Chemical evidence for milk, meat, and marine resource processing in Later Stone Age pots from Namaqualand, South Africa

Courtneay Hopper*, Julie B Dunne, Genevieve Dewar, Richard P Evershed

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The subsistence practices of Later Stone Age (LSA) foragers and herders living in Namaqualand South Africa are often difficult to differentiate based on their archaeological signatures but characterizing their dietary choices is vital to understand the economic importance of domesticates. However, ethnohistoric accounts have provided information on the cooking/boiling of marine mammal fat, mutton, plants, and milk by early herders and foragers across the Western Cape. To further investigate these reports, we use lipid residue analysis to characterize 106 potsherds from four open-air LSA sites, spanning in time from the early first millennium to the late second millennium AD. Two sites (SK2005/057A, SK2006/026) are located on the Atlantic coast whereas sites Jakkalsberg K and Jakkalsberg M are located further inland on the southern bank of the Orange River. Notably, at the coastal sites, the presence of marine biomarkers suggests the intensive and/or specialized processing of marine products in many vessels. The dominance of ruminant carcass products at inland sites and probable sheep remains confirms the importance of stockkeeping. Furthermore, and in good agreement with ethnohistoric accounts for its use, our results provide the first direct chemical evidence for the use of dairy products in LSA South Africa.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1658
JournalScientific Reports
Volume13
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jan 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors would like to thank Louisa Hutten at the University of Cape Town (UCT) and David Halkett, Tim Hart, as well as Liesbet Schietecatte at the Archaeological Contracts Office for their help in locating some of the pottery analyzed in this paper. We would also like to thank Louisa Hutten for allowing Hopper access to the faunal laboratory at the UCT and her help combing through the collections to hunt down elusive potsherds. Thanks also to Dr. Michelle Cameron and Dr. Max Friesen for their helpful comments on an earlier draft of this article as well as Dr. Tim Forssman and two anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments. The authors also wish to thank the NERC for partial funding of the National Environmental Isotope Facility (NEIF; Contract No. NE/V003917/1) and NERC (contract no. NE/V003917/1) and funding from the European Research Council under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP/2007-2013) and European Research Council Grant Agreement number 340923 for funding GC-MS capabilities, together with NERC (contract no. NE/V003917/1) and the University of Bristol for funding the GC-IRMS capabilities. Ian Bull, Alison Kuhl and Helen Whelton are thanked for technical help. This research and open access publication was also supported in part by the University of Toronto’s Graduate Student Research Grant, the Student Research Fellowship awarded by the Archaeology Centre at the University of Toronto, and the SSHRC Institutional Grant administered by the University of Toronto Scarborough.

Funding Information:
The authors would like to thank Louisa Hutten at the University of Cape Town (UCT) and David Halkett, Tim Hart, as well as Liesbet Schietecatte at the Archaeological Contracts Office for their help in locating some of the pottery analyzed in this paper. We would also like to thank Louisa Hutten for allowing Hopper access to the faunal laboratory at the UCT and her help combing through the collections to hunt down elusive potsherds. Thanks also to Dr. Michelle Cameron and Dr. Max Friesen for their helpful comments on an earlier draft of this article as well as Dr. Tim Forssman and two anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments. The authors also wish to thank the NERC for partial funding of the National Environmental Isotope Facility (NEIF; Contract No. NE/V003917/1) and NERC (contract no. NE/V003917/1) and funding from the European Research Council under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP/2007-2013) and European Research Council Grant Agreement number 340923 for funding GC-MS capabilities, together with NERC (contract no. NE/V003917/1) and the University of Bristol for funding the GC-IRMS capabilities. Ian Bull, Alison Kuhl and Helen Whelton are thanked for technical help. This research and open access publication was also supported in part by the University of Toronto’s Graduate Student Research Grant, the Student Research Fellowship awarded by the Archaeology Centre at the University of Toronto, and the SSHRC Institutional Grant administered by the University of Toronto Scarborough.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, The Author(s).

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