Elands Bay Cave
Elands Bay Cave is located near the mouth of the Verlorenvlei estuary on the Atlantic coast of South Africa's Western Cape Province. The climate has continuously become drier since the habitation of hunter-gatherers in the Later Pleistocene. The archaeological remains recovered from previous excavations at Elands Bay Cave have been studied to help answer questions regarding the relationship of people and their landscape, the role of climate change that could have determined or influenced subsistence changes, and the impact of pastoralism and agriculture on hunter-gatherer communities.
Archaeological excavations at Elands Bay Cave began in the 1970s. Scientific interest has focused on investigating coastal changes, subsistence and seasonal mobility. Faunal remains representing the time period of 13,600-12,000 years ago were left behind by the cave's occupants. The majority of the faunal assemblage consists of grazing animals and is indicative of a grassland environment. The faunal remains were examined and compared to collections at the South Africa Museum in Cape Town. Few marine specimens were recovered from this time span and is indicative of the 12 km distance from the cave to the coast. Cartwright and Parkington (1997) excavated 6,700 fragments of wood charcoal that were retrieved through dry sieving large soil samples of 39 collections. Excavation of wood charcoal and pollen in the cave suggests that last glacial maximum had wetter conditions with lush forests and Afromontane elements 20,000 years ago. There were also varieties of charcoal tested from 20,000, 13,500, and 10,500 years ago. Researchers have also analyzed micromammals, such as mice, as paleoenvironmental indicators. Micromammal remains were encountered during excavations and occur throughout the units dating from 13,260 to 300 years before present. The micromammal specimens were recovered using 12mm and 3mm sieves, however, the researchers comment that this mesh size was likely too large to account for smaller faunal remains. Understanding the taphonomic processes that contributed to the deposition of the micromammal remains at Elands Bay Cave is important because it has identified a number of predators likely responsible for the accumulation of faunal material. that became a great tool for the formation of micromammal collection. Excavations in Elands Bay Cave and surrounding areas support a hypothesis of migration in winter months. Assemblages of shellfish findings portray that the theory of shellfish changing in size during prehistoric times because of environment was overthrown and was replaced by consuming large amounts of shellfish at the time. Observations and excavations were done in Elands Bay Cave in order to properly identify species of fish bones with accurate representation in specific levels. Excavations that were conducted from 1970 to 1978 in Elands Bay Cave concluded that there was a stratified sequence of deposits that dated to the late Pleistocene. Between 8,000 and 6,000 years ago, the rise in sea level eventually resulted in the present location of Elands Bay Cave now on the coast. Excavations after 4,000 BP revealed there were 13 different species of fish represented at the site, 6 of which are still found today in the aquatic milieus. These findings supported the conclusion that due to the close proximity to the coast, fishing activities were the dominant subsistence strategy practiced by the people who occupied Elands Bay Cave. With the coastline in its present-day location about 6000 years ago, the inhabitants of the cave were thus in a favorable location to exploit marine resources.