New data on the avifauna from the Middle Stone Age layers of Sibudu Cave, South Africa: Taphonomic and palaeoenvironmental implications


Aurore Val


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Publication Date

November 2016


The results of a detailed taxonomic and taphonomic study of the bird assemblage from all excavated Middle Stone Age (MSA) layers from Sibudu Cave (Wadley's excavations), a rock shelter in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, are presented here. Throughout the sequence, the assemblage is characterised by the richest taxonomic diversity observed in MSA deposits from southern Africa. While pigeons and doves clearly dominate the bird assemblage, the presence of several previously unidentified taxa associated with evergreen and deciduous forest such as woodpeckers, turacos, hornbills and parrots (Picidae, Musophagidae, Bucerotidae, and Psittacidae) in the pre-Still Bay, Still Bay and Howiesons Poort layers are useful to document the habitats surrounding Sibudu Cave from >75,000 to 60,000 years (ka) ago. Birds associated with fresh water, namely waders (Charadriidae and Scolopacidae) and kingfishers (Alcedinidae) are present throughout the layers and are consistent with the proximity of the uThongathi River. A study of the general bone preservation implies a shift in the modes of introduction of the birds into the archaeological sediments, from a predominantly natural origin (accumulation by a bird of prey, most likely a falcon) in the pre-Still Bay layers to a greater anthropogenic contribution in the Still Bay and Howiesons Poort layers.


Avifauna, Palaeoenvironments, Taphonomy, Middle Stone Age, Sibudu Cave, South Africa

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Quaternary International, Vol. 421, no. 9 (2016-11-09).