Ethnobotanical research at Klasies River linking past, present, and future.

Yvette Ethne Van Wijk, Renee Rust, Eldrid M Uithaler, Sarah Wurz


Background: Klasies River is a prominent archaeological site on the South African southern Cape coast, with a unique and continuous occupation spanning the Middle and Late Pleistocene into the Holocene.  Ethnobotanical research was undertaken with the objective of enabling a deeper understanding and contextualisation of the palaeo-ethnobotanical finds retrieved during ongoing excavation.

Methods: Research into ethnobotanical usage enables extrapolation of the uses to which archaeobotanicals may have been put. Semi-structured interviews and walks in the veld with six local participants, selected for their knowledge of the local plants, were conducted. An interdisciplinary focus, with a pragmatic and abductive grounded theory approach was used.

Results: Of the Klasies taxa reported in use today by participants 84% are confirmed by other published research into Khoi and San indigenous plant knowledge in the three Cape Provinces and 42% of these useful taxa are reported as finds in published archaeological research in the Cape Provinces, indicating ongoing usage from past to present.

Conclusions: Our research indicates the need for thorough and systematic collection of ethnobotanical data (particularly from Khoi and San descendants), which is under-studied in the South African context. We consider that environment and behaviour of the past, present and future is not only shaped by climate, but by adaptive human-plant interactions through intergenerational and inter-cultural learning.

Keywords: Useful plants; medicinal plants; archaeobotany; Khoi and San; indigenous knowledge;

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Ethnobotany Research and Applications (ISSN 1547-3465) is published online by the Department of Ethnobotany, Institute of Botany, Ilia State University.
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