Date of Award

12-2004

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Major

Anthropology

Major Professor

Andrew Kramer

Committee Members

Walter Klippel, Lyle Konigsberg

Abstract

This study examines a sample faunal assemblage from Plover’s Lake Cave, South Africa, and uses the faunal identification and taphonomic indicators to determine the bone accumulating agents and make inferences about their behavior and environment. Fossil assemblages can be dramatically affected by ancient bone collectors as evident by their taphonomic signatures. The taphonomic overprint given to a site is typically due to episodic factors and the paleoenvironmental reconstructions that are based upon these assemblages must take into account any biases the accumulating agents may impart. After performing several analyses involving bone modification and taxonomic abundance, I suggest three accumulators were active at Plover’s Lake Cave: carnivores, hominids and rodents. While the investigations illustrate an assemblage heavily manipulated by carnivores, several factors including skeletal part representations, certain breakage patterns and hammerstone percussion marks suggest a significant amount of hominid involvement. Additionally, commingled, agent-induced indicators hold behavioral implications for seasonal involvement between the carnivores and hominids. This research augments current knowledge about the behavior of ancient bone collectors, specifically carnivores and hominids, and their affects of southern African, Pleistocene cave sight assemblages.

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