Pinnacle Point, a series of archaeological sites that overlook a now submerged section of South Africa's coastline and one of the world's most important localities for the study of modern human origins, was as much of an Eden for animals as it was for early humans. Jamie Hodgkins, PhD, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Colorado Denver, and her team drilled ancient herbivore teeth to find that many local animals stayed put in the ecologically rich ecosystem, which may explain why humans flourished there, too. Their study was published in a Quaternary Science Reviews special issue: The Palaeo-Agulhas Plain: a Lost World and Extinct Ecosystem this month (link to in-press article below). The title of the article is “An Isotopic Test of the Seasonal Migration Hypothesis for Large Grazing Ungulates Inhabiting the Palaeo-Agulhas Plain.” Home to some of the richest evidence for the behavior and culture of the earliest clearly modern humans, the submerged shelf called the Palaeo-Agulhas Plain (PAP) once formed its own ecosystem. Co-author Curtis Marean, PhD, Arizona State University, has worked with teams of scientists for decades to reconstruct the locale back into the Pleistocene, the time period that spanned from 2.6 million to 11,700 years ago. In this study, the researchers looked specifically at antelope migratory patterns at Pinnacle Point. This series of cave sites that sit on the modern South African coast offers archaeological materials from humans who were living and hunting there back to 170,000 years ago. "During glacial cycles, the coastal shelf was exposed," said Dr. Hodgkins. "There would have been a huge amount of land in front of the cave sites. We thought it was likely that humans and carnivores were hunting animals as they migrated east and west over the exposed shelve."
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