Diversity in Later Stone Age burial practices, South Africa.

  • Author: Susan Pfeiffer
  • Country: South Africa
  • Related Congress: 13th Congress, Dakar

The human burials that have become a part of the archaeological record of coastal and near-coastal South Africa provide potential insight into the cultural norms and motivations of hunter-gatherers and foragers, from 9000 years ago to European contact. In some communities undergoing economic development, coastal burials in sand and shell midden locations are being discovered, adding new information. The context and content of over four hundred burials can now be assessed, most of these units having been dated and studied from a bioarchaeological perspective. Apparent patterns can be assessed, relative to predictions derived from KhoeSan ethnography, and they can also be considered against the assertion that direct-return foragers dispose of the dead, while more complex social systems undertake burial. Relevant variables include the immediate geographic context of each burial, the age and sex of the deceased, the occasional inclusion of grave goods, and the regional environment. Evidence will be sought from human burials for the diversity of foraging and pastoralist strategies that are suggested through other lines of archaeological evidence.

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