Overview

  • Despite the stereotype of our ancestors as cavemen who lived underground, archaeologists and anthropologists believe archaic humans spent most of their time in the open air.
  • However, caves preserve evidence of early human activity that might not have lasted outdoors.
  • Wonderwerk in South Africa is the earliest known inhabited cave, having been occupied on and off for 2 million years.
  • Archaeologists have been excavating and studying the cave since the 1940s.
  • Their finds include early evidence of ritual activity, early stone tools, the oldest known example of human carving, and the oldest known evidence of human-controlled fire.

Resources

Bamford, Marion K. “Macrobotanical Remains from Wonderwerk Cave (Excavation 1), Oldowan to Late Pleistocene (2 Ma to 14 Ka Bp), South Africa.” African Archaeological Review 32, no. 4 (December 1, 2015): 813–38.

Berna, Francesco, Paul Goldberg, Liora Kolska Horwitz, James Brink, Sharon Holt, Marion Bamford, and Michael Chazan. “Microstratigraphic Evidence of in Situ Fire in the Acheulean Strata of Wonderwerk Cave, Northern Cape Province, South Africa.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 109, no. 20 (May 15, 2012): E1215–20.

Chazan, Michael, D. Margaret Avery, Marion K. Bamford, Francesco Berna, James Brink, Yolanda Fernandez-Jalvo, Paul Goldberg, et al. “The Oldowan Horizon in Wonderwerk Cave (South Africa): Archaeological, Geological, Paleontological and Paleoclimatic Evidence.” Journal of Human Evolution 63, no. 6 (December 2012): 859–66.

Chazan, Michael, and Liora Kolska Horwitz. “Milestones in the Development of Symbolic Behaviour: A Case Study from Wonderwerk Cave, South Africa.” World Archaeology 41, no. 4 (December 1, 2009): 521–39.

Chazan, Michael, Hagai Ron, Ari Matmon, Naomi Porat, Paul Goldberg, Royden Yates, Margaret Avery, Alexandra Sumner, and Liora Kolska Horwitz. “Radiometric Dating of the Earlier Stone Age Sequence in Excavation I at Wonderwerk Cave, South Africa: Preliminary Results.” Journal of Human Evolution 55, no. 1 (July 1, 2008): 1–11.