Middle Stone Age

A view of stones used as tools in the stone age.
© Arild NybÝ

Divisions into early, middle and late Stone Age exist, according to the complexity of the tools used.


Using clues left behind over the millennia, we can trace our history in southern Africa from the very beginnings of human development, some 2.5 million years ago, to the present.

The Stone Age spans a lengthy period - from about 2 million years ago, to 1 800 years ago, and gets its name from the use made of simple stone tools. Divisions into early, middle and late Stone Age exist, according to the complexity of the tools used.

During the Middle Stone Age (200 000 years ago), it is uncertain which early hominid species lived in the Kruger Park area but it is suspected that it was Homo sapiens rhodensis. Homo sapiens were much more effective hunters since they were able to make stone spear points. Indications of habitation from this period occur at Kotsini near the Shingwedzi River and at Tsendze on the Letaba River.

By 130,000 years ago, during the Middle Stone Age period, early Homo sapiens had evolved to anatomically modern Homo sapiens sapiens (note the additional sapiens that designates modern people who live all over the earth today).

Improved technology enabled people to produce increasingly more sophisticated and smaller tools and to attach some types to wooden handles, probably with mastic made from vegetable gum. This, it is thought, led to the development of stone-tipped spears and more efficient hunting.

Food remains indicate that Middle Stone Age Homo sapiens sapiens hunted all but the largest and fiercest animals. People living at the coast also ate shellfish, fish, seals, dolphins and seabirds. It is assumed that they ate a great deal of plants.

There is no evidence that these Middle Stone Age people used ornaments, although ground pieces of red ochre suggest that painting, probably body painting, may mark the beginnings of symbolism and ritual, which play a major role in present-day society.



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