Global Perspectives on the Impact of Drastic Environmental Changes in Hunter-Gatherer Technologies

Part of: Society for American Archaeology 81st Annual Meeting, Orlando, FL (2016)

Researchers have long debated the impact of climate change on human culture and particularly in hunter-gatherer societies. Climate drifts, particularly abrupt ones, have been continuingly seen as major prompts for rapid technological and cultural innovation.

Recent advances in paleoclimatic reconstructions and ongoing developments in the quality and chronological resolution of archaeological data have allowed a better understanding of the extent to which patterns of specific environmental changes triggered modifications in the technological systems of hunter-gatherers.

This session intends to bring together contributions addressing strategic changes in the organization of hunter-gatherer technologies as a response to drastic environmental shifts. Discussed topics will include climate-driven alterations in lithic, organic tools and ceramic production, pyrotechnology, hunting strategies techniques, pigment processing, use of plants and adornments, from all chronologies and geographical contexts.

We aim to contribute to the continuing debate over cause and effect in the interplay between humans and climate and to a better understanding of the role and magnitude of environmental determinism in the archaeology of hunter-gatherers.

Resources Inside This Collection (Viewing 1-10 of 10)

  • Documents (10)

  • The central African Middle Stone Age in context: Comparisons of technological adaptations (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Jessica Thompson. Alex Mackay. Sheila Nightingale. Flora Schilt. David Wright.

    The Late Pleistocene Middle Stone Age (MSA) records of southern and northern Africa increasingly provide evidence for diversity in technological systems, with both exhibiting early examples of standardized stone tool production achieved through complex manufacturing sequences. This superficially implies a long-term trend toward greater complexity in MSA technology at a continental scale. However, within both regions, various lithic elements received different emphases over time and space –...

  • Changing weapons in a mutable landscape: exploring the relationship between Upper Paleolithic weaponry variability and drastic environmental changes in Western Europe (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Joao Cascalheira. Nuno Bicho.

    Lithic industries from the European Late Pleistocene archaeological record are marked by the presence of one of the most numerous and diverse set of artifacts identified as projectile weaponry tips. Variability in the morphology and technology of these tools has long been used for organizing the Upper Paleolithic archaeological record into distinct cultural and chronological units – the so-called techno-complexes – validating a direct association between transformations in projectile technology...

  • Human response to the Younger Dryas and 9.3 ka event along the southern North Sea basin: a comparison. (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Philippe Crombé.

    Besides the climatic deterioration, both the Younger Dryas (starting with the IACP or GI-1b) and the 9.3 ka event severely affected hunter-gatherer’s environment. Along the southern North Sea basin (northern France, Belgium, the Netherlands) both climatic events are connected with increased and repeated forest fires of large stands of pine forests and major drops of the water level in rivers, lakes and ponds. In this paper we will investigate how this changed environment conditioned...

  • Is innovation always the solution? Examining non-specialized lithic technologies of the Malawian Middle Stone Age. (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Sheila Nightingale. Jessica Thompson. Alex Mackay. Flora Schilt. Elizabeth Gomani-Chindebvu.

    Interpretations of specialized lithic technologies are based in part on the assumption that environmental change modifies local carrying capacities and requires foragers to adjust their resource acquisition strategies in response. Such models often account for innovation, in the form of specialized, standardized, and increasingly complex tool forms and foraging strategies, in environmental terms: environmental pressure produces demand for innovation, and when pressure subsides, technological...

  • Making stone tools ignoring environmental changes (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Ofer Bar-Yosef.

    The common assumption that environmental shifts force humans to change the technology or types of their stone tools is examined on the basis of the Paleolithic of Mainland China. During long periods of time humans made core and flake industries from local hard rocks whether various types of quartz and even flint. This presentation will summarize the Pleistocene sequence of China stressing the traditions of the producing the same lithic industries. Rare examples of bifacial assemblages will...

  • The Pleistocene-Holocene Transition in Cantabrian Spain: Current State of the Question (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Lawrence Straus.

    Decades of research involving new excavations, chronometric dating, artifact and faunal analyses, site distribution studies and isotopic analyses have refined our understanding of the transitions from Upper Magdalenian to Azilian and then to a variety of Mesolithic cultural traditions in the period between the Allerod and Boreal climatic phases in the classic region of Cantabrian Spain. There are indicators of both continuity in some aspects of settlement, subsistence and technology at some...

  • Raw Material Provisioning and Tool Rejuvenation Practices: Environmental Change and Technological Tensions in the Middle Archaic of the North Carolina Piedmont (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Paul Thacker.

    Flaked stone artifact assemblages from stratified contexts in central North Carolina reveal a significant shift in lithic technological organization during the Middle Archaic period. Important changes in raw material provisioning, biface production strategies, resharpening techniques, and stone tool discard behaviors broadly correlate with regional environmental shifts attributed to the mid-Holocene Optimum. Technological and site organizational changes may arise out of an emerging strategy of...

  • Risky business: the impact of climate variability on human populations in Western Europe during the Last Glacial Maximum. (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Ariane Burke. Masa Kageyama. Guillaume Latombe. Mathieu Vrac. Patrick James.

    The extent to which climate change has affected the course of human evolution is an enduring question. The ability to maintain spatially extensive social networks and fluid social structure allow human foragers to “map onto” the landscape, mitigating the impact of resource fluctuation. Together, these adaptations confer resilience in the face of climate change – but what are the limits of this resilience and what is the role played by climate variability? We address this question by testing how...

  • Technological adaptation and the emergence of Levallois in Central Europe: new insight from Markkleeberg and Zwockau open-air sites (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Andrea Picin.

    The introduction of Levallois method in Europe is considered the technological innovation that marked the beginning of the Middle Paleolithic. In north-central Europe, the early evidences of this new concept of flake production are dated to the late MIS 9/ early MIS 8, a period in which were testified a deterioration of the climatic condition, a change from forested to tundra -cold steppe vegetation and the dispersal of the “Mammuthus - Coelodonta” faunal complex from the artic territories. This...

  • Volcanic winter and population replacements? Forager adaptations in Liguria during OIS 3 across the Middle-Upper Paleolithic transition (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Julien Riel-Salvatore. Fabio Negrino.

    There has been a lot of focus on the disruptive effects of dramatic climatic shifts on Paloelithic population dynamics, but the topic of cultural continuity across such events has been less intensely investigated. This paper presents data from some of our recent research projects in Liguria, especially from the site of Riparo Bombrini, to investigate the nature of the apparent resilience of the proto-Aurignacian in the face of events like the Phlegrean Fields eruption and the reasons why the...