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University of Toronto (2009)

A Bioarchaeological Study of Mid-Holocene Communities in the Eastern Cape, South Africa : the Interface between Foraging and Pastoralism

Ginter, Jaime Kristen

Titre : A Bioarchaeological Study of Mid-Holocene Communities in the Eastern Cape, South Africa : the Interface between Foraging and Pastoralism

Auteur : Ginter, Jaime Kristen

Université de soutenance : University of Toronto

Grade : Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) 2009

Résumé
The late Holocene marks a period of significant population movement and subsistence change throughout much of sub-Saharan Africa. Around 3500 BP it appears that foraging populations in southernmost South Africa began to experience stress related to an increasing population and changing climatic conditions. Approximately 1500 years later a new form of subsistence - sheep herding – emerged in areas previously occupied solely by foragers, but was not exclusively adopted. The mechanisms surrounding the introduction of this new subsistence strategy – an indigenous adoption via diffusion or a foreign migration - remain unresolved. This study takes a biological approach to this significant question in southern African prehistory by exploring a collection of Later Stone Age skeletal remains that predate and postdate the appearance of pastoralism in order to determine if any significant changes in skeletal morphology indicative of population discontinuity can be identified at 2000 BP. A collection of seventy-three Later Stone Age adult skeletons (31 M, 42 F) with newly generated radiocarbon dates ranging from 8000 BP to 300 BP (uncalibrated) from the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa forms the basis of this study. Questions surrounding population continuity or discontinuity associated with the advent of sheep herding are investigated by examining metric variables collected from the cranium, post cranial skeleton and dentition, in conjunction with cranial discrete traits. Some changes in skeletal morphology are observed, but the timing, pattern and magnitude of these changes are not consistent with a foreign migration. A reduction in overall skeletal size in the absence of changes in shape corresponds with the period of forager intensification. Body size rebounds at around 2000 BP when evidence for a new form subsistence, sheep herding, is first observed in this region, suggesting that some foragers may have adopted sheep and the herding way of life as a stress relieving mechanism, while others maintained the foraging lifestyle. The timing of the observed changes in skeletal size, the absence of shape changes and the homogeneity in cranial discrete trait frequencies through time argues against the idea that sheep herding was introduced to the Cape region by outsiders. Rather, the findings of the current study suggest sheep herding was an indigenous development among existing foragers.

Mots clés : bioarchaeology ; South Africa ; Later Stone Age ; foraging ; pastoralism

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