Carnivory, coevolution, and the geographic spread of the genus Homo

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Abstract

This review traces the colonization of Eurasia by hominids some 1,700,000 years ago and their subsequent evolution there to 10,000 years ago from a carnivorous perspective. Three zooarchaeological trends reflect important shifts in hominid adaptations over this great time span: (1) increasing predation on large, hoofed animals that culminated in prime-adult-biased hunting, a predator-prey relationship that distinguishes humans from all other large predators and is a product of coevolution with them; (2) greater diet breadth and range of foraging substrates exploited in response to increasing human population densities, as revealed by small-game use; and (3) increased efficiency in food capture, processing, and energy retention through technology, and the eventual expansion of technology into social (symbolic) realms of behavior. Niche boundary shifts, examined here in eight dimensions, tend to cluster at 500 thousand years ago (KYA), at 250 KYA, and several in rapid succession between 50 and 10 KYA. Most of these shifts appear to be consequences of competitive interaction, because high-quality, protein-rich resources were involved. Many of the boundary shifts precede major radiations in the equipment devoted to animal exploitation. With a decline in trophic level after 45 KYA, demographic increase irreversibly altered the conditions of natural selection on human societies, from a largely interspecific competitive forum to one increasingly defined by intraspecific pressures. Regionalization of Upper Paleolithic artifact styles is among the many symptoms of this process.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-64
Number of pages64
JournalJournal of Archaeological Research
Volume10
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2002

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Keywords

  • Carnivory
  • Colonization of Eurasia
  • Hominid evolution
  • Paleolithic
  • Zooarchaeology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology
  • Arts and Humanities(all)

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