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An Unsolved Mystery at the Howieson's Poort Name Site

Janette Deacon
The South African Archaeological Bulletin
Vol. 50, No. 162 (Dec., 1995), pp. 110-120
DOI: 10.2307/3889060
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3889060
Page Count: 11
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An Unsolved Mystery at the Howieson's Poort Name Site
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Abstract

A small rock shelter in the Howieson's Poort on the western side of Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape was excavated by Father P. Stapleton and Dr John Hewitt in 1927. The stone artefacts from a single occupation horizon were assigned by Goodwin and Van Riet Lowe to the Middle Stone Age and, later, were regarded as intermediate between the Middle and Later Stone Ages. Charcoal recovered from further excavations at the name site by H.J. and J. Deacon in 1965 was dated to between c. 19 000 and c. 4000 BP, but dates for Howieson's Poort occurrences elsewhere in southern Africa are much older. Evaluation of the 1965 sample and of the stratigraphic evidence suggests that the artefacts were in primary context and do not include elements from more recent occupation events, yet the radiocarbon dates are not an accurate reflection of the age of the artefacts. The mystery of how such young charcoal could be associated with such old artefacts remains unsolved.

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