Long bone cross-sectional geometric properties of Later Stone Age foragers and herder–foragers

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South African Journal of Science

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Diaphyseal cross-sectional geometry can be used to infer activity patterns in archaeological populations. We examined the cross-sectional geometric (CSG) properties of adult Later Stone Age (LSA) herder-forager long bones from the inland lower Orange River Valley of South Africa (n=5 m, 13 f). We then compared their CSG properties to LSA forager adults from the coastal fynbos (n=23 m, 14 f) and forest (n=17 m, 19 f) regions, building on a previous report (Stock and Pfeiffer, 2004). The periosteal mould method was used to quantify total subperiosteal area, torsional strength, bilateral asymmetry and diaphyseal circularity (Imax/Imin) at the mid-distal (35%) location of upper arms (humeri) and the mid-shaft (50%) location of upper legs (femora). Maximum humerus and femur lengths were similar among the three samples, suggesting that adult stature was similar in all three regions. When compared to the previous study, CSG property values obtained using the periosteal mould method correlated well, and there were no significant differences between data collected using the different methods. No statistically significant differences were found among the humerus or femur CSG properties from the different regions. This finding suggests that all individuals undertook similar volitional habitual activities in regard to their upper limbs, and also had similar degrees of terrestrial mobility. These results indicate relative behavioural homogeneity among LSA foragers and herder foragers from South Africa. The small degree of regional variation apparent among the three samples may reflect local ecology and the subsistence demands affecting populations in these different regions.