African Archaeological Review

, Volume 6, Issue 1, pp 3–25 | Cite as

The archaeological significance of animal bones from Acheulean sites in southern Africa

  • Richard G. Klein
Article

Abstract

Acheulean faunal samples from southern Africa usually contain taxa which are unknown in Upper Pleistocene or Holocene contexts and which suggest that the associated artifacts date mainly from the Middle Pleistocene or possibly the late Lower Pleistocene, between perhaps 1,000,000 and ≥130,000 years ago. Together with sedimentological evidence, the faunas also indicate that the associated Acheulean people enjoyed unusually moist conditions. There is in fact no evidence for Acheulean presence under conditions as dry as, or drier than, historic ones. The available faunas come mainly from open-air contexts where natural deaths, carnivore killing and scavenging, and possible human hunting and butchering are scrambled, and no direct inferences can be drawn about Acheulean hunting ability. However, if it is fair to extrapolate backwards from their better-documented Middle Stone Age successors, Acheulean people probably rarely, if ever, killed the large ungulates that are so common in their sites.

Résumé

Parmi les ensembles de la faune acheuléenne provenant de l'Afrique du sud se trouvent souvent des taxa qui sont inconnus dans les gisements de l'âge holocène ou du pleistocène supérieur. Cette observation nous amène à suggérer que les outils associés avec cette faune datent principalement du Pleistocène moyen ou peut-être même du Pleistocène inférieur tardif, dans la période, 1,000,000 à ≥130,000 BP environ. Ces faunes, considérées conjointement avec les témoignages sédimentologiques, montrent que ces gens acheuléens ont profités d'un climat anormalement humide. A vrai dire, il n'y a aucune preuve d'une occupation acheuléenne dans des conditions aussi sèches ou plus sèches que celles de l'époque historique. La plupart des faunes dont on dispose aujourd'hui proviennent des gisements de plein-air ou les évidences de la mortalité naturelle, les restes de la proie des carnassiers, et par l'homme sont mélangées, et nous ne sommes pas permis d'en déduire des conclusions au sujet de la compétence des populations acheuléennes au niveau de la chasse. Si cependant on peut extrapoler en arrière de leurs successeurs mieux connus de l'âge de la pierre moyen, il est vraisemblable que les hommes acheuléens n'ont jamais, ou presque jamais, tués les grands ongulés dont les restes sont si nombreux dans leur sites.

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© Cambridge University Press 1988

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  • Richard G. Klein

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