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date: 01 October 2022

Hafting Technology in the Stone Age of Southern Africalocked

Hafting Technology in the Stone Age of Southern Africalocked

  • Margaret-Ashley VeallMargaret-Ashley VeallCanadian Conservation Institute


Composite, multi-component tool technologies held together by means of a join (or haft) have a well-established record within southern Africa, temporally spanning the region’s Middle Stone Age through the Later Stone Age to historic and ethnographic narratives. The use of hafting adhesives, the glue of composite technologies, is a similarly well-established phenomenon, ensuring that users can create reliable, maintainable tools. The main organic components of these malleable technologies are sourced from plant exudates, including resins, gums, and latexes derived from several plant families, alongside animal fats, waxes, and inorganic minerals.

Hafting adhesive finds within southern Africa’s archaeological record broadly fit into three categories: complete or relatively complete hafted implements, trace on inserts, and lumps of material. The frequency and location of these largely organic artefacts are invariably associated with differential preservation and regions where significant archaeological surveys have been conducted since the 1960s. Compositional information of hafting adhesives, however, comes from disparate sources: a handful of archaeometric studies on chemical composition from Middle Stone Age and Later Stone Age contexts as well as historic and ethnographic observations. Ethnographic accounts have provided models in the complexity of adhesive manufacture and ingredient acquisition, while archaeological case studies in chemical composition of adhesives emphasize differences in adhesive production and the use of resources that are wholly absent from the records of the last two centuries. Despite these discrepancies, research demonstrates that these components of composite tools remain high-value commodities in their own right and more than a step in the chaîne opératoire of a composite implement.


  • Archaeology

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