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New Radiocarbon Dates and Bayesian Models for Nelson Bay Cave and Byneskranskop 1: Implications for the South African Later Stone Age Sequence

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 March 2016

Emma Loftus*
Research Laboratory for Archaeology, University of Oxford, Dyson Perrins Building, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3QU, United Kingdom.
Judith Sealy
Department of Archaeology, University of Cape Town, Private Bag X3, Rondebosch 7701, South Africa.
Julia Lee-Thorp
Research Laboratory for Archaeology, University of Oxford, Dyson Perrins Building, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3QU, United Kingdom.
*Corresponding author. Email:


The southern African Later Stone Age sequence is widely considered to be well dated based on radiocarbon dates from dozens of archaeological sites, and apparently shows more or less synchronous cultural shifts across an extensive area. Yet, closer examination reveals the inadequacy of many of the decades-old and uncalibrated individual site chronologies that underpin this regional chronology, making robust comparisons of the chronology of technological change across this region impossible. Here, we present 26 new AMS 14C dates and Bayesian modeled chronologies for two important archaeological cave sites in southernmost Africa, Nelson Bay Cave and Byneskranskop 1. The results provide more robust age estimates for these cultural and paleoenvironmental sequences and revise interpretations of these sites in several instances. This project demonstrates the necessity of redating key sites, and the value of currently underutilized methods, including calibration and Bayesian modeling, for southern African archaeology.

Research Article
© 2016 by the Arizona Board of Regents on behalf of the University of Arizona 

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