Follow the Senqu: Maloti-Drakensberg paleoenvironments and implications for early human dispersals into mountain systems

Brian A. Stewart, Adrian G. Parker, Genevieve Dewar, Mike W. Morley, Lucy F. Allott

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

22 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The Maloti-Drakensberg Mountains are southern Africa’s highest and give rise to South Africa’s largest river, the Orange-Senqu. At Melikane Rockshelter in highland Lesotho (~1800 m a.s.l.), project AMEMSA (Adaptations to Marginal Environments in the Middle Stone Age) has documented a pulsed human presence since at least MIS 5. Melikane can be interrogated to understand when and why early modern humans chose to increase their altitudinal range. This paper presents the results of a multi-proxy paleoenvironmental analysis of this sequence. Vegetation shifts are registered against a background signal of C 3 -dominated grasslands, suggesting fluctuations in temperature, humidity and atmospheric CO 2 within a generally cool highland environment with high moisture availability. Discussing Melikane in relation to other paleoenvironmental and archeological archives in the region, a model is developed linking highland population flux to prevailing climate. It is proposed that short-lived but acute episodes of rapid onset aridity saw interior groups disperse into the highlands to be nearer to the Orange-Senqu headwaters, perhaps via the river corridor itself.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAfrica from MIS 6-2
Subtitle of host publicationPopulation Dynamics and Paleoenvironments
PublisherSpringer
Pages247-271
Number of pages25
ISBN (Print)9789401775199
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameVertebrate Paleobiology and Paleoanthropology
Number9789401775199
ISSN (Print)1877-9077

Keywords

  • Dispersals
  • Late Pleistocene
  • Later Stone Age
  • Lesotho
  • Middle Stone Age
  • Mountain foraging
  • Orange-Senqu River
  • Paleoenvironment

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    Stewart, B. A., Parker, A. G., Dewar, G., Morley, M. W., & Allott, L. F. (2016). Follow the Senqu: Maloti-Drakensberg paleoenvironments and implications for early human dispersals into mountain systems. In Africa from MIS 6-2: Population Dynamics and Paleoenvironments (pp. 247-271). (Vertebrate Paleobiology and Paleoanthropology; No. 9789401775199). Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-017-7520-5_14