Dating, Paleoenvironments, and Archaeology: A Progress Report on the Sunnyside 1 Site, Clarens, South Africa



Susan Kent had been working on a project excavating an open-air archaeological site in the eastern Free State, South Africa, at the time of her death. She had commissioned geological studies, which had indicated that the archaeological horizon was in situ, and had involved colleagues in taking dating, pollen, and phytolith samples. We decided to continue with the analysis of the samples after her death and to complete the analysis of the artifacts from the site. This multifaceted approach to understanding the context of the archaeological horizon was the background against which Susan intended to investigate the spatial distribution of the lithic material as a means of identifying activity areas at the site. This chapter reports some of the results of the continuing analysis. The archaeological horizon has been dated to around 30 ka by optically stimulated luminescence. This date supports the final Middle Stone Age or Transitional Middle Stone Age/Later Stone Age designation suggested by a preliminary analysis of part of the lithic sample. Paleoenvironmental information from the site indicates that conditions were favorable for human settlement in the eastern Free State area during this period. Although the site may not necessarily be suitable to answer all the questions Susan initially asked of it, it will certainly make a contribution to our understanding of human settlement of the area during this little-researched time period of the central interior.