Dating Hominin Occupation of the Northern Namib Sand Sea, Namibia

Research output: Contribution to conferencePoster


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 across this hyperarid landscape. Whilst surface scatters are hindered by a lack of clear stratigraphy, they provide a spatially integrated record of the structuring of landscape use through time and relationships to sources of raw material and water. Omitting such sites leads to bias in our interpretations of early hominin distribution. We are investigating how and why early hominins were moving into the northern NSS, focussing on the two interdune pan sites of Namib IV (Leader et al., 2023) and Narabeb. This poster sets out the context of these archaeological sites and the stratigraphies observed.

To establish the palaeoenvironmental context of the lithics (both ESA and MSA) and fossil fauna at Namib IV we dug a series of test pits to explore the sedimentological record contained at these sites. The surface at Namib IV has a fairly complex meso-topography with a spatially patchy calcrete at the surface, and our test pits reveal a similarly complex sedimentary record across space. This includes the preserved remnant of an aeolian slip face, and elsewhere a number of horizontally bedded units beneath the calcrete. 13 samples from Namib IV were selected for luminescence dating, using pIR-IRSL feldspar methods, anticipating ages close to quartz saturation (e.g. Stone et al. (2010) in this region).

Narabeb contains predominantly MSA lithics. North of the artefact collection area is a prominent ‘ledge’ of interbedded muds and sands, previously dated using quartz OSL (Stone et al., 2010). We dug two small geotrenches associated with calcrete exposures 1.8 km further south taking samples for pIR-IRSL dating along with two sampling points in the unconsolidated dune plinth.


Leader, G.M., Bynoe, R., Marks, T., Stone, A., Efraim, K., Stratford, D., Marais, E. (2023) Revisiting the Acheulean at Namib IV in the Namib Desert, Namibia. Journal of Field Archaeology 48(5), 380-394.

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 (1-4), 35-53.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2024
EventQRA Annual Discussion Meeting 2024: Changing Resolutions in Quaternary Science - University of Manchester and Manchester Metropolitan University , Manchester, United Kingdom
Duration: 4 Jan 20247 Jan 2024


ConferenceQRA Annual Discussion Meeting 2024
Abbreviated titleQRA 2024
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


  • Drylands
  • Namib Sand Sea
  • Geoarchaeology
  • Early Stone Age (ESA)
  • Middle Stone Age (MSA)
  • Lithics
  • Quaternary Science
  • Luminescence Dating

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Manchester Environmental Research Institute


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