African Archaeological Review

, Volume 31, Issue 1, pp 25–43 | Cite as

Rock Hyraxes (Procavia capensis) from Middle Stone Age Levels at Blombos Cave, South Africa

  • Shaw Badenhorst
  • Karen L. van Niekerk
  • Christopher S. Henshilwood
Original Article


The ∼100 ka Middle Stone Age levels at Blombos Cave, southern Cape, South Africa, contain numerous rock hyrax (Procavia capensis) remains. It is often ambiguous to interpret rock hyrax remains from archaeological deposits deriving from cave and shelter sites in southern Africa as the agent or agents of accumulation may be difficult to establish. In this paper, the different taphonomic signatures separating anthropogenic from natural accumulations at Blombos Cave are considered. The analysis indicates that although a few specimens show evidence for raptor and carnivore accumulation, there is also substantial evidence that suggests humans preyed on these small mammals during different times of the year.


Middle Stone Age Blombos Cave Southern Cape Rock hyrax Procavia capensis 


Dans la grotte de Blombos (Cap-Occidental, Afrique du Sud), les niveaux Middle Stone Age datés d’environ 100 ka se caractérisent notamment par l’abondance des restes de Daman du Cap (Procavia capensis). L’interprétation de l’abondance du Daman dans les sites archéologiques sud-africains est souvent problématique, car il est particulièrement difficile en contexte de grotte ou d’abri de déterminer le ou les agent(s) responsable(s) de l’accumulation de ses restes. Dans cette contribution, les différentes signatures taphonomiques utilisables pour distinguer accumulations naturelles et anthropiques sont considérées. Nos analyses indiquent que, même si quelques restes présentent des traces évidentes d’action par un rapace ou un carnivore, de nombreux arguments suggèrent que ce petit mammifère représentait une proie de choix pour les groupes humains, et ce à différentes périodes de l’année.



This research was funded through a grant to SB by the Palaeontological Scientific Trust (PAST) in South Africa. Financial support for the Blombos Cave project was provided to CSH and KvN by a European Research Council Advanced Grant, TRACSYMBOLS No. 249587, awarded under the FP7 programme at the University of Bergen, Norway and to CSH by a National Research Foundation/Department of Science and Technology funded Chair at the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa. We are grateful to Denise Hamerton at the Iziko South African Museum in Cape Town who provided access to the comparative collection, and Petro Keene, also at the same institution, who gave access to the Blombos fauna. Reviewers made useful suggestions.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Shaw Badenhorst
    • 1
    • 2
  • Karen L. van Niekerk
    • 3
  • Christopher S. Henshilwood
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of ArchaeozoologyDitsong National Museum of Natural History (former Transvaal Museum)PretoriaSouth Africa
  2. 2.Department of Anthropology and ArchaeologyUniversity of South AfricaUNISASouth Africa
  3. 3.Institute for Archaeology, History, Culture and ReligionUniversity of BergenBergenNorway
  4. 4.Evolutionary Studies InstituteUniversity of the WitwatersrandWitsSouth Africa

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