Cannibalism in the Middle Stone Age at Klasies River Main Site, South Africa

Primate Conversations

Prof. Frederick Grine’s research interests focus on the hominin fossil record, with particular reference to the problems of species recognition and differentiation in the Pliocene and Pleistocene, and the reconstruction of phylogenetic relationships among these extinct taxa. He is interested in dental morphology as it relates to issues of taxonomy and function. His research has focused on the reconstruction of early hominin dietary habits from the analysis of dental microwear, and the study of the functional significance of differences in enamel thickness and microstructure. Grine's research also extends to the analysis of human fossils from Middle Stone Age archaeological sites in southern Africa as they relate to issues surrounding the emergence of modern humans.

Talk abstract: We recently completed a revision of the human fossil record for the site, wherein we placed all of the specimens in stratigraphic context (pdf appended). I also placed almost all of the vault fragments in correct anatomical alignment. Curtis Marean and I have documented stone tool cutmarks on a good number of the human bones (in addition to the famous frontal cutmarks identified by Tim White). The cutmarks and the burining of the elements are  seen throughout the depth of the MSA sequence, suggesting that cannibalism was a persistent practice at the site for probably onwards of 40,000 years. The human remains also show the classic "Klasies Pattern" of abundance as do the faunal remains, although this might be related to excavation techniques.