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The demography of the Upper Palaeolithic hunter-gatherers of Southwestern France: A multi-proxy approach using archaeological data

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French, JC 


Demographic change is increasingly cited as an explanation for many of the patterns seen in the Palaeolithic archaeological record, following the assumption of a relationship between population size and material culture espoused by dual inheritance theory. However, the empirical testing of this relationship relies on the ability to extract information about past population patterns from the archaeological record. Using the extensive and well-studied record of the Upper Palaeolithic (∼39,500–11,500 cal BP) hunter–gatherers of Southwestern France as a case-study, this paper compares the evidence for changes in relative population size as seen in three popular archaeological proxies for demographic change (site counts, site sizes, and occupation intensity estimates). These proxies present conflicting results across the sequence; a finding which is explored through the impact of taphonomic biases and past research agendas. Numbers of sheltered sites and quantities of retouched stone tools are suggested to be the most reliable demographic proxies. The problem of equifinality of interpretation in archaeological proxies for demography is examined for the Aurignacian and Gravettian periods in the region, with changes in lithic raw material, faunal acquisition strategies, and hunter–gatherer mobility all potentially contributing to the patterns documented.



Archaeological demography, Upper Palaeolithic, Southwestern France, Hunter-gatherers

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Journal of Anthropological Archaeology

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Elsevier BV
This research was funded by a Research Fellowship at Peterhouse, University of Cambridge and an Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Doctoral Studentship.