Multidimensional GIS modeling of magnetic mineralogy as a proxy for fire use and spatial patterning: Evidence from the Middle Stone Age bearing sea cave of Pinnacle Point 13B (Western Cape, South Africa) Academic Article uri icon

abstract

  • This paper aims to identify the spatial patterning of burning and occupation within an early Middle Stone Age (MSA) sea cave in the Western Cape Province of South Africa by creating a multidimensional model of archaeomagnetic data recovered from all excavated units. Magnetic susceptibility and other mineral magnetic parameters are shown to provide an excellent proxy for the anthropogenic alteration and spread of burnt material into the surrounding unaltered cave deposits. The identification of combustion features and areas of occupation or different activities within the site can be determined because the movement of people throughout the cave mixes magnetically strong hearth material with magnetically weak unaltered sediments. This is also indicated by micromorphological analysis. The degree of enhancement is also shown to indicate the extent to which a deposit has been altered, and therefore, intensity of occupation, because multiple heatings of deposits are needed to form the concentrations of iron minerals occurring in some layers. This is further supported by a comparison with artifact density for the layers. Variation in the magnetic values between different areas of the site is noted with major occupation or fire building occurring in the front of the cave during earlier MIS 6 periods, while during later MIS 5 periods the entire cave is occupied intensively. The oldest, MIS 11 deposits at the rear of the cave indicate no evidence of enhancement and an apparent absence of any anthropogenic signature.

publication date

  • September 2010