Paleolakes and socioecological implications of last glacial “greening” of the South African interior - CNRS - Centre national de la recherche scientifique Access content directly
Journal Articles Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America Year : 2023

Paleolakes and socioecological implications of last glacial “greening” of the South African interior

Abstract

Determining the timing and drivers of Pleistocene hydrological change in the interior of South Africa is critical for testing hypotheses regarding the presence, dynamics, and resilience of human populations. Combining geological data and physically based distributed hydrological modeling, we demonstrate the presence of large paleolakes in South Africa’s central interior during the last glacial period, and infer a regional-scale invigoration of hydrological networks, particularly during marine isotope stages 3 and 2, most notably 55 to 39 ka and 34 to 31 ka. The resulting hydrological reconstructions further permit investigation of regional floral and fauna responses using a modern analog approach. These suggest that the climate change required to sustain these water bodies would have replaced xeric shrubland with more productive, eutrophic grassland or higher grass-cover vegetation, capable of supporting a substantial increase in ungulate diversity and biomass. The existence of such resource-rich landscapes for protracted phases within the last glacial period likely exerted a recurrent draw on human societies, evidenced by extensive pan-side artifact assemblages. Thus, rather than representing a perennially uninhabited hinterland, the central interior’s underrepresentation in late Pleistocene archeological narratives likely reflects taphonomic biases stemming from a dearth of rockshelters and regional geomorphic controls. These findings suggest that South Africa’s central interior experienced greater climatic, ecological, and cultural dynamism than previously appreciated and potential to host human populations whose archaeological signatures deserve systematic investigation.
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Dates and versions

hal-04173480 , version 1 (10-10-2023)

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Andrew Carr, Brian Chase, Stephen Birkinshaw, Peter Holmes, Mulalo Rabumbulu, et al.. Paleolakes and socioecological implications of last glacial “greening” of the South African interior. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 2023, 120 (21), ⟨10.1073/pnas.2221082120⟩. ⟨hal-04173480⟩
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