Situated on the southwestern seaboard of Africa, Namibia is one of the driest places on Earth. This is also the world’s most thinly populated country after Mongolia. Yet it has the longest archaeological record of all the southern hemisphere desert regions, with evidence of occupation by modern humans and their ancestors stretching over the last one million years.
Although there are few deep stratified deposits, exceptionally well preserved surface accumulations exist, with abundant Pleistocene lithic remains. Holocene occupation evidence is common throughout Namibia, including one of the largest and most complex bodies of rock art in the whole of Africa. Namibia also has an unusual archaeological record of indigenous responses to early colonial trading contact, and other historical remains, including relatively undisturbed World War I battlefield sites.
- Historic Period The last 500 years (1500 CE to present): increasing contact with European and early African states
- Holocene 10 000 years to present: development of complex hunter-gatherer economies
- Pleistocene 2 million years to 10 000 years: intermittent occupation by modern humans
Detailed archaeological research in Namibia began nearly one hundred years ago and there is a long tradition of area survey, a relatively well dated sequence, and a large accumulation of documented rock art. Archaeological institutions are under-developed, however, and significant threats are posed by accelerated development and a burgeoning tourism industry.
Among several current research initiatives, the Namib Desert Archaeological Survey represents the largest area study yet undertaken in Namibia. Archaeological sites in the Namib Desert provide unique proxy evidence of human responses to climatic shifts in a hyper-arid environment. The project is a self-financing effort mainly based on archaeological assessments for the mining industry.
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