Increasing the resolution of the Broad Spectrum Revolution in the Southern Levantine Epipaleolithic (19-12 ka)

Aaron Jonas Stutz, Natalie D. Munro, Guy Bar-Oz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We analyze terminal Pleistocene archaeofaunal diversity trends in the Southern Levant by examining eight Epipaleolithic (ca. 19-12 ka) assemblages from the Western Galilee/Mt. Carmel, Israel subregion. We test predictions from a Broad Spectrum Revolution model of the population dynamics of human foragers and their prey. The study emphasizes control over geographic variability and archaeological recovery and recording methods, as we analyze a time series that samples the Epipaleolithic more fully than have previous studies. This provides a new opportunity to examine human population and economic change in the long-term transition to sedentism and agriculture. We use the Mantel test to evaluate the significance of temporal trends in body-size-based big game diversity, as well as in diversity of small game prey types. Results demonstrate a highly significant decline through time in the relative abundance of medium and large big game, measured relative to small big game. This suggests that the apparent "gazelle specialization" by Late Epipaleolithic (Natufian) hunters reflects longer-term anthropogenic overexploitation of the largest prey types in the spectrum. While large and medium big game abundance declined, our results show small game increased in economic importance over time. Considered with associated climate change data, the results provide substantial support for the hypothesis that local human populations expanded rapidly in size after the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM). We suggest that following the post-LGM population pulse, human foragers adopted a shifting series of intensification strategies mediated by changes in residential mobility.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)294-306
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Human Evolution
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2009

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
GBO and NDM made the taxonomic identifications for the bone specimens included in the study. AJS designed and conducted the Mantel test analyses. All three authors collaborated on research design and the writing of the article. GBO's research was supported by the Irene Levi Sala CARE Archaeological Foundation and was carried out when GBO was a Clore Doctoral Fellow at the Department of Zoology, Tel-Aviv University. NDM's research was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation (Dissertation Improvement Grant SBR-9815083), the Irene Levi-Sala CARE Archaeological Foundation, doctoral fellowships from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), and the Department of Anthropology at the University of Arizona (Haury Dissertation Fellowship). The authors thank John Speth, Mary Stiner, and Tamar Dayan for ongoing support and feedback in the development of this project. John Speth generously contributed unpublished data on gazelle epiphyseal fusion patterns in the Middle Paleolithic layers of Kebara Cave. Jamie Clark provided helpful comments on an earlier version of this manuscript, and we are grateful for the thorough and constructive comments of Susan Antón and the anonymous reviewers.


  • Big game depression
  • Human population dynamics
  • Mantel test

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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