African Archaeological Review

, Volume 35, Issue 1, pp 1–19 | Cite as

Using Trampling Modification to Infer Occupational Intensity During the Still Bay at Blombos Cave, Southern Cape, South Africa

Original Article

Abstract

Demography probably had a significant influence on the transmission of cultural innovation during the late Pleistocene. In enclosed sites such as rockshelters, trampling marks are likely direct evidence for human occupations and can possibly be used to infer occupational patterns. In this study, we explore trampling modification as a proxy for occupational intensity. We examined trampling data at the Middle Stone Age site of Blombos Cave in South Africa to investigate whether these marks may inform on occupational intensity during the Still Bay period—a significant era for the development of behavioural modernity. Trampling is defined by pitting, scratches, abrasion and linear marks. These marks were then compared to other taphonomic proxies (e.g., faunal density per volume, transverse fractures, non-anthropogenic modification) to explore the relationships between these indicators. Our results indicate that trampling modifications can provide information on a site’s occupational history and that the data indicate that there are two phases within the Blombos sequence showing more intense/frequency occupations, corresponding to the early and middle Still Bay deposits.

Keywords

Middle Stone Age Still Bay Blombos Cave Trampling Taphonomy Occupational intensity 

Résumé

Le facteur démographique a très vraisemblablement eu une influence marquée sur la transmission des innovations culturelles à la fin du Pléistocène. Dans les sites fermés tels que les abris sous-roche, les traces liées au piétinement représentent des preuves directes d’occupation humaine et peuvent potentiellement être utilisées pour déduire le mode d’occupation des gisements. Dans cette étude, nous examinons les modifications dues au piétinement en tant qu’indices d’intensité d’occupation des sites. Les données sur le piétinement du gisement Middle Stone Age de Blombos Cave en Afrique du Sud ont ainsi été analysées afin d’examiner dans quelle mesure elles pouvaient permettre de documenter le(s) mode(s) d’occupation du site, au cours du Still Bay, une période-clé au regard du développement de la modernité culturelle. Le piétinement est. défini par un ensemble de modifications de la surface osseuse, incluant perforations (« pitting »), éraflures (« scratches »), abrasion et stries linéaires. Ces traces ont ensuite été comparées à d’autres données d’ordre taphonomiques (notamment: densité de restes de faune par volume de sédiment, fractures transversales et modifications d’origine non-anthropique), afin d’explorer la nature des relations entre ces différents indices. Nos résultats indiquent que les modifications liées au piétinement peuvent fournir des informations relatives à l’occupation du site. Par ailleurs, les données indiquent qu’il existe deux phases au sein de la séquence de Blombos associées à des périodes d’occupation plus intenses et/ou plus fréquentes, correspondant aux dépôts du Still Bay ancien et moyen.

Notes

Acknowledgements

We are grateful to Shaw Badenhorst, Wynand van Zyl and the staff at the Ditsong National Museum of Natural History (formerly the Transvaal Museum) for their assistance. We thank Sarah Wurz, Tyler Faith, Kathy Kuman and anonymous reviewers for their useful comments, and Aurore Val for translating the abstract. Special thanks to Magnus Haaland for designing the stratigraphic map of Blombos Cave.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Funding: JR is funded by a South African National Research Foundation (NRF) Thuthuka Grant (grant number: 107082) a grant from the Palaeontological Scientific Trust (PAST), and a Faculty Research Committee (FRC) Grant and an Enabling Grant through the Diversifying the Academy from the University of the Witwatersrand. Funding for the research at Blombos Cave and Klipdrift Shelter was provided by an NRF/Department of Science and Technology-funded South African Research Chair (SARChI) in the Origins of Modern Human Behaviour at the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa held by CSH, at the Evolutionary Studies Institute in the University of the Witwatersrand. Additional funding for JR was provided by CSH’s SARChI Chair. This work was partly supported by the Research Council of Norway through its Centre’s of Excellence funding scheme, Centre for Early Sapiens Behaviour (SapienCE), project number 262618.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jerome P. Reynard
    • 1
  • Christopher S. Henshilwood
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental StudiesUniversity of the WitwatersrandJohannesburgSouth Africa
  2. 2.SFF Centre for Early Sapiens Behaviour (SapienCE)University of BergenBergenNorway
  3. 3.Evolutionary Studies InstituteUniversity of the WitwatersrandJohannesburgSouth Africa

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