Zooarchaeological and taphonomic analysis of the Die Kelders Cave 1 Layers 10 and 11 Middle Stone Age larger mammal fauna

Curtis W. Marean, Yoshiko Abe, Carol J. Frey, Robert C. Randall

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136 Scopus citations


Middle Stone Age (MSA) and Middle Paleolithic (MP) faunal assemblages have gained widespread attention due to their relevance to the debate over the modernity of hominid behavior during the MSA/MP. A recent critique of the scavenging argument for MSA/MP behavior drew on a summary presentation of the skeletal abundance and surface modification data from Die Kelders Cave 1 Layer 10 (Marean, 1998). This paper provides a more complete presentation of those data, adds the smaller Layer 11 sample, and provides a detailed analysis of the taphonomic history of both samples. Bone fragment density is higher in Layer 10 than in Layer 11. Bone densities vary horizontally as well, with Layer 10 showing greater deposition in the exposed areas of the cave. An analysis of long bone breakage patterns indicates that non-nutritive breakage on the Layers 10 and 11 samples was present but not intense. Size 1 mammals were predominantly accumulated by owls and/or other large raptors, not hominids, in Layer 10. Hominids were the predominant accumulator of Sizes 2-4 mammals in Layers 10 and 11 as indicated by the frequency of hammer-stone percussion marks and carnivore toothmarks. After discard by hominids, a significant portion of these remains were discovered and scavenged by carnivores. Overall, the larger mammal fauna of Layer 10 is dominated by Sizes 3 and 4 bovids, mostly young and adult eland, and thus hominids were focusing on the high-ranked prey items. Shaft portions of long bones, the portions with the most flesh, have the highest frequencies of cutmarks. A comparison of the Layers 10 and 11 cutmark frequencies to Selvaggio's (1998) scavenging model shows that the frequencies are significantly outside the range of variation documented in Selavaggio's scavenging sample.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)197-233
Number of pages37
JournalJournal of human evolution
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Middle Stone Age
  • South Africa
  • Taphonomy
  • Zooarchaeology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Anthropology


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