What can geophysical geoarchaeology reveal about the archaeology and depositional history of the site of Klein Hoek 1, South Africa?

Author: Oliver Hatswell

Hatswell, Oliver, 2022 What can geophysical geoarchaeology reveal about the archaeology and depositional history of the site of Klein Hoek 1, South Africa?, Flinders University, College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences

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The primary goal of this research project was to utilise geophysical techniques to further understand the stratigraphy and archaeology of Klein Hoek 1, an open-air site located immediately adjacent to the Doring River in southern Africa. This survey utilized three geophysical methods; electrical resistivity tomography, magnetometry, and magnetic susceptibility. The results of the electrical resistivity tomography survey showed that the stratigraphic unit where an important cluster of bifacial points is located extends throughout the subsurface of the rest of the site and is at least 8 metres thick. The magnetometry survey revealed evidence of hearth anomalies within the subsurface, which are interpreted as areas of archaeological potential due to a correlation between the bifacial cluster and prehistoric burning. Finally, the magnetic susceptibility test displayed evidence of a paleosol in the subsurface on the eastern side of the site. Southern Africa is one of the most significant archaeological regions in the world due to it being one of the earliest locations of behaviourally modern humans. The bifacial cluster located on the surface of Klein Hoek 1 is one of the most important collections of bifacial points in southern Africa, as it has only recently surfaced and still maintains coherency. Southern African archaeology has a long history of focusing research on rock shelter sites at the expense of open-air sites. This is due to the lower informative return of time and costs open-air sites have due to their complicated stratigraphy and potential loss of integrity. However, rock shelters only represent limited points in the landscape and history, and thus this focus has created a perspective of southern African prehistory that does not include all the available information making it limited and biased. The results of this geophysical survey will primarily assist in future study and excavation of Klein Hoek 1. The ERT survey will provide a greater understanding of the stratigraphy of the site, while the magnetic susceptibility survey will locate any paleosols within the stratigraphy. Meanwhile, the magnetometry survey will identify any hearths within the subsurface and locate the areas of archaeological potential for future excavations. The success of this survey also demonstrates that geophysical methods are effective in a southern African open-air context. The further utilisation of geophysics in southern African archaeology could be invaluable in identifying the high archaeologically potential points of open-air sites making the study of these sites more time and cost-effective.

Keywords: archaeology, geoarchaeology, geophysics, depositional history, stratigraphy, Klein Hoek 1, Doring River, Middle Stone Age, open-air site, electrical resistivity tomography, magnetometry, magnetic susceptibility

Subject: Archaeology thesis

Thesis type: Masters
Completed: 2022
School: College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences
Supervisor: Ian Moffat