Resource exploitation : animal use during the Middle Stone Age at Sibudu Cave, KwaZulu-Natal : Sibudu Cave


Ina Plug


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Publication Date

March 2004


Sibudu Cave is one of the few Middle Stone Age (MSA) sites in South Africa with good bone preservation. Analyses of the fauna show a variety of species represented throughout the deposits, with domestic animals present only in a pit and in levels associated with the Iron Age. The assemblage includes marine vertebrates and invertebrates, as well as freshwater species. Apart from extant mammals, extinct mammals are also represented. These are Equus capensis, Megalotragus priscus and Pelorovis antiquus, all of which became extinct at the end of the Pleistocene or beginning of the Holocene. The sample is remarkable in that many of the species are large animals and mostly of adult age. Juveniles and very old animals are poorly represented. This suggest deliberate hunting rather than scavenging, and the targeting of 'best returns' animals, indicative of considerable hunting skills. The absence or presence of marine animals could reflect the relative position of the shoreline during the Late Pleistocene. The mammalian fauna also suggests a more open savanna environment than is the case today. However, there is evidence that such an environment existed in the Sibudu area in more recent times as well, and that the changes to the bush and shrub environment of the present day can be attributed to a combination of small climate fluctuations combined with human farming and population increases over the last 1500 years.


Sibudu Cave, South Africa, Kwazulu-Natal

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South African Journal of Science, Vol. 100, no. 3-4 (2004-03-01).