Stone Age people in a changing South African Greater Cape Floristic Region

Curtis W. Marean, Hayley C. Cawthra, Richard M. Cowling, Karen J. Esler, Erich Fisher, Antoni Milewski, Alastair J. Potts, Elzanne Singels and Jan De Vynck

in Fynbos

Published in print September 2014 | ISBN: 9780199679584
Published online October 2014 | e-ISBN: 9780191791949 | DOI:
Stone Age people in a changing South African Greater Cape Floristic Region

More Like This

Show all results sharing this subject:

  • Animal Pathology and Diseases


Show Summary Details


The human origins story (palaeoanthropology) is often set in the African Palaeotropics, yet the Greater Cape Floristic Region (GCFR) plays an internationally prominent role that surpasses its small size. Some of the earliest evidence for the complex behaviours associated with fully modern humans is found here, with prehistoric stone age hunter-gatherers adapting to a unique and changing environment from about 1 million years ago to near-present. The GCFR has an astonishing variety of vegetation types, an unparalleled diversity and abundance of geophytic plants, and a resource-rich coastline. These features had a dominating influence on the adaptations and demography of past hunter-gatherer societies. The GCFR had a relatively stable palaeoclimate through the Pleistocene, but the landscape changed dramatically as the now-submerged Palaeo-Agulhas Plain expanded and contracted. The palaeontology of the region shows it provided grasslands supporting the large ungulates that dominate the Pleistocene faunal assemblages, and a habitat to hunter-gatherers that is absent through the Holocene. Late in the Pleistocene early modern humans figured out how to exploit coastal resources, and shortly after this there is a florescence in complexity in material culture. But the rapidly changing sea levels of the Pleistocene may have held in check the tendency of coastal hunter-gatherer economies to rise in population and complexity. With the Holocene, world climate enters a peculiar phase of stability, and like many areas of the world, populations rise and coastal adaptations ratchet up in complexity, only to be overcome by a militarily superior pastoral economy around 1,800 years ago.

Keywords: stone age; palaeoclimate; palaeontology; human origins; palaeoanthropology; Greater Cape Floristic Region; geophytic; hunter-gatherer

Chapter.  24526 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Animal Pathology and Diseases

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content. subscribe or purchase to access all content.