Pinnacle Point 13B

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-34.2, 22.08
South Africa
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Pinnacle Point is a small promontory immediately south of Mossel Bay which is a town on the southern coast of South Africa. Excavations since the year 2000 of a series of caves at Pinnacle Point have revealed occupation by Middle Stone Age people between 170,000 and 40,000 years ago. The focus of excavations has been at Pinnacle Point Cave 13B (PP13B), where the earliest evidence for the systematic exploitation of marine resources (shellfish) and symbolic behavior has been documented, and at Pinnacle Point Cave 5–6 (PP5–6), where the oldest evidence for the heat treatment of rock to make stone tools has been documented. The only human remains have been recovered from younger deposits at PP13B which are c. 100,000 years old.

At PP13B, the evidence for symbolic behavior comes in the form of scraped and ground ochre (usually referred to as limonite-bearing powders) that may have been used to form a pigment for body painting. This is similar to more complex ochre utilization known from Blombos Cave slightly farther to the west at roughly 70,000 years ago. These discoveries contradict the classical hypothesis that the modern behavior emerged only 40,000 years ago and was reached through a "large cultural leap". The harsh climate and reduced food resources may have been why people moved to the shore at Pinnacle Point, where they could eat marine creatures like shellfish, whale, and seal.

Also at PP13B are an anomalous quantity of dicotyledonous tree leaf phytoliths in sediments that are roughly 90,000 years old. Though alteration of phytoliths introduces uncertainty to these findings, the quantity of tree phytoliths relative to grass phytoliths has been suggested to indicate a history of wood burning in hearths.