<span>Partners in grime: results of multi-disciplinary archaeology at Sibudu Cave</span>
Multidisciplinary archaeological research at Sibudu Cave has enhanced understanding of behaviour at the site and of local environmental conditions from before ~60 ka to ~37 ka. The Middle Stone Age (MSA) sequence includes pre-Still Bay, Still Bay, Howiesons Poort and more recent MSA lithic assemblages, all of which include either worked bone or worked shell. The marine shell in the cave appears to have been used as a raw material and not as a source of food. Cyperaceae seeds imply the use of sedges for bedding, perhaps in the form of mats. Discrete hearths and ash-patches are present in all occupations, while palimpsests of hearths are characteristic of the ~50 ka occupations. The people who lived at Sibudu were skilled encounter-hunters who were able to kill a wide range of bovids of all sizes. Their prey included zebra and dangerous species such as buffalo and bushpig. For much of the time that the cave was occupied, its inhabitants seem to have used unifacially or bifacially retouched lithic points as parts of weapons for hunting, but, at times, some points may have been used as butchery implements. Use-trace analysis supports both interpretations. Points were absent during the Howiesons Poort Industry when small prey, from moist, evergreen forests, was the focus of the hunters. The environmental setting for cultural activities changed through time. Combined evidence from magnetic susceptibility, phytoliths, charcoal, pollen, seeds, mineralogy, macromammals and micromammals suggests that cold Oxygen Isotope Stage 4 (OIS 4) and warmer OIS 3 conditions were experienced by the site's occupants. The changing temperatures, moisture availability and distance from the coast during OIS 4 and OIS 3 influenced vegetation, sediments and animal populations. Proportions of evergreen and deciduous taxa fluctuated, with an increase of deciduous taxa possibly coinciding with warmer temperatures and increased evapotranspiration at ~50 ka. Broadly speaking, most of the sequence from ~60 ka onwards seems to have been associated with more open grassland and more large grazers than is presently the case in the area.
To cite this article: Wadley, L. 2006. Partners in grime: results of multi-disciplinary archaeology at Sibudu Cave. Southern African Humanities 18 (1): 315-41.
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