An Analysis of the Plio-Pliestocene Paleoecology of Makapansgat, Limpopo Province, South Africa

Gillian C. Sloggett


The study of the Plio-Pliestocene environment at Makapansgat is characterized by debates over the chronology and ecological context of A. africanus. This paper presents a comprehensive overview of the organic and inorganic features of the site as well as of previous paleoecological interpretations, with focus on the potential habitat of A. africanus. Following an overview of the geology and lithostratigraphy of the Makapansgat, the issue of dating will be discussed in depth. A review of organic and inorganic materials will be provided, followed by a discussion of relevant taphonomic considerations. Further, previous paleoecological reconstructions will be analyzed and critiqued and the implications for A. africanus, and hominid evolution, will be discussed. Ultimately, it will be argued that during the Plio-Pleistocene, Makapansgat was a relatively moist environment with a flexible mosaic bush, woodland, and forest ecosystem. This mosaic of habitats supported a wide array of fauna including Australopithecus africanus, and may have encouraged the diversification of its dietary strategy, as well as its potential bipedal tendencies. 


palaeoecology; palaeoanthropology; Australopithecus africanus; South Africa; early hominin; Makapansgat; Plio-Pleistocene; fauna; site formation; taphonomy; limestone cave

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