Phytoliths as an indicator of early modern humans plant gathering strategies, fire fuel and site occupation intensity during the Middle Stone Age at Pinnacle Point 5-6 (south coast, South Africa)
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- June 19, 2018
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Esteban I, Marean CW, Fisher EC, Karkanas P, Cabanes D, Albert RM (2018)
Phytoliths as an indicator of early modern humans plant gathering strategies, fire fuel and site occupation intensity during the Middle Stone Age at Pinnacle Point 5-6 (south coast, South Africa). PLoS ONE 13(6): e0198558.
This article provides insight on the foraging strategies and uses of plants by past MSA populations inhabiting the south coast of South Africa during the marine isotope stage (MIS) 5 to 3.
It is one of few studies to use phytoliths in this way in South Africa, and as such contributes to the South African archaeological and palaeobotanical through both the presentation of evidence and introduction of a relatively new approach. The evidence and its interpretation observed in the archaeological record of Pinnacle Point 5-6 site contribute significantly to our understanding of human behavioural evolution.
The study reports the first evidence of the intentional gathering and introduction into living areas of plants from the Restionaceae family by MSA hunter-gatherers inhabiting the south coast of South Africa.
We suggest that humans inhabiting Pinnacle Point during short-term occupation events during MIS 5 built fast fires using mainly grasses with some wood from trees and/or shrubs for specific traits, perhaps for shellfish cooking. With the onset of MIS 4 we observed a change in the plant gathering strategies towards the intentional and intensive exploitation of dry wood to improve combustion for heating silcrete. This human behaviour is associated with changes in stone tool technology, site occupation intensity and climate change.
Dr. Irene Esteban
Post-Doctoral Research Fellow. Evolutionary Studies Institute. Centre of Excellence, Palaeosciences.
University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa.