Diepkloof rock shelter is an important Middle Stone Age cave site, located on the Atlantic coast of Western Cape Province of South Africa, about 180 kilometers (112 miles) north of Cape Town. The 3.1 meter (10 ft) thick Middle Stone Age deposits include evidence of both Still Bay and Howiesons Poort techno-complexes, spanning Marine Isotope Stages 5d and the beginning of MIS 3, or about 115,000-60,000 years ago.
Diepkloof"s three square meter (32 square feet) across deposits are remarkable for the recovery of engraved ostrich egg shells and ochre fragments, as well as exceptional preservation of organic material including seeds, flowers and twigs.
Radiocarbon, thermoluminescence and optical luminescence dating techniques have each been brought to bear on the archaeological deposits, to date and identify the stratigraphic units apparent at the site. The site record, while not perfect, provides important evidence concerning the dating and technological capacities of early modern humans in South Africa.
Human remains recovered from Diepkloof are restricted to two pedal phalanges and a deciduous first molar, all early modern humans.
Dates from Diepkloof (greatly simplified here) add to the growing data on early modern human behaviors in South Africa represented by technologically distinct artifact traditions, including but not limited to Howiesons Poort (HP) and Still Bay (SB), and indicating that both were present in South Africa by 100 ka.
Diepkloof"s deposits contain evidence for behavioral modernity with activities such as collecting raw material for stone tools from long-distance sources (~105ka, early HP), engraving abstract decorations on ostrich egg shell containers (~105 ka, early HP and ~83ka, intermediate HP), and using a hafting adhesive (early HP, 105 ka and intermediate HP, ~83ka). Ochre powder production is in evidence at Diepkloof beginning at least 107ka, and non-local ochre sources are present by ~77ka. Soft-hammer percussion to produce blades, and geometric backed pieces are in evidence by 100ka