, Volume 39, Issue 6, pp 705-725

Modeling Human Ecodynamics and Biocultural Interactions in the Late Pleistocene of Western Eurasia

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Abstract

Given the complex and multidimensional nature of human evolution, we need to develop theoretical and methodological frameworks to account for and model the dynamic feedbacks between co-operational biological and cultural evolutionary systems to better understand the processes that produced modern human behavior. Equally important is the generation of explicit theory-based models that can be tested against the empirical paleoanthropological record. We present a case study that examines evidence for culturally-driven behavioral change among Late Pleistocene hominins that altered the social niche occupied by hominins in western Eurasia, with consequences for subsequent biological and cultural evolution. We draw on a large sample of 167 Pleistocene assemblages across western Eurasia and employ mathematical and computational modeling to explore the feedbacks between cultural and biological inheritance. Shifts in land-use strategies changed the opportunities for social and biological interaction among Late Pleistocene hominins in western Eurasia with a cascade of consequences for cultural and biological evolution, including the disappearance of Neanderthals from the fossil and archaeological records, and the acceleration of cultural evolution among ancestors of modern humans.

Grant Information

This research was supported in part by the National Science Foundation (grant BCS-0526073), a Fulbright Senior Research Fellowship (Committee for the International Exchange of Scholars), and a Fulbright Graduate Student Fellowship (Committee for the International Exchange of Scholars.)