Section 57
Chapter 56,117

Taphonomic analysis of the Middle Stone Age faunal assemblage from Pinnacle Point Cave 13B, Western Cape, South Africa

Thompson, J.C.

Journal of Human Evolution 59(3-4): 321-339


ISSN/ISBN: 1095-8606
PMID: 20934089
DOI: 10.1016/j.jhevol.2010.07.004
Accession: 056116106

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A detailed taphonomic analysis is provided for the mammalian and tortoise faunal assemblages from Pinnacle Point Cave 13B (PP13B). It is the first of several reports on the fauna from this site, and must necessarily precede analyses focused on higher level interpretations of Middle Stone Age (MSA) butchery, transport, and hunting behavior. The taphonomic work shows that the faunal assemblage is well preserved and there are discernable differences in the taphonomic pathways to which the fauna was subjected at PP13B between the Middle and Late Pleistocene, between the front and back of the cave, and between body size classes. The largest mammals (size classes 2-5, body weight >24 kg) were mainly accumulated by MSA hominins. Size class 1 ungulates also exhibit a degree of hominin modification consistent with some hominin accumulation of fresh carcasses, but this is more variable through time and includes an observable degree of independent carnivore contribution. Basic taxonomic comparisons reveal a low representation of small mammals, tortoises, and marine mammals at PP13B relative to larger (>4.5 kg) terrestrial mammals. This is a different pattern from other MSA sites along the southwestern coast of South Africa, where small mammals and tortoises are abundant. A microscopic study of the bone surfaces confirms that MSA hominins exploited these small faunal components opportunistically, while focusing most heavily on large terrestrial ungulates. All faunal components show evidence of carnivore scavenging of hominin food debris and a high degree of density mediated destruction. Raptors are at no point implicated as major accumulators of any fauna. The study demonstrates that the full spectrum of MSA faunal exploitation can only be understood when the large mammal, small mammal, and tortoise components of fossil assemblages have all been subjected to comprehensive taphonomic analyses.

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