Subsistence, Technology, and Adaptive Variation in Middle Paleolithic Italy

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This collaborative study addresses questions about variation in behavior within the Middle Paleolithic period of west‐central Italy. The findings are directly relevant to the evolutionary “fate” of Neandertals and the appearance of anatomically modern humans in Europe. Analyses focus on variation in a number of dimensions of subsistence and technology, including patterns of ungulate procurement, food transport, and tactics of stone tool manufacture and use. All of these dimensions exhibit marked, possibly “vectored” change in the study area between 110,000 and 35,000 years ago. Interpretations of the archeological data are supported by independent studies linking food search, procurement, and transport behaviors to ecological rules affecting all large terrestrial predators. In this way, variation observed in the faunal and lithic data sets can be shown to reflect startling diversity in the responses of Mousterian hominids to the world around them. The data provide important insights into the nature of adaptive “raw material” already in place during the Middle Paleolithic, the foremost conclusion of this study. That this variation in resource exploitation and land use also appears directional is more difficult to evaluate. It could be explained by hominids' adjustments to local changes in coastal habitat as sea level regressed or, alternatively, an evolutionary shift in hominid capabilities. The first interpretation is preferred, on the basis of available evidence, but cannot be advanced as a certain conclusion. This question provides much stimulus for continued research in the study area and other regions, using the methods presented. 1992 American Anthropological Association

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)306-339
Number of pages34
JournalAmerican Anthropologist
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1992

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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