OSL and TL dating of the Middle Stone Age sequence at Diepkloof Rock Shelter (South Africa): a clarification

Tribolo, C.; Mercier, N.; Douville, E.; Joron, J.-L.; Reyss, J.-L.; Rufer, Daniel; Cantin, N.; Lefrais, Y.; Miller, C.E.; Porraz, G.; Parkington, J.; Rigaud, J.-P.; Texier, P.-J. (2013). OSL and TL dating of the Middle Stone Age sequence at Diepkloof Rock Shelter (South Africa): a clarification. Journal of archaeological science, 40(9), pp. 3401-3411. Elsevier 10.1016/j.jas.2012.12.001

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Diepkloof Rock Shelter offers an exceptional opportunity to study the onset and evolution of both Still Bay (SB) and Howiesons Poort (HP) techno-complexes. However, previous age estimates based on luminescence dating of burnt quartzites (Tribolo et al., 2009) and of sediments (Jacobs et al., 2008) were not in agreement. Here, we present new luminescence ages for 17 rock samples (equivalent dose estimated with a SAR-ITL protocol instead of classical MAAD-TL) as well as for 5 sediment samples (equivalent dose estimated with SAR-single grain OSL protocol) and an update of the 22 previous age estimates for burnt lithics (modified calibration and beta dose estimates). While a good agreement between the rock and sediment ages is obtained, these estimates are still significantly older than those reported by Jacobs et al. (2008). After our own analyses of the sediment from Diepkloof, it is suspected that these authors did not correctly chose the parameters for the equivalent dose determination, leading to an underestimate of the equivalent doses, and thus of the ages.

From bottom to top, the mean ages are 100 ± 10 ka for stratigraphic unit (SU) Noël and 107 ± 11 ka for SU Mark (uncharacterized Lower MSA), 100 ± 10 ka for SU Lynn-Leo (Pre-SB type Lynn), 109 ± 10 ka for SUs Kim-Larry (SB), 105 ± 10 ka for SUs Kerry-Kate and 109 ± 10 ka for SU Jess (Early HP), 89 ± 8 ka for SU Jude (MSA type Jack), 77 ± 8 ka for SU John, 85 ± 9 ka for SU Fox, 83 ± 8 ka for SU Fred and 65 ± 8 ka for SU OB5 (Intermediate HP), 52 ± 5 ka for SUs OB2-4 (Late HP).

This chronology, together with the technological analyses, greatly modifies the current chrono-cultural model regarding the SB and the HP and has important archaeological implications. Indeed, SB and HP no longer appear as short-lived techno-complexes with synchronous appearances for each and restricted to Oxygen Isotopic Stage (OIS) 4 across South Africa, as suggested by Jacobs et al. (2008, 2012). Rather, the sequence of Diepkloof supports a long chronology model with an early appearance of both SB and HP in the first half of OIS 5 and a long duration of the HP into OIS 3. These new dates imply that different technological traditions coexisted during OIS 5 and 4 in southern Africa and that SB and HP can no longer be considered as horizon markers.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geological Sciences
08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geological Sciences > Rock-Water Interaction

UniBE Contributor:

Rufer, Daniel


500 Science > 550 Earth sciences & geology
300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology








Daniel Rufer

Date Deposited:

18 Aug 2014 11:01

Last Modified:

07 Jul 2016 17:30

Publisher DOI:


Web of Science ID:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

Middle Stone Age, Howiesons Poort, Still Bay, TL, OSL





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