Isotopic analysis and sclerochronology on shell carbonate material from the Middle Stone Age site of Pinnacle Point, South Africa to determine interaction and feedback between humans and environment.
The research, in collaboration with GeoForschungsZentrum (GFZ)-Potsdam, is part of Mariagrazia Galimberti's PhD from the Department of Archaeology at the University of Cape Town. This work aims to reconstruct the marine palaeoenvironment in which the first indication of modern human behaviour has been witnessed in South Africa around 160 ky ago, starting from the archaeological assemblage of the Pinnacle Point site.
Remains of the gastropod Turbo sarmaticus and of the bivalve Donax serra are common in archaeological sites around the Southern Coast of South Africa. Oxygen isotope ratio analyses are performed on these species in order to reconstruct ocean surface temperature, seasonality range and occupation patterns of the human populations dwelling in the cave site between 160 000 and 40 000 years ago.
A comparison of Middle Stone Age and modern specimen data, linked to the archaeological assemblage of the Pinnacle Point site, is expected to indicate whether variations recorded in human subsistence methods and behaviour were influenced by environmental changes.
At theend of 2008, about 800 isotopic analyses, which are fundamental for this project, were carried out at the GFZ under the supervision of Dr Birgit Plessen.