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Pinnacle Point - Howiesons Poort Cave Site in South Africa

Definition:

Pinnacle Point, also known as PP13B, is the name of a sea cave in the coastal cliffs near Mossel Bay, on the southern coast of South Africa. The site includes an extensive Middle Stone Age deposit with multiple occupations, dated between 39,000 and 162,000 years ago, consisting of uncemented deposits with intermittent hearth ash.

Pinnacle Point was created by wave action during elevated sea levels, preferentially eroding out fault breccias in the South African coastline.

The first sedimentary deposits in the cave date to 400,000 years ago, during Marine Isotope Stage (MIS)11. Human occupation of the cave began about 162,000 years ago and lasted until about 90,000 years ago, when the cave was closed by sand dunes. The cave opened up again after about 40,000 years ago, although the occupation at that time was limited.

The current cave has a circular opening which faces east and overlooks the ocean: high tide meets the cliff about 15 meters (50 feet) below the cave opening. The cave floor is approximately 30 m (100 ft) long by 8 m (26 ft) wide; and it still provides shelter for local fishermen.

The cave is one of several South African Middle Stone Age sites which show multiple lenses of burned material and hearths. Recent phytolith studies at Pinnacle Point indicate that the fires included herbacious monocots and sedges, and to a lesser degree tree bark, leaves and timber.

Wood was not readily available to the residents.

The oldest levels at Pinnacle Point have been dated by a combination of optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) and uranium-thorium dating of a speleotherm to 162,000 years ago. The oldest level includes both Levallois and bladelet (Howiesons Poort-like) technologies, and hundreds of pieces of pigment (red ochre).

The largest pieces of ochre show evidence of use, haivng been either ground or scraped: the color of all the pieces is a deep, saturated, very dark red, and the source has been located some 5 kilometers (3 miles) north of the site. The faunal assemblage is limited to

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