The evolution of Late Pleistocene hunting behaviour in South Africa

  • Author: Gerrit L. Dusseldorp
  • Topic: Theory and method
  • Country: South Africa
  • Related Congress: 13th Congress, Dakar

The study of the archaeological record of the Late Pleistocene has the
potential to increase our understanding of the development of behaviourally
modern behaviour. The study of subsistence behaviour is an appropriate
domain of study to track behavioural developments. Subsistence strategies
have direct and consequences for the evolutionary fitness of the individuals
practising them. They also leave a clear archaeological signal. Moreover, the
hunting of large mammals has been shown ethnographically to be among the
most knowledge-intensive activities performed by contemporary huntergatherers.

The research reported here scrutinized developments in the acquisition of
mammal prey in South Africa using a diachronic perspective. The focus of
archaeological attention in Southern Africa has in recent years been on two
idiosyncratic technocomplexes: The Howiesons Poort and Stillbay
industries. I compare the available faunal assemblages of these industries
with other Middle Stone Age assemblages. Using different indices I report
developments in the degree of specialisation of hunting strategies practised
during the Middle Stone Age.

The research will be illustrated based on two well preserved sites with
published faunal assemblages, Sibudu and Blombos. Although changing
prey abundances due to climatic changes are difficult to exclude as an
explanation, some patterns in the assemblages suggest changes in human
subsistence strategies not due to climatic change.

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