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Namaqualand, Later Stone Age, Little Ice Age, interaction, hunter-herders
This paper describes the first excavations of Spitzkloof D rockshelter located in the semi-arid desert of northern Namaqualand, South Africa. The site is in a dry river valley 30 km south of the Orange River, which currently acts as a lifeline for pastoralists with mixed sheep and goat herds. A surface survey of the site revealed pottery, lithics, domesticate remains, ostrich eggshell (OES) fragments and jewellery, glass beads and iron fragments. The stratigraphy is complex reflecting multiple occupations with six layers consisting of large hearths, ash deposits, and multiple pits, some with potential votive (faunal) offerings in their base. Faunal analysis reveals a broad subsistence strategy consisting of low-intensity sheep-keeping combined with the hunting of wild species found on the landscape today. The presence of Equus zebra, a locally extinct water obligate species, suggests occupation during a climatic period that was more humid than today. Radiocarbon dates from the upper layers confirm a Little Ice Age occupation between AD 1667-1936, when the region was cooler and wetter, and a peak in radiocarbon dates indicates a population pulse in the region. Glass trade beads, iron implements, OES beads, as well as fish remains and a limpet shell, potentially indicate that the people occupying Spitzkloof D were part of an extensive trade/interaction network. Future analysis will include increasing sample sizes through continued excavation, detailed lithic analysis, and further radiocarbon dating.