Taphonomic analysis of the Middle Stone Age larger mammal faunal assemblage from Blombos Cave, southern Cape, South Africa

Thompson, Jessica C. and Henshilwood, Christopher S. (2011) Taphonomic analysis of the Middle Stone Age larger mammal faunal assemblage from Blombos Cave, southern Cape, South Africa. Journal of Human Evolution, 60 6: 746-767. doi:10.1016/j.jhevol.2011.01.013

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Author Thompson, Jessica C.
Henshilwood, Christopher S.
Title Taphonomic analysis of the Middle Stone Age larger mammal faunal assemblage from Blombos Cave, southern Cape, South Africa
Journal name Journal of Human Evolution   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0047-2484
Publication date 2011-06-01
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1016/j.jhevol.2011.01.013
Volume 60
Issue 6
Start page 746
End page 767
Total pages 21
Place of publication Sidcup, Kent, U.K.
Publisher Academic Press
Collection year 2012
Language eng
Formatted abstract
A detailed taphonomic analysis is reported for a sample of the larger mammalian faunal assemblage (>4.5 kg live body weight) from Blombos Cave. The analysis provides an assessment of human involvement in the accumulation and modification of the faunal assemblage, and precedes equally detailed analyses and separate reports of Middle Stone Age (MSA) butchery, transport, and hunting behaviour. At Blombos, there are clear differences in the relative abundances of ungulate body size classes, with the lower MSA phases (upper/lower M2 and M3) showing a high representation of size 1 ungulates relative to the most recent MSA phase (M1). The bones from the earliest MSA phase (M3) have not undergone much post-depositional fragmentation, in contrast to fragments from more recent phases (M1 and upper M2). Much of this variability can be attributed to more burning activity and trampling during M1 and upper M2, which could indicate more intensive occupation. Bone surfaces are variably preserved, with high levels of exfoliation in the most recent two phases. Surface modification analyses revealed high proportions of human modification throughout the sequence, indicating that MSA humans were responsible for accumulating most of the larger mammals. After discard, the bones were modified by scavenging carnivores, leading to a moderate amount of density-mediated destruction and tooth-marking. Carnivores independently accumulated some of the smaller ungulates, mainly in the form of partially-digested remains. Raptorial birds are not implicated as major faunal accumulators. The results from Blombos are directly comparable with analogous datasets from two other sites in the Western Cape (Pinnacle Point Cave 13B and Die Kelders Cave 1). Such comparisons demonstrate that MSA faunal assemblages from nearby coastal sites have complex and different taphonomic histories both within and between sites. Because the human occupants were a major part of these processes, MSA subsistence behaviour and site use was also quite variable over time and space.
Keyword Zooarchaeology
Faunal analysis
Behavioural complexity
Western Cape
Modern human-behavior
Carnivore tooth-marks
Early-modern humans
Archaeological bone assemblages
Analysis GIS approach
FLK 22 Zinjanthropus
Modern human origins
Sibudu Cave
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: Official 2012 Collection
School of Social Science Publications
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Citation counts: TR Web of Science Citation Count  Cited 30 times in Thomson Reuters Web of Science Article | Citations
Scopus Citation Count Cited 34 times in Scopus Article | Citations
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Created: Fri, 28 Oct 2011, 22:25:04 EST by Dr Jessica Thompson on behalf of School of Social Science