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The bovids from Elandsfontein, South Africa, and their implications for the age, palaeoenvironment, and origins of the site
Abstract and Figures
The bovid fossils from Elandsfontein, south-western Cape Province, South Africa, comprise 7257 individually numbered specimens from 18 species. Taxonomic comparisons with Olduvai Gorge and other African sites and the high percentage of extinct forms imply that the bones accumulated in the earlier part of the Middle Quaternary, probably sometime between 700,000 and 400,000 years ago. By extension, this is also the most likely age for the skull cap of archaicHomo sapiens (‘Saldanha Man’) and for the occasional ‘late’ Acheulean stone artifacts that accompany the animal bones. In keeping with geomorphological observations and other aspects of the fauna, the bovids indicate a relatively grassy and moist environment, apparently during an interglaciation that differed significantly from the Holocene. Geomorphological context, the frequent occurrence of partial skeletons, bone damage, and skeletal part representation suggest that carnivore feeding on carcasses scattered across a Mid-Quaternary land surface was probably the main factor shaping the Elandsfontein bone assemblage. Porcupines may also have played a role, but there is little evidence for human activity. The Elandsfontein assemblage thus provides a useful ‘control’ for comparison with bone accumulations where context, associations, and bone damage indicate that people were heavily involved. For example, there are very few young animals in the otherwise attritional profile of ‘giant’ buffalo from Elandsfontein, probably because carnivores often rapidly and completely consumed young carcasses. This suggests that few young carcasses would be available for human scavenging and thus that archaeological attritional profiles in which young individuals are common probably reflect active human hunting, at least of young animals.
Figures - uploaded by Richard G Klein
All figure content in this area was uploaded by Richard G Klein
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