Late Pleistocene Subsistence Strategies and Resource Intensification in Africa

  • Teresa E. Steele
  • Richard G. Klein
Part of the Vertebrate Paleobiology and Paleoanthropology book series (VERT)

Studies in southern Africa, western Europe, and the Mediterranean Basin have documented changes in subsistence strategies and technologies during the Late Pleistocene, and have often related them to differences between the Middle and Upper Paleolithic of Europe and the Middle and Later Stone Age of Africa. However, few explicit comparisons have been made between these geographic regions to create a global view of the evolution of human diet. In this paper, we begin by documenting the state of our knowledge in coastal South Africa, where Middle Stone Age paleoecology is best documented. The lines of evidence that we consider here follow those identified by previous researchers: large game exploitation as indicated by prey mortality profiles and processing intensity; changes in the relative abundance and increasing diversity of species included in the diet, especially the addition of small, fast game such as hares, birds, and fish relative to small, slow game such as shellfish and tortoises; and changes in shellfish size reflecting intensity of collection. We then expand the discussion to include all of Africa, highlighting similarities and differences in the record and the areas that require further research. Two of the major limitations to this research are the lack of zooarchaeological assemblages that span the “transition” from the Middle to Later Stone Age (60,000 to 20,000 years ago) and the lack of zooarchaeological data from most regions of Africa. Finally, we consider how the documented subsistence changes relate to demographic changes, the modern human expansion out of Africa, and models of modern human origins.

Keywords

Middle Stone Age Later Stone Age modern humans Late Pleistocene subsistence hunting ecology intensification diet breadth prey choice 

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Teresa E. Steele
    • 1
    • 2
  • Richard G. Klein
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Human EvolutionMax Planck Institute for Evolutionary AnthropologyLeipzigGermany
  2. 2.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of California — Davis One Shields Avenue DavisCAUSA
  3. 3.Program in Human BiologyStanford University StanfordUSA

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