Sibudu Cave

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Site type:
Site function:
Habitation site
-29.52, 31.08
South Africa

Sibudu Cave is a rock shelter in a sandstone cliff in northern KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. It is an important Middle Stone Age site occupied, with some gaps, from 77000 years ago to 38000 years ago.

Evidence of some of the earliest examples of modern human technology has been found in the shelter (although the earliest known spears date back 400000 years). The evidence in the shelter includes the earliest bone arrow (61000 years old), the earliest stone arrows (64,000 years old), the earliest needle (61000 years old), the earliest use of heat-treated mixed compound gluing (61000 years ago), and an example of the use of bedding (77000 years ago) which for a while was the oldest known example (an older example from 200000 years ago was recently discovered at Border Cave, South Africa).

The use of glues and bedding are of particular interest because the complexity of their creation and processing has been presented as evidence of continuity between early human cognition and that of modern humans.

The occupations at Sibudu are divided into pre-Still Bay, Still Bay (72000–71000 years ago), Howiesons Poort (before 61000 years ago), post-Howiesons Poort (58500 years ago), late (47700 years ago), and final Middle Stone Age phases (38600 years ago). There were occupation gaps of approximately 10000 years between the post-Howiesons Poort and the late Middle Stone Age stage, and the late and final Middle Stone periods. There was no Late Stone Age occupation, although there was an Iron Age occupation about 1000 B.C.

Evidence suggests these were dry periods and the shelter was occupied only during wet climatic conditions.