Nutritional values of tortoises relative to ungulates from the Middle Stone Age levels at Blombos Cave, South Africa: Implications for foraging and social behaviour

Thompson, Jessica C. and Henshilwood, Christopher S. (2014) Nutritional values of tortoises relative to ungulates from the Middle Stone Age levels at Blombos Cave, South Africa: Implications for foraging and social behaviour. Journal of Human Evolution, 67 1: 33-47. doi:10.1016/j.jhevol.2013.09.010

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Author Thompson, Jessica C.
Henshilwood, Christopher S.
Title Nutritional values of tortoises relative to ungulates from the Middle Stone Age levels at Blombos Cave, South Africa: Implications for foraging and social behaviour
Journal name Journal of Human Evolution   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0047-2484
1095-8606
Publication date 2014-02
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1016/j.jhevol.2013.09.010
Open Access Status File (Author Post-print)
Volume 67
Issue 1
Start page 33
End page 47
Total pages 15
Place of publication Camden, London, United Kingdom
Publisher Academic Press
Collection year 2015
Language eng
Formatted abstract
The site of Blombos Cave (BBC), Western Cape, South Africa has been a strong contributor to establishing the antiquity of important aspects of modern human behaviour, such as early symbolism and technological complexity. However, many linkages between Middle Stone Age (MSA) behaviour and the subsistence record remain to be investigated. Understanding the contribution of small fauna such as tortoises to the human diet is necessary for identifying shifts in overall foraging strategies as well as the collecting and processing behaviour of individuals unable to participate in large-game hunting. This study uses published data to estimate the number of calories present in tortoises as well as ungulates of different body size classes common at South African sites. A single tortoise (Chersina angulata) provides approximately 3332 kJ (796 kcal) of calories in its edible tissues, which is between 20 and 30% of the daily energetic requirements for an active adult (estimated between 9360 kJ [3327 kcal] and 14,580 kJ [3485 kcal] per day). Because they are easy to process, this would have made tortoises a highly-ranked resource, but their slow growth and reproduction makes them susceptible to over-exploitation. Zooarchaeological abundance data show that during the ca. 75 ka (thousands of years) upper Still Bay M1 phase at BBC, tortoises contributed twice as many calories to the diet relative to ungulates than they did during the ca. 100 ka lower M3 phase. However, in spite of the abundance of their fossils, their absolute caloric contribution relative to ungulates remained modest in both phases. At the end of the site's MSA occupation history, human subsistence strategies shifted to emphasise high-return large hunted mammals, which likely precipitated changes in the social roles of hunters and gatherers during the Still Bay.
Keyword Zooarchaeology
Chersina angulata
GIS
Gatherers
Pleistocene
Anatomically modern humans
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: Official 2015 Collection
School of Social Science Publications
 
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Created: Sat, 08 Feb 2014, 21:24:19 EST by Dr Jessica Thompson on behalf of School of Social Science