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date: 16 May 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This article focuses on late Pleistocene hunter-gatherer archaeologies in southern Africa. The topic concerns both the Middle Stone Age (MSA) and a possible MSA/LSA transitional phase. The discussion presents some of the archaeological finds that toppled the accepted wisdom that ‘modern culture’ and complex cognition evolved first in Europe, or not before 50–40 kya in Africa. Many questions and challenges remain, but southern Africa has a remarkable archaeological record that enables archaeologists to trace significant cognitive and behavioural trends in the evolution of hunter-gatherer societies. The ability of Homo sapiens to evolve complex cultural traditions, albeit over a very long period, allowed these hunter-gatherers to penetrate a vacant ‘cognitive niche’. The evidence discussed here shows that the modern hunter-gatherer behavioural repertoire evolved during the MSA in southern Africa.

Keywords: southern Africa, archaeological record, hunter-gatherer societies, Homo sapiens, Middle Stone Age

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