Populating the Palaeolithic: A Palaeodemographic Analysis of Upper Palaeolithic Hunter-Gatherer Populations in South-Western France
My AHRC-funded doctoral research focuses on the reconstruction of the regional demographic history and geography of Upper Palaeolithic (ca. 35,000-10,000 BP) hunter-gatherer populations in the Aquitaine area of South-Western France, from the earliest arrival of Homo sapiens until the end of the Pleistocene. This will be achieved through a multi-proxy approach, utilising quantitative information from three broad categories of archaeological data (gross site numbers/14C dates, site sizes and quantities of material culture residues) to generate a model of relative demographic fluctuations across the chrono-typological sub-divisions of the Upper Palaeolithic in the region.
The aims of the research are two-fold. The first is to develop a framework for the study of Palaeolithic demography through a detailed consideration of the suitability and applicability of current palaeodemographic methods to Palaeolithic data-sets. Specifically this involves the analysis of historically and ethnographically documented hunter-gatherer populations, seeking data on the closely-related realms of demography and mobility to elucidate cross-cultural patterns across these two behavioural parameters, which can then be used to inform archaeological expectations for prehistoric populations. From this, the archaeological correlates of both demographic change and changing mobility (including, crucially, how to distinguish between the two in the archaeological record) can be inferred and will be used to identify and characterise relative demographic fluctuations in the Upper Palaeolithic archaeological record of the Aquitaine region.
The second aim of the research is to link these demographic patterns into both the large body of research already conducted on the Palaeolithic hunter-gatherers in the region and wider research into the causes and consequences of demographic change with the aims of; 1) identifying the factors which may be responsible for the documented demographic fluctuations, 2) examining the impact of these changes on other aspects of human socio-cultural activity, particularly the realms of material culture and social organisation.
This research follows on from my earlier Master's research into demographic change across the Middle-Upper Palaeolithic transition in Europe, and the causes of the demise of the Neanderthals, the results of which have recently been published in Science.
The official University of Cambridge press release for this research can be found here.