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Foraging for shellfish in a predictable and productive inter-tidal environment, the south coast of South Africa

Author(s): Jan De Vynck ; Robert Anderson ; Kim Hill ; Curtis Marean ; Richard Cowling

Year: 2015

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The south coast of South Africa has the oldest and best studied evidence for early use of coastal resources, and various researchers have argued that coastal resource use was significant for cognition, social complexity, and the maintenance of population refugia. To date there has been little consensus on the foraging returns and sustainability for inter-tidal resources in this coastal environment. Here we present the first net return and regeneration rate estimates for inter-tidal foraging in the varied south coast of South Africa. Foraging experiments were conducted with Khoe-San descendants in the area and hourly caloric net return rates were recorded over 35 low tides and through the seasons. Net return rates varied as a function of gender, tidal range, marine habitat types and weather conditions. The mean net return rate (kcal/hour) in some instances equals or exceeds that recorded for hunting of large mammals, and shows that under the right conditions the south coast provides an extraordinarily rich protein resource. Our results show that strategic coastal foraging along the south coast could have been a highly predictable and productive foraging strategy for emerging modern humans. We relate these results to recent analyses and discussions of Middle Stone Age coastal foraging.

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Foraging for shellfish in a predictable and productive inter-tidal environment, the south coast of South Africa. Jan De Vynck, Kim Hill, Robert Anderson, Richard Cowling, Curtis Marean. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 396833)


Spatial Coverage

min long: -18.809; min lat: -38.823 ; max long: 53.262; max lat: 38.823 ;

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America