Before Farming

Continuity in animal resource diversity in the Late Pleistocene human diet of Central Portugal

Before Farming (2009), 2009, (2), 1–14.


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Archaeologists studying the human occupation of Late Pleistocene Iberia have identified the Late Upper Palaeolithic, including the Pleistocene-Holocene transition, as a time of resource intensification, diversification and specialisation. The primary drivers for these changes were argued to be the result of population-resource imbalances triggered by the postglacial climatic warming and human population growth. Recent research, however, has pushed resource intensification and diversification back in time to the Early Upper Palaeolithic in Iberia and beyond. Dietary diversity may have given anatomically modern humans a selective advantage over Neanderthals. In this article we review the accumulated evidence for Late Middle and Upper Palaeolithic diet in central Portugal, emphasising the importance of small animal exploitation. We incorporate results from on-going research at Lapa do Picareiro and other sites to explore the possibility that the dietary choices of modern foragers in Iberia contributed to the extinction of the Neanderthal populations occupying the region until ca 30,000 14C BP.

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Author details

Hockett, Bryan

Haws, Jonathan