FAUNAL REMAINS FROM GRASSRIDGE ROCK SHELTER, SOUTH AFRICA: ECOLOGY AND SUBSISTENCE FROM THE PLEISTOCENE TO THE HOLOCENE IN THE EASTERN CAPE INTERIOR
South African Archaeological Bulletin
Grassridge Rock Shelter in the Eastern Cape presents an important opportunity for understanding social networks and mobility among Pleistocene and Holocene inhabitants of the interior of southern Africa. Pulsed occupations at the site span the Late Pleistocene through mid-Holocene and provide insight into human behaviour during periods of significant climatic change in the region. In this study, we report on the large mammal remains from the Terminal Pleistocene (c. 13.5–11.6 ka) and mid-Holocene (c. 7.3–6.7 ka) occupations recovered from the 2014–2016 excavation seasons. The range of ungulate taxa indicates that the environment surrounding the site was predominantly grassland interspersed with woodland thickets during both the Terminal Pleistocene and mid-Holocene. The results show no significant changes in the proportions of browsers, grazers and mixed feeders over time. The abundance of water-dependant ungulates such as reedbuck suggests the presence of a reliable water source near the site. Covarying proportions of small mammals and tortoises from the Late Pleistocene to the Holocene hint at changes in subsistence patterns over time. We also report on a possible extinct Megalotragus (giant wildebeest) specimen recovered from the Holocene layers. Overall, faunal and archaeological evidence from Grassridge Rock Shelter points to the periodic use of the site possibly linked to seasonal occupations.
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