Coastal occupation and foraging during the Last Glacial Maximum and Early Holocene at Waterfall Bluff, eastern Pondoland, South Africa
Dr Erich Fisher
Tue, 08/09/2020 - 18:30
Western Cape
Coastal occupation and foraging during the Last Glacial Maximum and Early Holocene at Waterfall Bluff, eastern Pondoland, South Africa

Archaeological evidence shows that coastlines have been a key resource for hunter-gatherers for tens of thousands of years, and for good reason. Coastlines often provided predictable, diverse, and abundant foods and other resources that supported day-to-day life.  Yet existing records of coastal foraging during the Pleistocene in Africa are biased almost entirely towards interglacial periods, hampering long-term perspectives on when and how these places were utilized and our understanding of any long-term impacts that coastal resources may have had on the biological or cultural evolution of humans. Recent findings from the site of Waterfall Bluff in eastern Pondoland (Eastern Cape Province), South Africa have documented well-preserved stratigraphy, faunal, and botanic remains alongside abundant stone artifacts and other materials, providing a detailed record of hunter-gatherer occupations from the Late Pleistocene to the Holocene that includes the Last Glacial Maximum and transition from the Pleistocene to the Holocene. These excavations have also documented the first direct evidence of coastal foraging in Africa during a glacial maximum and across a glacial/interglacial transition. The presence of both marine fish and shellfish in these records demonstrates that Pleistocene hunter-gatherers targeted different, but specific, coastal ecological niches all the while collecting terrestrial resources from throughout the broader landscape and maintaining links to highland locales inland. Research at Waterfall Bluff, therefore provides a complimentary perspective on hunter-gatherer behavioral responses to environmental shifts that is often biased towards groups living in marginal environments where resource availability and predictability were already low. 
Erich is a Research Scientist at the Institute of Human Origins at Arizona State University, an Honorary Researcher at the Evolutionary Studies Institute at the University of the Witwatersrand, and an Associate Member of the Centre for Coastal Palaeosciences at Nelson Mandela University. He is interested in the origins of modern humans and archaeoinformatics, which leverages the integrative framework of digital technologies to build intrinsically interdisciplinary studies of complex archaeological problems. Erich has field experience across the Horn of Africa, East Africa, South Africa, Arabia, and Mesoamerica. Erich has worked in South Africa since 2008, spending a lot of time working at the caves at Pinnacle Point near Mossel Bay before moving east to begin the P5 Project in the Eastern Cape.

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