Palaeotopography of a Palaeolithic landscape at Bestwood 1, South Africa, from ground-penetrating radar and magnetometry

  • Konstantinos S. Papadimitrios Department of Earth Sciences, University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • Carl-Georg Bank Department of Earth Sciences, University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • Steven J. Walker Department of Archaeology, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
  • Michael Chazan 1. Department of Anthropology, University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada 2. Institute of Evolutionary Studies, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
Keywords: archaeology, geophysical survey, Fauresmith, human evolution, landscape archaeology


In order to investigate the buried landscape at the Fauresmith locality of Bestwood 1, outside the town of Kathu in the Northern Cape Province, we performed ground-penetrating radar and magnetometry surveys across the sand-filled central portion of the valley. The radar images a strong continuous reflector which we can assign to the boundary between the Kalahari sands and underlying Banded Ironstone Formation gravels. Moreover, the thickness of the sand delineates a buried depression in the centre of the valley with flat plateaus at the sides. Subtracting the sand thickness from the current topography produces a map of a small stream channel in the northern part of the valley. Analysis of the magnetic gradient data allows us to extend this buried channel further to the south. Our geophysical survey provides a valuable contribution towards understanding the context of hominin occupation along the banks of a small stream in the Kathu Complex.


  • We provide an example of combining two geophysical methods to map overburden thickness, useful for archaeological landscape interpretation.


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