Afromontane foragers in late Pleistocene Lesotho: recent work at Melikane and Sehonghong Rock Shelters.
Recent excavations at Melikane and Sehonghong Rock Shelters in highland Lesotho’s Maluti-Drakensberg Mountains form part of a broader project exploring Middle Stone Age (MSA) adaptations to marginal environments. This high-altitude, inland research locale stands in marked contrast to the more equable Cape coastal forelands, which continue to be over-represented in southern African MSA research. Present-day Lesotho’s patchy resource distribution, highly seasonal rainfall and sharply fluctuating temperatures were almost certainly exaggerated during the late Pleistocene by the unstable, periodically periglacial climatic conditions that prevailed from Marine Isotope Stages 5-2. MSA foragers who exploited this rugged landscape, including some of the world’s earliest behaviourally modern human societies, probably faced acute logistical challenges. Recent research suggests that Holocene foragers operating in montane environments typically employ risk aversive, target-oriented strategies geared towards economic security and conservatism. By summarizing newly generated chronometric, taphonomic, palaeoenvironmental and behavioural data from Melikane and Sehonghong, this paper explores whether and to what extent comparable responses were enacted by late Pleistocene groups in highland Lesotho.
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