The Small Mammal Sequence from the c. 76 – 72 ka Still Bay Levels at Blombos Cave, South Africa – Taphonomic and Palaeoecological Implications for Human Behaviour
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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The Still Bay, c. 76–72 ka, a prominent techno-tradition during the Middle Stone Age of southern Africa, has yielded innovative technologies, symbolic material culture, and shows evidence of expansion of hunting techniques and subsistence strategies. In this paper we present the results of the first systematic, taphonomic and palaeoenvironmental study of micromammals from the Still Bay levels at Blombos Cave. Our taphonomic analysis indicates that the micromammals were accumulated by avian predators occupying the cave. Post-depositional processes affecting the micromammal assemblage include organic waste decomposition and conditions associated with a limestone cave environment. The palaeoenvironmental reconstruction shows that Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 5a at Blombos Cave had diverse micromammal communities occupying a variety of habitats and with rainfall pattern equal to present. The transition from MIS 5a to 4 is indicated by less diverse micromammal assemblages, increase in grassland and scrub vegetation, shifts in seasonal precipitation, and a decline in shrubs associated with fynbos. The onset of the glacial conditions associated with MIS 4 is visible in the micromammal assemblage. However humans occupying Blombos Cave during this c. 5 ka period showed an ability to cope with changing environmental conditions and were able to adapt and utilise a variety of available resources.