The Oldowan and Early Acheulean Mammalian Fauna of Wonderwerk Cave (Northern Cape Province, South Africa)

James Brink, Sharon Holt, Liora Kolska Horwitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


We describe and discuss the large vertebrates recovered from the basal layers (Strata 12 and 11) of Excavation 1 at Wonderwerk Cave, a site located in the Kuruman Hills, Northern Cape Province, South Africa. Stratum 12 is associated with a small core and flake Oldowan assemblage while Stratum 11 contains some Acheulean material. Based on palaeo-magnetism, the time span covered by these Strata is estimated to date to ca.1.8–1.1 million years ago. Taxa identified include late Makapanian forms, such as Procavia transvaalensis, Procavia antiqua, a hipparionine and an unnamed species of large caprine, also found in the Makapan Limeworks deposits, confirming the antiquity of these layers. The bones are highly fragmented due to the action of multiple agencies, both pre- and postdepositional, which prevented diagnosis in many cases to lower levels of taxonomy. In support of other palaeo-environmental proxies from Strata 12 and 11, the large mammal remains reflect a semi-arid ecotone palaeo-environment, consisting of a mix of taxa associated with broken, montane habitat and semi-arid grassland-savanna plains habitat.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)223-250
Number of pages28
JournalAfrican Archaeological Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016, Springer Science+Business Media New York.


We wish to express our special thanks for their assistance in various aspects of this project to Prof. Michael Chazan, co-director of the Wonderwerk project; Mr. Colin Fortune (now retired, Director), Dr. David Morris (Head of Archaeology Department), Dr. Leon Jacobson (now retired, Assistant Director) and the staff of the McGregor Museum; Mr. Rick Nuttall (Director), Dr. Nico Avenant (Head of the Mammalogy Department) and the staff of the National Museum, Bloemfontein; Dr. Berhard Zipfel, Institute for Human Evolution, University of the Witwatersrand, for access to the Makapan Limeworks fossil assemblage; Ms. Stephany Potze and Mr. Lazarus Kgasi, Department of Palaeontology, Ditsong National Museum of Natural History (previously the Transvaal Museum), for access to the Swartkrans fossil assemblages; and Mr. Willem Carel Brink for translating the abstract into French. JSB would like to thank the NRF for financial support (grant no. 82603) and Prof. Andy Herries, La Trobe University, Australia, for fruitful discussions on geochronology. The authors thank two anonymous reviewers for their comments. The authors would like to acknowledge the contribution of the excavator of the Wonderwerk faunal assemblage, Mr. Peter Beaumont.

FundersFunder number
Neurosurgical Research Foundation82603


    • Early Acheulean
    • Early Pleistocene
    • Mammals
    • Oldowan
    • South Africa


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