Kate Swinson (UCL) - 2016-17 Students

Over-Hunting, Population Pressure, or Climate Change? Meta-Analysis of the Drivers of Faunal Change in the Late Palaeolithic Levant

Flannery’s influential Broad Spectrum Revolution (BSR) model, proposing a shift from larger to smaller, previously under-used animals during the Late Palaeolithic Levant, stimulated others to document the trend. Stiner et al. argue that the shift results from population pressure and over-hunting of large desirable prey, while Zeder suggests that ‘cultural niche-construction’ impacted species availability. After 40 years of BSR research, the question of what drove faunal diversity changes prior to agriculture has emerged as a crux of current debate.

This project aims to unravel the drivers of faunal change in the region at the centre of this discussion, the Levant, during the Late Palaeolithic (28,000–12,000BP). It will address the following research questions:

1. How do animal taxa vary temporally and geographically?
2. Does faunal ‘turnover’ occur synchronously across environmental zones?
3. To what extent do the following factors explain faunal variation?
a) Climate and ecological shifts impacting availability
b) Increased human population leading to over-hunting
c) Shifts in human selective choice

I will analyse all published faunal data from the Late Palaeolithic Levant – a rich data-set from hundreds of sites. Research questions will be addressed using a statistical approach, correspondence analysis, novel in its application to diet breadth.

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