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The promise and pitfalls of quantitative paleoenvironmental reconstruction in zooarchaeology: evaluation of late Quaternary micromammal assemblages from southern Africa

Author(s): Tyler Faith ; Margaret Avery

Year: 2017

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Summary

Over the last several decades, Quaternary scientists have developed numerous techniques to generate quantitative paleoenvironmental reconstructions based on the taxonomic composition of fossil assemblages. The appeal of these methods is that, rather than providing reconstructions in qualitative terms (e.g., cooler versus warmer), they offer potential to generate numerical assessments. While these methods have been applied to a variety of fossil organisms, including pollen, diatoms, foraminifera, and chironomids, they are rarely applied to mammals. Our aim in this study is to explore the promise and pitfalls of quantitative paleoenvironmental reconstruction through the analysis of modern and fossil micromammal assemblages (rodents and shrews) from southern Africa. In a training set of ~150 modern assemblages collected from barn owl (Tyto alba) roosts throughout southern Africa, multivariate analyses demonstrate strong correlations between assemblage composition and several climate variables, especially those relating to precipitation seasonality. Transfer functions derived from these relationships are used to generate quantitative paleoclimate reconstructions for late Quaternary micromammal sequences from southern Africa’s Cape Floristic Region, a region that features prominently in modern human origins research. We show that the methods of quantitative paleoenvironmental reconstruction offer untapped potential in zooarchaeology, but that there are also limitations that must be considered.


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The promise and pitfalls of quantitative paleoenvironmental reconstruction in zooarchaeology: evaluation of late Quaternary micromammal assemblages from southern Africa. Tyler Faith, Margaret Avery. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430375)


Keywords

Geographic Keywords
AFRICA


Spatial Coverage

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

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 15262

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