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Climate-driven habitat shifts of high-ranked prey species structure Late Upper Paleolithic hunting

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Changing climates in the past affected both human and faunal population distributions, thereby structuring human diets, demography, and cultural evolution. Yet, separating the effects of climate-driven and human-induced changes in prey species abundances remains challenging, particularly during the Late Upper Paleolithic, a period marked by rapid climate change and marked ecosystem transformation. To disentangle the effects of climate and hunter-gatherer populations on animal prey species during the period, we synthesize disparate paleoclimate records, zooarchaeological data, and archaeological data using ecological methods and theory to test to what extent climate and anthropogenic impacts drove broad changes in human subsistence observed in the Late Upper Paleolithic zooarchaeological records. We find that the observed changes in faunal assemblages during the European Late Upper Paleolithic are consistent with climate-driven animal habitat shifts impacting the natural abundances of high-ranked prey species on the landscape rather than human-induced resource depression. The study has important implications for understanding how past climate change impacted and structured the diet and demography of human populations and can serve as a baseline for considerations of resilience and adaptation in the present.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4238
JournalScientific Reports
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2023

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