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The bovids from Elandsfontein, South Africa, and their implications for the age, palaeoenvironment, and origins of the site

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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.
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... This seasonal lack of forage renders the western coastal plains inhospitable to most ruminant grazers, except for the hartebeest (Radloff, 2008), which is remarkable in its ability to extract relatively high-quality grass leaf from senescent swards and persist through dry seasons and droughts (Kingdon and Hoffman, 2013). Clearly, the Pleistocene faunas are signaling other important environmental and ecological changes, perhaps including more humid environments and altered rainfall regimes (Klein and Cruz-Uribe, 1991;Cruz-Uribe et al., 2003;Klein et al., 2007), increased availability of spring-fed wetlands (Braun et al., 2013;Lehmann et al., 2016Lehmann et al., , 2018, or ungulate migrations without parallel in the CFR today (Marean, 2010;Faith and Thompson, 2013; but see Lehmann et al., 2018). ...
... Specifically, given previous suggestions that the Pleistocene faunas are signaling important changes in moisture availability (e.g. Klein and Cruz-Uribe, 1991;Grine and Klein, 1993;Cruz-Uribe et al., 2003;Klein et al., 2007;Stynder, 2009), we develop ecometric models for predicting aridity based on the distribution of ungulate dental traits across the present-day CFR. We show that these models are applicable across a broad range of southern African environments, and use them to reconstruct past aridity along the western coastal plains. ...
... The mid-Pleistocene fauna from the dunefield at Elandsfontein farm (~100 km NNW of Cape Town), referred to as Elandsfontein Main, consists primarily of specimens that were surface-collected in the 1950s and early 1960s (Klein and Cruz-Uribe, 1991;Klein et al., 2007). Comparison with welldated eastern African faunas suggests a likely age of between 1.0 and 0.6 Ma (Klein et al., 2007), although recent paleomagnetic evidence suggests a probable minimum age of 0.78 Ma (Braun et al., 2013). ...
Article
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... The ecosystems of the mid-Pleistocene of the Cape Floristic Region are recorded in another nearby dunefield locality known as Elandsfontein. Over 100 years of investigation into the prehistory of Elandsfontein have produced one of the largest faunal assemblages available from the African mid-Pleistocene.39,79,80 Excavations at Elandsfontein have recorded the presence of hominins that produced Acheulean tools32,79,81 and indicate that hominins had some behavioral association with the fauna found at the locality.82 ...
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... 42.8 mm) fromNelson Bay Cave(Faith Personal communication)) bovid. Body mass predictions from Nelson Bay Cave represent an intermediary between extremely high predictions (841 kg calculated from the length of the third molar from Elandsfontein, South Africa(Klein and Cruz-Uribe, 1991)) and extremely low predictions (200 kg,Smith et al., 2003). M. priscus was a bovid that became extinct just prior to the Pleistocene-Holocene transition(Table 4.1). ...
Thesis
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... Ultimately, this revealed that all faunal specimens were, at best, only minimally identifiable to taxonomic size class due to cultural fragmentation and/or diagenesis. Thus, minimally identifiable specimens were compared to general taxonomic size to assess the approximate size of fauna processed at the site (Klein and Cruz-Uribe 1991). ...
Article
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... The unselective nature of non-ruminants (most of which consume varying proportions of browse and grass; Hempson et al., 2015b) enable them to consume larger quantities of lower quality vegetation than ruminant herbivores (Duncan et al., 1990;Cromsigt et al., 2009), whereas ruminant herbivores can digest high quality forage more effectively (Duncan et al., 1990;Illius et al., 2002;Cromsigt et al., 2009). Archaeological records point toward a dominance of large-bodied ruminant and non-ruminant grazing species during the LGM on the PAP (Klein, 1972(Klein, , 1983Klein and Cruz-Uribe, 1991;Copeland et al., 2016;Hodgkins et al., 2020;Venter et al., 2020), providing a stark contrast to what we see in the low nutrient fynbos ecosystem found along the coastline today . ...
Article
Herbivore distribution throughout Africa is strongly linked to mean annual precipitation. We use that relationship to predict functional group composition of herbivore communities during the last glacial maximum (ca. 21 ka) on the now submerged Palaeo-Agulhas Plain (PAP), South Africa. We used metabolic large herbivore biomass (MLHB) from 39 South African protected areas, in five functional groups (characterized by behavior and physiology). We examined how modern factors influenced MLHB and considered the effects of biome, annual rainfall, percentage winter rainfall, and protected area size. Overall, biome was the most important factor influencing the relationship between MLHB and rainfall. In general, MLHB increased with rainfall, but not for the grassland biome. Outside grasslands, most functional groups' metabolic biomass increased with increasing rainfall, irrespective of biome, except for medium-sized social mixed feeder species in savanna and thicket. Protected area size was influential for medium-sized social mixed feeders and large browsers and rainfall influenced medium-sized social mixed feeders, offering some perspectives on spatial constraints on past large herbivore biomass densities. These results improve our understanding of the likely herbivore community composition and relative biomass structure on the PAP, an essential driver of how early humans utilized large mammals as a food resource.
... The infundibula of moderately worn maxillary molars are often complex, with pronounced mesiodistal constriction. This complexity differs from more primitive specimens of Connochaetes (Klein and Cruz-Uribe, 1991;Bibi et al., 2017), as well as Rusingoryx , which tend to have simpler infundibula. The lingual lobes of the maxillary molars and the buccal lobes of the mandibular molars are fairly evenly rounded, with the mandibular specimens tending to have a distinct circular outline. ...
Article
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... The Bovidae have been used in many studies to indicate habitat type (Gentry 1970;Scott 1979Scott , 1985Vrba 1980b;Greenacre & Vrba 1984;Soulounias & Dawson-Saunders 1988;Klein & Cruz-Uribe 1991;Plummer & Bishop 1994;Spencer 1995Spencer , 1997Kappelman et al. 1997). These studies include the fimctional morphology of cranial and postcranial elements, the extension of modem habitat associations to infer those of fossil taxa. ...
Thesis
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Thesis
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Chapter
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