Fox Overabundance and Human Response in the Earliest Villages of the Near East

Author(s): Reuven Yeshurun; Melinda Zeder

Year: 2017


Ethological and ecological studies point to the proliferation of small mammalian carnivores, most notably red fox (Vulpes vulpes), in human-modified environments. Foxes prey on human trash and consequently their populations in and around settlements are denser, their survival rate is improved and their foraging territories contract, centering on refuse dumps. This carnivore overabundance leads to a series of effects on the local ecosystems. The foxes’ strong commensal relationship with humans highlights the unintentional but highly effective alteration of the ecosystem by human communities. Here we investigate archaeologically when and how the impact of human settlement refuse started to significantly affect the local fox populations. We also examine humans’ response to this phenomenon. Fox overabundance and commensalism are evident as early as the first permanent hunter-gatherer settlements appear in the Near East, ca. 15,000 years ago, preceding the appearance of agricultural villages. We demonstrate that, consequently, humans habitually used foxes as resource. Thus, terminal Pleistocene and early Holocene hunter-gatherers unintentionally created an overabundance of foxes and then managed to use this side effect of sedentism to their favor, by including foxes in their broadening subsistence base.

Cite this Record

Fox Overabundance and Human Response in the Earliest Villages of the Near East. Reuven Yeshurun, Melinda Zeder. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430465)


Geographic Keywords
West Asia

Spatial Coverage

min long: 25.225; min lat: 15.115 ; max long: 66.709; max lat: 45.583 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 13246