An archaeological, anthropological study of the human skeletal remains from the Oakhurst Rockshelter, George, Cape Province, Southern Africa

Master Thesis


Permanent link to this Item
Journal Title
Link to Journal
Journal ISSN
Volume Title

University of Cape Town

Osteological and dental analyses have been widely used to outline a graded response to nutritional and physiological stress in human bone. It is argued that agriculturalists and transitional agro/pastoralists are more stressed than the hunter gatherers who preceded t hem. This is evinced by mortality profiles, mean age at death and the number and extent of stressors observed in the skeleton such as enamel hypoplasiae, porotic hyperostosis and Harris lines. Agriculturalists and agro/pastoralists are thought to be more prone to these stressors as they relied heavily on root crops and cereals for their nutrients. This exposed them to periods of episodic starvation and physical stress. Hunter gatherers in comparison are thought to have subsisted on a relatively healthy diet, offering more and better quality protein and so reducing the incidence of episodic and general stress. An alternative to this diet-dependent hypothesis is suggested by the analysis of forty-six skeletal remains from the nonagricultural, marine-dependent population of Oakhurst from the South coast of southern Africa. Porotic hyperostosis and enamel hypoplasiae are just as common among these marine-dependent people as among transitional agro/pastoralists. These findings imply that both individual development and population growth rates at Oakhurst were interrupted episodically and generally, and that these interruptions were substantially more common than in living and recently extinct hunter gatherers and pastoralists in southern Africa.

Bibliography: pages 202-231.