Intensification of small game resources at Klissoura Cave 1 (Peloponnese, Greece) from the Middle Paleolithic to Mesolithic


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January 2012


In many parts of the Mediterranean Basin, resource intensification occurred across the Middle to Upper Paleolithic transition, and again before the beginning of the Mesolithic. Central to understanding resource intensification is distinguishing human demographic pressures from environmental factors. This paper examines the intensification of vertebrate resources at Klissoura Cave 1 in the Peloponnese, Greece, from marine oxygen isotope stage (MIS) 5a until the early Holocene (from about 80,000 to 10,000 years ago) against the backdrop of changing environments. Occasional fluctuations in large game resources, as well as changing proportions of certain small game (e.g. great bustard) correlate to environmental shifts in the eastern Mediterranean during the Late Pleistocene. Prey choice models are used to understand human demographic pressures and resource intensification. Small game animals are ranked according to these models, with slow-moving species (e.g. tortoises) classified as higher-ranking and fast-moving species (e.g. hares and birds) categorized as low-ranking. Two major shifts are apparent in the sequence. The first is an overall increase in the use of small game animals in the Upper Paleolithic and later diets as compared to ungulate prey. The second is a decrease in higher-ranked small game and a corresponding increase in low-ranked small game animals. These trends are evident using either number of identified specimen (NISP) counts or proxy measures of prey biomass. An application of diversity indices indicates that there is no temporal trend in prey evenness, though fluctuations in evenness values have different meanings for ungulate and small-bodied prey. An increase in evenness of ungulate species typically correlates with climatic amelioration. Increasing evenness values for small game animals, however, are related to environmental factors in some instances, and changes in human exploitation patterns in other cases.

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Quaternary International, Vol. 264 (2012).