Taphonomic analysis of the faunal assemblage associated with the hominins (Australopithecus sediba) from the early Pleistocene cave deposits of Malapa, South Africa

Val, Aurore, Dirks, Paul H.G.M., Backwell, Lucinda R., d'Errico, Francesco, and Berger, Lee R. (2015) Taphonomic analysis of the faunal assemblage associated with the hominins (Australopithecus sediba) from the early Pleistocene cave deposits of Malapa, South Africa. PLoS ONE, 10 (6). pp. 1-16.

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Abstract

Here we present the results of a taphonomic study of the faunal assemblage associated with the hominin fossils (Australopithecus sediba) from the Malapa site. Results include estimation of body part representation, mortality profiles, type of fragmentation, identification of breakage patterns, and microscopic analysis of bone surfaces. The diversity of the faunal spectrum, presence of animals with climbing proclivities, abundance of complete and/or articulated specimens, occurrence of antimeric sets of elements, and lack of carnivore-modified bones, indicate that animals accumulated via a natural death trap leading to an area of the cave system with no access to mammalian scavengers. The co-occurrence of well preserved fossils, carnivore coprolites, deciduous teeth of brown hyaena, and some highly fragmented and poorly preserved remains supports the hypothesis of a mixing of sediments coming from distinct chambers, which collected at the bottom of the cave system through the action of periodic water flow. This combination of taphonomic features explains the remarkable state of preservation of the hominin fossils as well as some of the associated faunal material.

Item ID: 41564
Item Type: Article (Refereed Research - C1)
Keywords: faunal assemblage; hominin fossils; taphonomic study
Additional Information:

© 2015 Val et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

ISSN: 1932-6203
Funders: National Geographic Society, Gauteng Provincial Government, National Research Foundation, South Africa (NRFSA), University of the Witwatersrand (UW), Carstens Trust, Australian Research Council (ARC)
Projects and Grants: NRFSA, African Origins Programme, UW, Evolutionary Studies Institute, ARC DP140104282
Date Deposited: 10 Dec 2015 02:22
FoR Codes: 04 EARTH SCIENCES > 0403 Geology > 040308 Palaeontology (incl Palynology) @ 50%
04 EARTH SCIENCES > 0403 Geology > 040311 Stratigraphy (incl Biostratigraphy and Sequence Stratigraphy) @ 30%
21 HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 2101 Archaeology > 210199 Archaeology not elsewhere classified @ 20%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970104 Expanding Knowledge in the Earth Sciences @ 100%
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