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Animal remains from Likoaeng, an open-air river site, and its place in the post-classic Wilton of Lesotho and eastern Free State, South Africa

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Publication details

JournalSouth African Journal of Science
DatePublished - Mar 2003
Number of pages9
Pages (from-to)143-152
Original languageEnglish


In several regions of southern Africa, Late Holocene post-classic Wilton assemblages (from c. 4000 BP) are associated with evidence of social and economic intensification. In this paper, we draw attention to Likoaeng, a newly excavated site in the Lesotho highlands, where fishing appears to have been the dominant subsistence activity. While analysis of the fish fauna recovered there continues, we concentrate here on reporting in detail the mammal, bird, reptile and mollusc assemblages from the first season’s excavation at the site. Likoaeng is unique in that it has good bone preservation, not previously encountered at inland open-air, Later Stone Age sites. It is the largest faunal sample (fish excluded) to date recovered in Lesotho associated with the post-classic Wilton. To establish the place of Likoaeng within the post-classic Wilton, the remains are compared with those found in shelter sites in Lesotho and the eastern Free State that share comparable environmental conditions. Possible differences or similarities in respect of species composition, skeletal remains and bone preservation are discussed. Some of the taxa represented are not known historically from Lesotho. Remains also reflect both the open-air nature of the site as well as the riverine environment. Likoaeng provides a glimpse of life on a specialized camp site. It shows a major shift in the subsistence strategies represented by the upper and lower layers, from predominantly hunting in the latter to mainly fishing in the later period. The site provides evidence of specialization within the post-classic Wilton period. Compared with others in the region dating to the same period, Likoaeng was an important site, intensively occupied for very short periods at a time. The possibility that these occupation pulses were associated with aggregation activities is examined.

Bibliographical note

Reproduced with permission from South African Journal of Science.

    Research areas

  • post-classic Wilton assemblages, bone preservation, Later Stone Age

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