To Dig For

This broken stone tool was found in the dunes near Danger Point while excavating the foundations for a house. It is clearly one half of a fairly common stone tool used by the indigenous people of South Africa until fairly recently. This round pebble with a hole bored through it was initially understood to be used by having a digging stick inserted into the hole for adding more impetus to the stick when digging for roots and tubers. It seemed to have broken in two just before being finished though.

The question has been asked why the hole was tapered from both ends, as a stick could quite well be weighted with a stone with a hole tapering one way only. A more likely explanation is that the stone was a multi-purpose tool (a prehistoric Leatherman!) with several other uses. Judging by similar stones found in other societies, it was quite probably also used as part of a snare for small animals. A typical snare would consist of a sliding noose of sinew with the end tied to a sapling next to a track frequented by small animals and birds, bending the sapling down and securing the tip by a sensitive twig "trigger". The end of the noose line would be passed through the hole in the stone and the stone itself suspended near the whipply end of the sapling and the stone suspended by a hair or thin piece of sinew. Above the noose would be a sensitive trigger that would be dislodged by the trapped animal, sending the stone sliding down the sinew to close the noose tightly around the animal's neck as the sapling jumped up. This would also give the animal a blow behind the head to stun it and perhaps prvenet it from breaking loose..