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Stable carbon isotopic assessment of prehistoric diets in the south-western Cape, South Africa

By Judith C Sealy

Abstract

Bibliography: pages 190-203.This thesis consists of a stable carbon isotopic assessment of the diets of the Holocene human inhabitants of the southwestern Cape, South Africa. Samples of the foods these people ate were collected from each of the four major physiographic zones in the area, and their ¹³C/¹²C ratios measured. A total of more than 200 such analyses enabled the estimation of the average δ¹³C values of prehistoric human diets in each zone. This information is used to interpret δ¹³C measurements on a series of archaeological human skeletons. The results are consistent with a model of prehistoric subsistence behaviour in which people living at the coast made intensive use of marine food resources throughout the Holocene, consuming such a large proportion of these foods that they must have spent much, if not all of their time at the coast. Inland skeletons reflect an almost entirely terrestrial diet. These results contradict hypotheses about seasonal population movements between the coast and the interior generated from excavated archaeological material. Considerable changes in many of our current views of the Late Stone Age of the south-western Cape will have to be made in order to accommodate these data

Topics: Archaeology, Prehistoric peoples - South Africa - Western Cape - Food
Publisher: Department of Archaeology
Year: 1984
OAI identifier: oai:open.uct.ac.za:11427/22414

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