Modeling paleolithic predator-prey dynamics and the effects of hunting pressure on prey 'choice'

Mary C. Stiner, Joseph E. Beaver, Natalie D. Munro, Todd A. Surovell

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

14 Scopus citations


Working from archaeofaunal trends in the Mediterranean Basin and modern wildlife data, we present a demographic interpretation of Paleolithic prey choice with the aid of computer simulation modeling. Archaeological indications of expanding dietary breadth with the onset of the Upper Paleolithic period associate with increasing exploitation of highly productive small animals and smaller ungulate species, despite the higher procurement costs of some of these prey types. The study of small game exploitation capitalizes upon the extreme differences in behavioral and reproductive ecology of the prey species with similar body sizes. Predator-prey simulation modeling of large hoofed animals (artiodactyls) was also undertaken, since these animals constituted the bulk of meat acquired by Paleolithic foragers, but the simulation results for the ungulate taxa do not provide the same crispness in the test implications needed for addressing questions about demography, diet breadth, and possible predator pressure over the course of the Paleolithic. The sustainable yields for the small ungulates are not definitively higher than those for the large ungulates, and thus the shift down the ungulate body-size spectrum that we see in the Mediterranean data is not in itself solid evidence of human demographic growth. Given demographic growth as shown by other, better evidence (small game data), we nonetheless can attribute the shift to smaller ungulates as being the result of the population growth. Increasing dependence upon high producers, even if total volume of meat acquired remains the same, could have meant a significant reduction in the composite (cooperatively pooled) variance in foraging success, albeit at the price of greater hunting effort

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationRecent Advances in Palaeodemography
Subtitle of host publicationData, Techniques, Patterns
PublisherSpringer Netherlands
Number of pages36
ISBN (Print)9781402064234
StatePublished - 2008
Externally publishedYes


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