Location: Richtersveld, South Africa
Archaeological investigations in South Africa’s rugged and remote Namaqualand desert are aimed at reconstructing the flexible survival behaviors so characteristic of our species. Ancient desert adaptations will be explored through excavations at one of three spectacular rockshelters – Spitzkloof B – and surveys in the surrounding arid landscape. Although the region boasts an extremely rich archaeological record stretching back well over 60,000 years, it remains virtually unexplored. Camping in a red-sand valley and working alongside experts in southern African prehistory, students will reconstruct ancient desert lifestyles and in the process gain experience with a range of archaeological materials, techniques and methods.
Minimum Length of Stay for Volunteers: Entire duration of field school
Room and Board Arrangements
For the first five days we will stay at Atlantic Point Backpackers in Cape Town in order prepare for the field excursion. This is when the formal lectures will be offered including tours of the local museums, the Cape Castle and the flagship Iziko South African Museum. We will then move to the field site where we will be camping. You will be required to bring your own tent, sleeping bag, air mattress etc. You will receive an information package before we leave detailing the equipment you will be responsible for. Toilet and shower facilities are very basic but functional. Our toilets are frequently renewed, open-air (but secluded) long-drops. We wash using solar showers, which everyone is required to bring. There is enough water for everyone to wash at the end of ever workday.
We bring all food and water for drinking/washing into the field. This is a rugged, isolated desert environment with absolutely no supermarkets or stores in the immediate area; the closest supermarket is a 1.5 hour drive away over rough terrain. We thus cook our own meals in the field. We take turns cooking and doing the washing up, allowing budding chefs an opportunity to wow us all. We have also built our own rock-and-sand pizza oven at the site (it works!) that we use on Sunday evenings. We eat very well with typical meals consisting of risotto, pasta, curry, pizza and even calzones. As we do not have a fridge so most meals are vegetarian with the exception of tinned tuna and dried meat (jerky, known locally as biltong). We do, however, have the occasional barbeque (meat and/or fish) on days we return from town with fresh produce and water (approximately once per week). Those who enjoy milk in their coffee/tea will also be happy to know we do have long life milk in camp. We can accommodate vegetarians, people with lactose intolerance, or who require Halal or Kosher food.
Please let us know when you apply for this program if you have special dietary needs, as well as any medical or physical conditions. We will advise you accordingly. The project is used to catering for vegetarians, those with gluten intolerance etc.
Dewar, G. & Stewart, B.A. (2012). Preliminary results of excavations at Spitzkloof Rockshelter, Richtersveld, South Africa. Quaternary International 270: 30-39.
Dewar, G. & Orton, J. (In Press). Subsistence, settlement, and material culture on the central Namaqualand coastline In: Jerardino, A., Braun, D. & Malan, A. (Eds.), Archaeology of the West Coast, South Africa. Witwatersrand University Press, Johannesburg. 44 pgs.
Dewar G. & Stewart, B.A. (In Press) Crossroads in the desert: MIS 6 to 2. In: Stewart, B.A. & Jones, S. (Eds.), Africa from MIS 6-2: Population Dynamics and Paleoenvironments. Springer, Dordecht.
Stewart, B.A. et al. (2012). Afromontane foragers of the Late Pleistocene: site formation, chronology and occupational pulsing at Melikane Rockshelter, Lesotho. Quaternary International 270: 40-60.
Stewart, B.A. & Dewar G. (n.d.). Adaptations to Marginal Environments in the Middle Stone Age (Project AMEMSA): Research Design and Goals. Unpublished report.