Pinnacle Point Cave 13B (Western Cape Province, South Africa) in context: The Cape Floral kingdom, shellfish, and modern human origins.

Institute of Human Origins, School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287-2402, USA.
Journal of Human Evolution (Impact Factor: 3.87). 09/2010; 59(3-4):425-43. DOI: 10.1016/j.jhevol.2010.07.011
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Genetic and anatomical evidence suggests that Homo sapiens arose in Africa between 200 and 100ka, and recent evidence suggests that complex cognition may have appeared between ~164 and 75ka. This evidence directs our focus to Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 6, when from 195-123ka the world was in a fluctuating but predominantly glacial stage, when much of Africa was cooler and drier, and when dated archaeological sites are rare. Previously we have shown that humans had expanded their diet to include marine resources by ~164ka (±12ka) at Pinnacle Point Cave 13B (PP13B) on the south coast of South Africa, perhaps as a response to these harsh environmental conditions. The associated material culture documents an early use and modification of pigment, likely for symbolic behavior, as well as the production of bladelet stone tool technology, and there is now intriguing evidence for heat treatment of lithics. PP13B also includes a later sequence of MIS 5 occupations that document an adaptation that increasingly focuses on coastal resources. A model is developed that suggests that the combined richness of the Cape Floral Region on the south coast of Africa, with its high diversity and density of geophyte plants and the rich coastal ecosystems of the associated Agulhas Current, combined to provide a stable set of carbohydrate and protein resources for early modern humans along the southern coast of South Africa during this crucial but environmentally harsh phase in the evolution of modern humans. Humans structured their mobility around the use of coastal resources and geophyte abundance and focused their occupation at the intersection of the geophyte rich Cape flora and coastline. The evidence for human occupation relative to the distance to the coastline over time at PP13B is consistent with this model.

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    ABSTRACT: Die Kelders Cave 1, first excavated under the direction of Franz Schweitzer in 1969-1973, was re-excavated between 1992 and 1995 by a combined team from the South African Museum, SUNY at Stony Brook, and Stanford University. These renewed excavations enlarged the artefactual and faunal samples from the inadequately sampled and less intensively excavated lower Middle Stone Age (MSA) layers, increased our understanding of the complex site formation processes within the cave, enlarged the hominid sample from the MSA deposits, and generated ESR, TL, and OSL dates for the MSA layers. Importantly, these new excavations dramatically improved our comprehension of the vertical and lateral characteristics of the MSA stratigraphy. Surface plotting of the MSA layers has led to the identification of at least two major zones of subsidence that significantly warped the layers, draping some along the eroding surface contours of major blocks of fallen limestone roof rock. A third zone of subsidence is probably present in the older excavations. Dramatic roof falls of very large limestone blocks occurred at least twice-once in the middle of Layer 4/5 where the roof blocks were only slightly weathered after collapse, and at the top of Layer 6 where the blocks weathered heavily after collapse, producing a zone of decomposed rock around the blocks. Many of the sandy strata are cut by small and localized faults and slippages. All of the strata documented by Schweitzer's excavations are present throughout the exposed area to the west of his excavated area, where many of them thicken and become more complex. Layer 6, the thickest MSA layer, becomes less diagenetically altered and compressed to the west.
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