The tortoise and the hare: Small-game use, the broad-spectrum revolution, and paleolithic demography

Mary C. Stiner, Natalie D. Munro, Todd A. Surovell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

390 Scopus citations


This study illustrates the potential of small-game data for identifying and dating Paleolithic demographic pulses such as those associated with modern human origins and the later evolution of food-producing economies. Archaeofaunal series from Israel and Italy serve as our examples. Three important implications of this study are that (1) early Middle Paleolithic populations were exceptionally small and highly dispersed, (2) the first major population growth pulse in the eastern Mediterranean probably occurred before the end of the Middle Paleolithic, and (3) subsequent demographic pulses in the Upper and Epi-Paleolithic greatly reshaped the conditions of selection that operated on human subsistence ecology, technology, and society. The findings of this study are consistent with the main premise of Flannery's broad-spectrum-revolution hypothesis. However, ranking small prey in terms of work of capture (in the absence of special harvesting tools) proved far more effective in this investigation of human diet breadth than have the taxonomic-diversity analyses published previously.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)39-73
Number of pages35
JournalCurrent Anthropology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2000


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Anthropology
  • Archaeology

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