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Paleoenvironmental and Human Behavioral Implications of the Boegoeberg 1 Late Pleistocene Hyena Den, Northern Cape Province, South Africa

  • Richard G. Klein (a1), Kathryn Cruz-Uribe (a2), David Halkett (a3), Tim Hart (a4) and John E. Parkington (a5)...

Boegoeberg 1 (BOG1) is located on the Atlantic coast of South Africa, 850 km north of Cape Town. The site is a shallow rock shelter in the side of a sand-choked gully that was emptied by diamond miners. Abundant coprolites, chewed bones, and partially digested bones implicate hyenas as the bone accumulators. The location of the site, quantity of bones, and composition of the fauna imply it was a brown hyena nursery den. The abundance of Cape fur seal bones shows that the hyenas had ready access to the coast. Radiocarbon dates place the site before 37,000 14C yr ago, while the large average size of the black-backed jackals and the presence of extralimital ungulates imply cool, moist conditions, probably during the early part of the last glaciation (isotope stage 4 or stage 3 before 37,000 14C yr ago) or perhaps during one of the cooler phases (isotope substages 5d or 5b) within the last interglaciation. Comparisons of the BOG1 seal bones to those from regional Middle Stone Age (MSA) and Later Stone Age (LSA) archeological sites suggest (1) that hyena and human seal accumulations can be distinguished by a tendency for vertebrae to be much more common in a hyena accumulation and (2) that hyena and LSA accumulations can be distinguished by a tendency for hyena-accumulated seals to represent a much wider range of individual seal ages. Differences in the way hyenas and people dismember, transport, and consume seal carcasses probably explain the contrast in skeletal part representation, while differences in season of occupation explain the contrast in seal age representation. Like modern brown hyenas, the BOG1 hyenas probably occupied the coast year-round, while the LSA people focused their coastal visits on the August–October interval when nine-to-eleven-month-old seals were abundant. The MSA sample from Klasies River Mouth Cave 1 resembles BOG1 in seal age composition, suggesting that unlike LSA people, MSA people obtained seals more or less throughout the year.

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Quaternary Research
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