The technology and ecology of Lesotho's highland hunter-gatherers: A case study at Sehonghong rock shelter

Justin Pargeter, Gerrit Dusseldorp

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Here we evaluate the hypothesis that during cold climatic phases, people and resources became increasingly packed along highland Lesotho's riverine corridors as the viability of palatable grasslands for large mammal hunting on the upland plateaus declined. These intensification efforts resulted in increased reliance on lower-ranked aquatic (fish) resources with knock-on effects for lithic technological organization. We compare data on the relative contribution of fishing to the diets of highland hunter-gatherers at Sehonghong rockshelter with a faunal proxy widely argued to correlate with subsistence intensification (faunal assemblage evenness). In addition, we compare these data with two measures of lithic technological intensification (cutting edge production and core reduction intensity) to test whether diet intensification tracks technological intensification. We show that at Sehonghong, aquatic resource exploitation is not always correlated with faunal assemblage evenness. We find that some layers (i.e. RF) show spikes in aquatic resource use irrespective of changes in faunal assemblage evenness. Other layers (i.e. RBL/CLBRF) were intensively occupied, but they do not have many fish. Our data also demonstrate that aquatic resource use is not correlated with lithic technological intensification. These results suggest that while aquatic resource exploitation was a ‘fallback’ option for some of Lesotho's highland hunter-gatherers, there is considerable variability. Our data show that multiple intensification dimensions were variably combined through the Late Pleistocene at Sehonghong as they were elsewhere in southern Africa.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)138-149
    Number of pages12
    JournalQuaternary International
    StatePublished - Feb 20 2022


    • Economic intensification
    • LGM
    • Lesotho
    • Lithic technology
    • Pleistocene Later Stone Age
    • Sehonghong

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Earth-Surface Processes


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