Dating Hominin Occupation of the Northern Sand Sea, Namibia

  • Stone, A. (Speaker)
  • Dominic Stratford (Speaker)
  • Ted Marks (Speaker)
  • Rachel Bynoe (Speaker)
  • Kaarina Efraim (Speaker)
  • Eugene Marais (Speaker)
  • Rachel Smedley (Speaker)
  • George Leader (Speaker)

Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentationResearch


The Namib Sand Sea (NSS) is one of the oldest deserts on Earth, representing a significant challenge to human occupation yet, despite these challenges, Early Stone Age (ESA) and Middle Stone Age (MSA) tools are found in multiple areas across this hyper-arid landscape. Consisting of surface scatters with no clear stratigraphy or means of chronological control, these sites have been largely overlooked, biassing our interpretations of early hominin distribution and adaptations to arid, marginal environments. The NSS offers a unique opportunity to redress this balance, with ESA and MSA lithics attesting to multiple occupations of the area over the last 300 ka, if not past 1 Ma. This project aims to investigate how and why early hominins were moving into the northern NSS, focussing on the two interdune pan sites of Namib IV and Narabeb. This requires us to understand: (i) the age, technology, raw material procurement strategies and function of the lithics, (ii) the association between lithics, fossil fauna and sediments and (iii) the palaeoenvironmental context of the lithics and fossil fauna. Luminescence dating will be instrumental in addressing (i) and (iii) Twelve samples at Namib IV were taken in July 2022, four (two each from two test pits) underneath a fossil-bearing bed in the SE corner, two within a geotrench ~10 m west of that, four within a geotrench at the southern end of the pan, and two from a dune flank close to that southern geotrench. Four samples were taken at Narabeb, also in July 2022, one within each of two test pits dug under a calcrete-rich layer, and one at each of two sites with dune-sand at the surface. These are ~1 km south of an existing luminescence chronology at Narabeb obtained on sand-rich units, interbedded with water-lain muds with ages centred ~110 ka (which was close to quartz signal saturation) (Stone et al., 2010). This poster sets out the context of these archaeological sites and the stratigraphies observed, alongside our proposed approach to dating using post-IR IRSL protocols to extend the achievable age range.

Stone, A., Thomas, D.S.G., Viles, H.A. (2010). Late Quaternary palaeohydrological changes in the northern Namib Sand Sea: New chronologies using OSL dating of interdigitated aeolian and water-lain interdune deposits. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 288 (2010) 35–53.
Period7 Sept 20229 Sept 2022
Event titleUK Luminescence and ESR meeting 2022
Event typeConference
LocationEghamShow on map
Degree of RecognitionNational