Simon Se Klip at Steenbokfontein: the settlement pattern of a built pastoralist encampment on the West Coast of South Africa

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South African Archaeological Bulletin

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University of Cape Town

A major topic in southern African archaeology, particularly in the Western Cape, concerns the differentiation of herder from hunter gatherer signatures. Argument has largely focused on the interpretation of direct evidence, in the form of remains from domestic animals, and more indirect evidence, in the form of cultural markers derived from the typology of stone implements and ceramics, and average size of ostrich eggshell beads. Current views suggest a spectrum from hunter-gatherers to hunter-gatherers with sheep to herders and finally to pastoralists, the latter having both a strong economic and cosmological involvement with livestock. However, the assignment of individual sites and assemblages, particularly small ones, to these categories can be elusive. Simon Se Klip provides an alternative source of evidence relevant to this issue, namely settlement pattern. This is the first time in the Western Cape that the use of stone as a building material has enabled the virtually complete reconstruction of a precolonial settlement. The first millennium builders were able to provide controlled access and secure penning for their livestock by taking advantage of natural topographical features of the site and augmenting these with rather minimal stone walling. Domestic areas were also partly defined by linear arrangements of rocks. The pattern demonstrates that livestock were a central concern for this pastoralist community.