Urgeschichte und Naturwissenschaftliche Archäologie

Lions Cavern

The Lions Cavern in western Eswatini is an artificially made rock shelter on the edge of the Ngwenya iron ore mine. The site was excavated in the 1960s and 1970s and is considered to be the oldest evidence for ochre mining in the world. The original excavators identified mining activities on the walls and bedrock and supported their observations by radiocarbon dates revealing a horizontal distribution of ages, extending from outside the rock shelter, where the oldest ages were obtained, to the back wall, with the youngest ages. The oldest radiocarbon age dates to ~43,000 BP. The beginning of mining at Lion Cavern therefore falls within the range of the Middle Stone Age (MSA). Since 2019, new investigations at the site are going on under the leadership of Dr. Gregor Bader (Senckenberg HEP) and PD. Jörg Linstädter (DAI). The main purpose is to verify the old dating results from the 60s using optically stimulated luminescence. The project further involves new excavations at Lions Cavern and geochemical provenience analysis of ochre artifacts in Eswatini. It is funded by a DFG grant BA 6479/2-1 dedicated to Dr. Gregor Bader.