Tools for change

The Klipdrift Complex

The Klipdrift Complex provides a unique opportunity to study two sites that are in close proximity and have an association that spans the Middle Stone Age (MSA) through to the Later Stone Age (LSA). The archaeological sequence at the complex shows substantial evidence for material culture change through time.

The Klipdrift Complex South Africa
THE KLIPDRIFT COMPLEX: The Complex consists of Klipdrift Shelter and Klipdrift Cave.
Ole Fredrik Unhammer

Main content

The complex is located within coastal cliffs in the De Hoop Nature Reserve, situated along the southern Cape coast of South Africa. Excavations commenced in 2010, led by Christopher Henshilwood, and the complex consists of Klipdrift Shelter and Klipdrift Cave.

Exceptional preservation

Klipdrift Shelter contains rich MSA deposits that are at least 65 000 years old. The preservation of faunal remains and other objects is exceptional at the site. The distinct layers at the shelter have yielded engraved ostrich eggshell, hominin teeth, marine shells and terrestrial fauna. Klipdrift Cave contains LSA material dated between 13 000 to 10 000 years ago. Analyses of the deposits have aided the interpretation of lithic technology, shellfish subsistence patterns and climate change during this time period.

Significant stone tools

Klipdrift Shelter is recognised as only one of a few sites that contain a long archaeological sequence of Howiesons Poort typified stone tools. Howiesons Poort is one of the significant stone tool periods that typifies changes in technology and culture during the MSA. Analysis of the stone tool assemblage at Klipdrift Shelter has highlighted the cultural changes that occurred during the transition to the post-Howiesons Poort period. These changes are associated with the complex behaviours of the early Homo sapiens in southern Africa. A change in the tool production methods may be an indication of cultural changes relating to subsistence economy strategies.