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Adaptation and niche construction in human prehistory: a case study from the southern Scandinavian Late Glacial

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The niche construction model postulates that human bio-social evolution is composed of three inheritance domains, genetic, cultural and ecological, linked by feedback selection. This paper argues that many kinds of archaeological data can serve as proxies for human niche construction processes, and presents a method for investigating specific niche construction hypotheses. To illustrate this method, the repeated emergence of specialized reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) hunting/herding economies during the Late Palaeolithic (ca 14.7-11.5 kyr BP) in southern Scandinavia is analysed from a niche construction/triple-inheritance perspective. This economic relationship resulted in the eventual domestication of Rangifer. The hypothesis of whether domestication was achieved as early as the Late Palaeolithic, and whether this required the use of domesticated dogs (Canis familiaris) as hunting, herding or transport aids, is tested via a comparative analysis using material culture-based phylogenies and ecological datasets in relation to demographic/genetic proxies. Only weak evidence for sustained niche construction behaviours by prehistoric hunter-gatherer in southern Scandinavia is found, but this study nonetheless provides interesting insights into the likely processes of dog and reindeer domestication, and into processes of adaptation in Late Glacial foragers.
Original languageEnglish
JournalRoyal Society of London. Philosophical Transactions. Biological Sciences
Pages (from-to)793-808
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 2011

    Research areas

  • Adaptation, Physiological, Animals, Bayes Theorem, Computer Simulation, Cultural Evolution, Dogs, Ecosystem, Europe, Human Activities, Humans, Markov Chains, Monte Carlo Method, Paleontology, Phylogeny, Reindeer

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