The Kalahari sediments and hominins in southern Africa

A. Matmon*, S. Vainer, A. Hidy, A. Kuzmenko, F. E. Ekhardt, S. Master, M. Wendorff, M. De Wit, M. Shaw, A. S.T.E.R. Team, D. Fink, M. Chazan

*Corresponding author for this work

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The temporal coupling of the structural evolution of the Kalahari Basin and the accumulation of the Kalahari Group sediments has been an accepted paradigm leading to the assumption that the Kalahari group sediments have been accumulating gradually since the mid-Cretaceous. Here we review the first actual ages for the Kalahari Group based on cosmogenic ages from six geological localities. These results demonstrate that Kalahari Basin infill was a more dynamic process than previously thought and that the Kalahari Group sediments are mostly Plio-Pleistocene in age (∼4 Ma to 1–2 Ma). The hiatus between the initial structural subsidence of the basin, during the Cretaceous, and the general young age of the investigated sediments, implies a dynamic landscape in which significant phases of erosion occurred during the Mesozoic and Cenozoic. The magnitude of erosion is manifested by the fact that in many locations Kalahari Neogene to Quaternary sediments overlie Precambrian basement. The age of the present infill of the Kalahari thus falls within the temporal range of the genus Homo. In light of this new understanding, we provide a review of the archaeological evidence from the Kalahari Basin and along its southern fringe. Initial hominin presence is found at Wonderwerk Cave during the Olduvai Event and there is subsequent high-density occupation along the southern fringe of the Kalahari Basin during the Acheulean and the Fauresmith. Middle Stone Age occupation is limited to localities of limited size and small artifact counts and it appears that the focus of human occupation, particularly in the later stages of the Middle Stone Age, shifts southward, including along the coastal regions.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number108716
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
StatePublished - 15 Jun 2024

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  • Cosmogenic burial ages
  • Early stone Age
  • Fauresmith
  • Kalahari basin
  • Kalahari group sediments
  • Middle stone Age


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