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Durham University

Department of Anthropology

Academic Staff

Publication details for Professor Sarah Elton

Bishop, L.C., Barham, L., Ditchfield, P.W., Elton, S., Harcourt-Smith, W.E.H. & Dawkins, P. (2016). Quaternary fossil fauna from the Luangwa Valley, Zambia. Journal of Quaternary Science 31(3): 178-190.

Author(s) from Durham


This paper describes a large collection of Quaternary fossil fauna from the Luangwa Rift Valley, Zambia. Stone Age artefacts have been recovered from stratified fluvial contexts, but no in situ fossil faunas have yet been recovered. We report on 500 fossil specimens collected from the surface of point bars exposed seasonally along the banks of the main Luangwa River channel. We used non-destructive X-ray fluorescence analysis of the fossils' chemical signatures to determine whether they derive from one or many primary contexts, and the relationship between chemical signature and state of preservation. Specimens are identified to taxon (genus) to reconstruct palaeoenvironments and biochronology. A relatively wide range of taxa is identified, including a fossil hominin talus, described here. None of the fossils is positively attributable to extinct species, except a femur of an extinct Theropithecus reported in 2003. Although no additional extinct taxa were identified, some of the remains were attributable to genera that are not currently found in this region. The results suggest that most of the assemblage derives from sediments which are Middle Pleistocene or later, and that past environments in the Luangwa Valley may have differed from the habitat availability found today.