Though evidence for the creation and use of symbols and for technological and social complexity have emerged from the Cape Floristic Region of South Africa (CFR) that date to the Middle Stone Age (MSA), 285 – 30 thousand years ago, the relationship between these factors and the foraging strategies and use of landscapes by MSA humans remains anomalous, particularly in relation to small mammals (<4.5 kg adult body weight) and size 1 bovids (<20 kg adult body weight). This study is a taphonomic assessment which centers on the role of small mammals in the resource base of humans during the MSA and ─ together with large mammal, tortoise, and shellfish ─ provides a more complete understanding of the range of human subsistence strategies and foraging adaptations employed in the CFR during the MSA. Data were collected and analyzed from two MSA CFR fossil bone assemblages, Die Kelders Cave 1 (DK1) and Pinnacle Point site 5-6 (PP5-6). This study includes the small mammal and size class 1 bovid archaeofaunas from DK1 and PP5-6 and provides detailed taphonomic analyses of their remains in order to evaluate the degree to which humans, raptors, and mammalian carnivores were involved in their accumulation at these sites. In addition to the archaeological collections, actualistic control assemblages of known human, raptor (diurnal and nocturnal), and mammalian carnivore accumulation were specifically created and analyzed for this project. These control assemblages broaden the scope of accessible small mammal assemblage by featuring diverse prey mammals of different sizes and builds as well as a variety of typical small mammal predators. Analyses of the DK1 and PP5-6 small mammal archaeofaunas include a detailed evaluation of human, raptor, and mammalian carnivore bone surface modification frequencies and bone breakage patterns. In addition, comprehensive comparisons with the control assemblages of known accumulation were conducted in order to better understand the degrees to which humans, raptors, or mammalian carnivores contributed to the small mammal faunas at DK1 and PP5-6. DK1 humans maximized the environmental yield by exploiting low-quality resources as evidenced by numerous cut-marked and burned small mammal fossils. This strategy may have been employed in response to localized environmental conditions and to greater human population densities. The humans who occupied PP5-6 did not exploit small mammals and instead focused on higher-quality resources like shellfish and large ungulates. Humans and predators did not accumulate small mammals in any substantial way at PP5-6, suggesting that these taxa may have been less abundant near the site and/or that humans could afford to concentrate exclusively on high-quality resources, perhaps because of a higher-yield local environment. Results of this study suggest that an adaptive response by humans to the environmental conditions of MIS4 was to maximize the resource yield of local habitats to include lower-quality resources when necessary. The incorporation of these resources in the face of changing environmental and population pressures is a subsistence adaptation that has not been documented in the previous glacial phase of MIS6 and may have played a crucial role in the population stability and expansion evidenced by the substantial number of sites in the Cape dating to MIS4.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. 2015. Major: Anthropology. Advisor: Martha Tappen. 1 computer file (PDF); xii, 304 pages.
Small Mammal Taphonomy and Utilization by Middle Stone Age Humans in the Cape Floristic Region of South Africa.
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