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Welcome to African Archaeology!

The Journal of African Archaeology is an international peer-reviewed periodical appearing half-yearly since 2003. It publishes original papers addressing recent research and developments in African archaeology and related disciplines. The journal's main purpose is to provide scholars and students with a new pan-African forum for discussing relevant topics on the cultural dynamics of past African societies.

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Vol. 6 (1) 2008

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I. Plug & P. Mitchell

Fishing in the Lesotho Highlands: 26,000 years of fish exploitation, with special reference to Sehonghong shelter

Journal of African Archaeology, Volume 6 (1), 2008, pages 33-55, DOI 10.3213/1612-1651-10102

Abstract
Significant numbers of fish bones have been identified from three Later Stone Age sites in the Lesotho Highlands. They comprise two rock-shelters on the Sehonghong River, Sehonghong and Pitsaneng, and one open-air campsite on the banks of the Senqu River, Likoaeng. Pitsaneng was occupied during the second millennium AD and Likoaeng for much of the Post-classic Wilton, ca 4000-1200 bp. Sehonghong, in contrast, has a history of fish exploitation spanning at least 26,000 years, from before the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) to the second millennium AD. Fish were identified from all levels of this site, but three distinct periods can be distinguished when fishing was of particular importance, namely around 20,000 bp, 12,200 bp and again after 1700 bp. The same five species were identified throughout the deposits. Labeobarbus aeneus overwhelmingly dominates all the assemblages, but Labeo capensis and Austroglanis sclateri may have become more important during the Holocene. Standard Length estimates reveal that fishes caught during the Holocene were mostly of pre-breeding size, whereas the fishes caught during the Pleistocene were mostly of breeding age. Sehonghong and Pitsaneng show similarities in the relative abundances of different fish, but present a marked contrast with Likoaeng. The likely ages of the fish also differ. Overall, the Sehonghong sequence confirms the late Pleistocene antiquity of fishing in the interior of southern Africa and helps contest suggestions that fishing only became important in the late Holocene.

Abstract
Des quantités significatives d'os de poissons sont identifiées dans trois gisements de la fin de l'âge de pierre (LSA) dans les montagnes du Lessouto. Ces gisements comprennent Sehonghong et Pitsaneng, deux abris au bord du fleuve Sehonghong, et Likoaeng, un gisement en plein air aux rives du fleuve Senqu. Pitsaneng a été occupé pendant le second millénaire ap. J.-C., alors que Likoaeng a été occupé pendant presque toute la période de l'industrie du Wilton post-classique, ca 4000-1200 bp. A Sehonghong, au contraire, on a pu retracer une histore de l'exploitation des poissons qui embrasse au moins 26000 ans, commençant avant le maximum de la dernière glaciation (LGM) et se prolongeant au second millénaire ap. J.-C. Dans ce gisement, on a identifié des poissons dans tous les niveaux stratigraphiques, néanmoins on peut distinguer trois époques pendant lesquelles la pêche était d'une importance particulière : environ 20000 bp, environ 12200 bp et encore une fois après 1700 bp. Les cinq mêmes espèces sont identifiées dans les trois gisements. Labeobarbus aeneus domine d'une manière accablante tous les assemblages, mais il est possible que Labeo capensis et Austroglanis sclateri soient devenus plus importants pendant l'Holocène. Les calculs de la longeur standard montrent que la majorité des poissons attrapés pendant l'Holocène étaient sexuellement immatures (taille inférieure à celle atteinte à l'âge de reproduction), alors que la majorité des poissons attrapés pendant le Pléistocène étaient en âge de se reproduire (taille supérieure ou égale à celle atteinte à l'âge de reproduction). Sehonghong et Pitsaneng montrent des similarités dans les abondances relatives des différentes espèces, mais tous les deux offrent un contraste marqué avec Likoaeng. Les âges probables des poissons sont aussi différents. En somme, la séquence découverte à Sehonghong confirme l'antiquité pléistocène de la pêche à l'intérieur de l'Afrique méridionale et nous aide a contester la proposition selon laquelle celle-ci est devenue importante seulement pendant l'Holocène tardif.




Keywords: fishing, Holocene, Last Glacial Maximum, last glacial maximum, Late Pleistocene, Lesotho, seasonality


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