Niche Construction, Macroevolution, and the Late Epipaleolithic of the Near East



Cultural macroevolution results from a complex interplay between human socio-ecological action and the transmission of packages of information. Niche construction theory helps us to frame the often complex relationships between human actions and their ecological contexts within an evolutionary context. In this chapter, we offer an approach to cultural macroevolution that combines tenets of niche construction and evolutionary anthropology. We apply the approach to the Epipaleolithic of the Near East in order to address the complex processes of cultural evolution preceding the development of Neolithic farming communities. Results of the study suggest that the Epipaleolithic was characterized by short periods of emergent cultural variation punctuating longer term stability. The short-lived diversification events may have played important roles in developing core elements crystallized later in the Neolithic period.


Cultural Evolution Archaeological Record Residential Mobility Niche Construction Resource Management Strategy 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This study has been directly and indirectly supported by The National Endowment for the Humanities and the Department of Anthropology at the University of Notre Dame. Discussions with and critical editorial comments by G. Rollefson, T. Kohler, M. Chesson, S. Shennan, and several anonymous reviewers have been crucial to the development of this essay. While not agreeing with some of the concepts and interpretations presented in this manuscript, the constructive criticism, willingness to share information, and patience of all of these individuals has immeasurably improved the clarity and organization of this work. In the end, however, they are not to be held accountable for the results.


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© Springer-Verlag New York 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of Notre DameNotre DameUSA
  2. 2.Department of AnthropologyThe University of MontanaMissoulaUSA

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