70 years later – New research at Holley Shelter, a Middle and Later Stone Age site in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa





Middle Stone Age, KwaZulu-Natal, palaeoenvironment, cultural evolution, human-landscape interaction


In 1952, Gordon Cramb published the first report on his excavations at Holley Shelter, in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Although Cramb’s work implied organic preservation associated with a unique stone tool assemblage from a Middle Stone Age (MSA) context, Holley Shelter disappeared from the archaeological landscape until 2015, when we provided a reinvestigation of the lithic assemblages from the 1950s. Our study indicated a tentative chronological framework around Marine Isotope Stage 3 (MIS3) for the human occupation of the site. However, Cramb’s excavations did not produce reliable chronometric ages and the botanical and zoological finds from Holley Shelter remain for the most part unstudied. This is problematic as the site constitutes one of the few inland MSA rock shelters of KwaZulu-Natal featuring organic preservation. In 2022, 70 years after Cramb’s first report, we started a new research project focusing on renewed excavations to obtain archaeological remains from a controlled stratigraphy, absolute chronometric ages and reliable data on the palaeoenvironment at the border between the coastal belt and the midlands of KwaZulu-Natal. Here, we provide initial results from the first field campaign in 2022 on the stratigraphic sequence and archaeological finds and discuss their implications for future multidisciplinary research.


  • Environmental change can have a strong impact on hunter-gatherer behaviour, migration and technological choices. It is thus crucial to contextualise archaeological material with a strong palaeoenvironmental record.
  • The inland of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, represents an understudied region in terms of Stone Age archaeological sites and palaeoenvironmental record.
  • Holley Shelter is one of the few sites in South Africa with excellent organic preservation and a deep stratigraphic record, which provide a great opportunity to investigate human-landscape interaction and technological change throughout the Middle and Later Stone Age.


Metrics Loading ...



How to Cite

Bader, G. D., & Will, M. (2022). 70 years later – New research at Holley Shelter, a Middle and Later Stone Age site in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. South African Journal of Science, 118(11/12). https://doi.org/10.17159/sajs.2022/14069



Research Letter