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A history of Stone Age archaeological study in South Africa

Underhill, D. (2011) A history of Stone Age archaeological study in South Africa The South African Archaeological Bulletin, 66, (193), pp. 3-14.

Record type: Article


The development of Stone Age archaeology in South Africa has a long and chequered history. It is now over 80 years since the discipline was placed on a firm, international, scientific footing. Since then, several histories of its development have been produced, although most of these focus on the country’s rich ethnography, with few discussing the development of Stone Age archaeology in any detail. However, throughout its early history, the study of the Stone Age in South Africa was tied to international developments in archaeology and strong links existed with many of the world’s leading authorities. Unfortunately, social and political developments in South Africa stunted the discipline’s growth, leaving it for many years in a form of limbo from which, I argue, it has still not fully recovered. What I present here is a review that largely follows an historical narrative of the development of Stone Age studies in the country, in which I highlight some shortcomings. Major issues discussed are a lack of accepted typological or terminological understandings of the evidence as well as the influence of individual workers’ own intuitive knowledge. It is hoped that realising the origins of these problems will aid in developing a comprehension of them. In turn it is hoped that, just as the country’s Stone Age Archaeology is re-emerging onto the international scene, this shall allow fruitful discussions on terminology to re-emerge and the country’s vast wealth of material may begin to be understood in relation to the rest of the world, and in many cases in relation to other material within South Africa itself.

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Published date: 2011
Organisations: Archaeology


Local EPrints ID: 336192
ISSN: 0038-1969
PURE UUID: 75327d95-06bd-4cd3-9a63-249b9b5e37f3

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Date deposited: 19 Mar 2012 13:59
Last modified: 18 Jul 2017 06:09

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Author: D. Underhill

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