The unidentified long bone fragments from the middle stone age Still Bay layers at Blombos Cave, Southern Cape, South Africa

Reynard, Jerome Peter
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The aim of this investigation was to explore the relationship between the unidentified and identified fauna from the Still Bay period at Blombos Cave between ca. 77 and 72 ka. The size, breakage patterns and surface modifications of unidentified long bone fragments from the M1 and upper M2 phases were analysed. The results of the analyses were then compared to a sample of faunal remains identified by Klein (Henshilwood et al. 2001b) and Thompson (2008) from the Still Bay layers at Blombos Cave. The length of each fragment was measured to ascertain the degree of fragmentation of the assemblage. Long bone fragments generally become slightly shorter with increasing depth. This may be because smaller fauna are relatively more prevalent in the deeper layers. Cortical thickness of the bone fragments was measured and grouped into small, medium and large categories. These categories were correlated to Brain‟s (1974a) bovid size classes to investigate whether the unidentified faunal remains mimic the identified bone sample in terms of animal size. While small-sized fauna dominate the identified archaeofaunal assemblages at Blombos Cave, the cortical thickness of unidentified long bone fragments suggest that medium-sized fauna was more common. The breakage pattern of each fragment was assessed, indicating that the majority of specimens exhibited spiral fractures. Burning is more common in the unidentified faunal sample than in the identified sample and may have resulted in the relatively low frequencies of cut-marked and percussion-marked fragments. Polished bone fragments may also be a consequence of burning, abrasion or compaction, though its prevalence in the upper M2 with formal bone tools suggests that it was the result of human activities. Higher bone fragment densities in the upper layers at Blombos Cave suggests that changes in human occupation and faunal density patterns during the Still Bay at Blombos Cave may relate to environmental conditions.
M.Sc., Faculty of Science, University of the Witwatersrand, 2011
Archaeology, Natural history, Animal remains (Archaeology), Bones