Monday, January 28, 2008

"Evidence for declines in human population densities during the early Upper Paleolithic in Western Europe"

In PNAS's first issue of the New Year, Eugene Morin elegantly combines a macroecological approach with archaeological data to investigate forager ecology and the evolution of modern humans. Amongst other things, Eugene Morin finds a strong correlation between hunter-gatherer population density and mammalian species richness (see Morin's figure pasted on the right). Please post any comments you have of this paper on the blog.

"Evidence for declines in human population densities during the early Upper Paleolithic in Western Europe", 2008, PNAS, 105, pp. 48-53.

"In western Europe, the Middle to Upper Paleolithic (M/UP) transition, dated between 35,000 and 40,000 radiocarbon years, corresponded to a period of major human biological and cultural changes. However, information on human population densities is scarce for that period. New faunal data from the high-resolution record of Saint-Ce´ saire, France, indicate an episode of significant climatic deterioration during the early Upper Paleolithic (EUP), which also was associated with a reduction in mammalian species diversity. High correlations between ethnographic data and mammalian species diversity suggest that this shift decreased human population densities. Reliance on reindeer (Rangifer tarandus), a highly fluctuating resource, would also have promoted declines in human population densities. These data suggest that the EUP represented for humans a period of significant niche contraction in western Europe. In this context, the possibility that a modern human expansion occurred in this region seems low. Instead, it is suggested that population bottlenecks, genetic drift, and gene flow prevailed over human population replacement as mechanisms of evolution in humans during the EUP."

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