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Free Content Modern vegetation at the Klasies River archaeological sites, Tsitsikamma coast, south-eastern Cape, South Africa: a reference collection

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Background and aims – The Klasies River cultural landscape, on the Tsitsikamma coast, south-eastern Cape, South Africa, features prominently in modern human origins research. The archaeobotanical information for the Klasies River landscape and its immediate environment is sparse. The aim of this study is the collection of a taxonomically valid and comprehensive reference database of modern botanical specimens as an aid to identifying macro- and micro-botanicals such as seeds, charcoal, phytoliths, parenchyma and pollen in the Klasies River archaeological deposits. This is an essential step in providing context for the identification of past vegetation and its usage by Stone Age populations.

Methods – Herb, shrub, tree, grass, fern and geophyte voucher specimens were collected in 24 areas in the vicinity of the Klasies River sites, and further inland within a 5km radius, between 2013 and 2015. The collecting was done at different times of year so that all stages of the flowering, fruiting and seeding cycles for most plants could be sampled.

Key results – A total of 268 species, in 196 genera and 78 families were collected. Only 69 of these 268 species currently appear on the relevant database grid of the Integrated Biodiversity Information System (SIBIS), the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI). Our work clearly indicates the need for thorough and systematic collecting at archaeologically significant sites in the Cape region to provide further environmental proxies for the interpretation and contextualisation of the development of anatomically modern human behaviour.

Conclusions – The Klasies River landscape, although located within the broad Fynbos Biome, cannot be classified as such, as relatively few fynbos species are represented in the core area surrounding the sites. The vegetation is in fact a complex mosaic of thicket, forest and coastal vegetation. This densely interdigitated vegetation provides a wide variety of useful resources.

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Document Type: Regular Paper

Publication date: April 1, 2017

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