Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Frank L'Engle Williams

Second Advisor

Bethany Turner-Livermore

Third Advisor

Jeffrey Glover


Early Pleistocene deposits from Swartkrans Cave, South Africa, yield the remains of Paranthropus robustus and ungulate bone fragments that were manipulated through short-term use. An experimental tool set (n=30) modeled after those from Swartkrans Cave was created using fresh ungulate long bones to demonstrate wear caused by extracting termites, tubers, or both resources, and molded after 30, 60, 90 and 120 minutes of use. Scratch length, breadth, and angle were recorded for all scratches < 80 µm in breadth. The highest standard deviation of scratch angle is seen in the tools used to dig both termites and tubers, whereas the lowest standard deviation is seen in the tools used for digging only termites. Statistical comparison of these results with original bone tool data from Swartkrans suggests that P. robustus, utilized the bone tools for termite harvesting. These results have implications for reconstructing the diet of early hominins in southern Africa.