Cave and Klasies River, South Africa. Quaternary International. 270: 80-94. doi: 10.1016/j.quaint.2011.09.003
DISSEMINATION OF RESEARCH IN POPULAR MEDIA
There have been many articles on our research in international newspapers including front page articles in The Times and New York Times, and numerous articles in popular journals including New Scientist, Scientific American, National Geographic Magazine and Time.
Following the publication of our 2011 paper in Science on the Blombos Cave ochre processing toolkits, 794 articles appeared in the popular press in 66 countries with a potential viewership of nearly 600 million people (Newsclip Media Monitoring).
Our work as a team has been widely publicised on CNN, BBC, CBC, National Geographic, Japanese, Scandinavian and other European television channels.
In January, 2015, our work at Blombos Cave & Klipdrift featured on the cover, and as the lead story, in National Geographic Magazine.
Link to our latest dissemination programme
POPULAR ARTICLES (selected)
· Henshilwood, Christopher; Van Niekerk, Karen Loise. 2016. What excavated beads tell us about the when and where of human evolution. The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/profiles/christopher-henshilwood-222991
· National Geographic Magazine 2015 http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2015/01/first-artists/walter-text
· Dybas, C.L. 2013. Ripple marks—The story behind the story. Oceanography 26(3):10–13, http://dx.doi.org/10.5670/oceanog.2013.69
· Dybas, C.L. 2013. Article on Blombos Cave in Oceanography . http://www.tos.org/oceanography/archive/26-3_dybas.html#abstract
· Henshilwood, C. & van Niekerk, K. 2012. Middle Stone Age Chemists: A 100,000 Year Old Pigment Processing Workshop at Blombos Cave, South Africa. The Digging Stick.
· Jeff Tollefson, 2012. Human evolution: Cultural roots. Nature 482, 290–292 (16 February 2012) doi:10.1038/482290a http://www.nature.com/news/human-evolution-cultural-roots-1.10025
2011 PhD in Archaeology, University of Cape Town, South Africa. Title: Marine fish exploitation during the Middle and Later Stone Age of South Africa
2005 M. Phil in Archaeology (cum laude), University of Bergen, Norway. Title: The Archaeology of Fishing: Establishing a Comparative Collection and Subsequent Analysis of Marine Fish Bone from Holocene levels at Blombos Cave, South Africa
2002 BSc Honours (cum laude), University of Cape Town, South Africa. Title: An analysis of the archaeological freshwater fish remains from Rose Cottage Cave
1993 Diploma in Jewellery manufacture and design, Ruth Prowse School of Art, Cape Town, South Africa
Klipdrift Shelter, southern Cape, South Africa - excavation and analysis of the cultural and faunal material from the Middle Stone Age Howiesons Poort and Post Howiesons Poort technocomplexes (60-65ka)
Klipdrift Cave, southern Cape, South Africa - analysis of faunal and cultural remains from the Later Stone Age layers dating to the Oakhurst period (c. 10-14ka)
Blombos Cave, southern Cape, South Africa - excavation and analysis of marine fauna and cultural artefacts from the Middle Stone Age layers dating to between 100 and 70ka