Were snares and traps used in the Middle Stone Age and does it matter? A review and a case study from Sibudu, South Africa
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The concept of remote capture involved in the creation and use of snares and traps is one of several indicators that can be used for the recognition of enhanced working memory and complex cognition. It can be argued that this humble technology is a more reliable indicator of complex cognition than encounter hunting, for example with spears. It is difficult to recognize snares and traps archaeologically because they are generally made from materials that do not preserve well. To infer their presence in the past, it is therefore necessary to rely on circumstantial evidence such as mortality profiles, taxonomic diversity and high frequencies of creatures that are susceptible to capture in snares or traps. Clearly there are some problems with using snares to infer complex cognition because people do not necessarily choose meat-getting strategies with the lowest costs. Although snares make economic sense because they reduce search costs, their use by modern hunters is not associated with the type of status accorded to other means of hunting. Social demands, more than economic or environmental ones, may consequently have determined the amount of snaring and trapping that occurred in the past. Because of social attitudes, an absence of snaring need not mean that people were incapable of using this technique. At Sibudu, a South African Middle Stone Age site, snares or other non-selective capture techniques may have been used during the Howiesons Poort and perhaps also the Still Bay Industry. The circumstantial evidence consists of 1. high frequency representations of animals that prefer forested environments, including the tiny blue duiker (adult and juvenile) and the dangerous bushpig, 2. high frequencies of small mammals, 3. high taxonomic diversity and, 4. the presence of small carnivores. Importantly, the Howiesons Poort faunal assemblage is different from that in more recent Middle Stone Age occupations of the site.
Complex Cognition, Snares And Traps, Middle Stone Age, Sibudu, Small Mammals
Journal of Human Evolution, Vol. 58, no. 2 (2010-02-01).
Wadley, Lyn, "Were snares and traps used in the Middle Stone Age and does it matter? A review and a case study from Sibudu, South Africa" (2010). KIP Articles. 5665.