Volume 51 April 2017

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    Complete volume 51
    (Evolutionary Studies Institute, 2017-05-02)
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    Renewed investigations at Taung; 90 years after the discovery of Australopithecus africanus
    (2016-10-18) Kuhn, Brian F; Herries, Andy I R; Price, Gilbert J; Baker, Stephanie E; Hopley, Philip; Menter, Colin; Caruana, Matthew V
    2015 marked the 90th anniversary of the description of the first fossil ofAustralopithecus africanus, commonly known as the Taung Child, which was unearthed during blasting at the Buxton-Norlim Limeworks (referred to as the BNL) 15 km SE of the town of Taung, South Africa. Subsequently, this site has been recognized as a UNESCOWorld Heritage site on the basis of its importance to southern African palaeoanthropology. Some other sites such as Equus Cave and Black Earth Cave have also been investigated; but the latter not since the 1940s. These sites indicate that the complex of palaeontological and archaeological localities at the BNL preserve a time sequence spanning the Pliocene to the Holocene. The relationship of these various sites and how they fit into the sequence of formation of tufa, landscapes and caves at the limeworks have also not been investigated or discussed in detail since Peabody’s efforts in the 1940s. In this contribution we mark the 90th anniversary of the discovery and description of the Taung Child by providing a critical review of previous work at Taung based on our recent preliminary work at the site. This includes a reassessment of the Taung Child Type Site, as well as renewed excavations at Equus Cave and the lesser-known locality and little-investigated Black Earth Cave. Preliminary results suggest that much of our previous understandings of the BNL’s formational history and site formation processes need to be reassessed. Only through detailed analysis on the BNLas a whole can we understand this complex depositional environment.
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    Rainfall seasonality captured in micromammalian fauna in Late Quaternary contexts, South Africa
    (2016) Thackeray, J. Francis; Fitchett, Jennifer M.
    There exists ongoing debate regarding shifts in the latitudinal extent of the southern African winter-rainfall zone throughout the late Quaternary. Fossil proxies which can be related directly to rainfall seasonality have the potential to assist in quantifying these shifts. Relationships between mean monthly temperature and mean monthly rainfall in modern environments are quantified to generate a seasonality index associated with summer- or winter-rainfall. These seasonality indices can in turn be related to percentage occurrences reflecting relative abundances of rodent taxa represented in areas within southern Africa. Such data are used together to obtain an equation from which an index of seasonality in rainfall can be calculated, based on relative abundances of rodents in the modern landscape. The equation is applied to rodents represented in a Late Quaternary faunal sequence at Boomplaas Cave in the south-eastern part of the Western Cape Province. Results confirm that this region experienced a predominantly winter-rainfall regime during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), though the amount of rain may have been relatively low for the coldest episodes circa 20,000 cal. yr BP in the Boomplaas palaeo-environments.
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