The Exploitation of Plant Resources by Early Homo sapiens: The Phytolith Record from Pinnacle Point 13B Cave, South Africa

Rosa M. Albert, Curtis Marean

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

25 Scopus citations

Abstract

The capacity to detect remnants of fire usage in archaeological sites, along with a better understanding of its use by prehistoric populations, can help us to shed light on hominin cognition, social organization, and technology. The application of phytolith studies to understand fire and its use can be widely applicable since plants typically contain phytoliths that are identifiable to different taxonomic levels. Pinnacle Point 13B (PP13B) is one of several South African Middle Stone Age (MSA) sites that shows an abundant presence of lenses of burnt material and intact hearths. Phytolith analyses at PP13B have been used to identify the types of plants used as fuel in the hearths. The phytoliths overall show high levels of alteration, and varying alteration is used to identify areas with higher alkaline conditions related to dripping water. In some areas of the site, there is excellent preservation of multicellular structures from the epidermal leaves of dicotyledonous plants, suggesting in situ structures with practically no chemical or post-depositional alteration. A notable pattern is the abundance of dicotyledonous leaves from the rear of the cave, which might indicate specific leaf-fuels for the fires, short-term fire activities, or other actions such as cooking.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)363-384
Number of pages22
JournalGeoarchaeology
Volume27
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 1 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)

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