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Title: Population dynamics in the Late Glacial Refugium of Southwest France
Author: Collins, Christina
ISNI:       0000 0004 2743 8395
Awarding Body: University of Sheffield
Current Institution: University of Sheffield
Date of Award: 2012
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In this thesis I explore population processes in the Upper Palaeolithic of Southwest France. Traditionally, prehistorians have regarded the region as a ‘refugium’ during the Last Glacial Maximum, into which populations contracted during periods of climatic deterioration in Europe. This refuge zone status has been used to explain the proliferation of artworks and diverse archaeological traces found in the region. Innovation and demography have been theoretically linked for some time. High population densities are thought to lead to high innovation rates. Two possible mechanisms link these two variables. In the first scenario, high population densities cause intra-species competition, which leads to a pressure to innovate. The second scenario is a simple ‘numbers game’; high population density increases the probability of innovation occurring and being transmitted from person to person. In this thesis I explore population processes in the Upper Palaeolithic of Southwest France using the proxies of radiocarbon dates and intra-site lithic densities. I demonstrate that there are several peaks in population in the region, including one coinciding with the LGM. Based on this data, I argue that the region served as a refugium during the LGM and also at several other points during the Upper Palaeolithic. I demonstrate that there is a negative relationship between climate and population in the region. This contrasts with the situation for modern hunter-gatherers. The cold conditions of the Pleistocene create a ‘unique situation’, where usual rules linking population and environment are interrupted as populations contract into refugia. I also test the relationship between demography and innovation, using lithic assemblage diversity data as a proxy for innovation. I demonstrate that population and innovation are positively correlated. This relationship is unchanged in modern hunter-gatherers. I argue that the mechanism linking demography and innovation has changed from prehistory to the present day. Environment, demography and innovation all interact in a complex manner during the Upper Palaeolithic and I shed some light on wider patterns of human behaviour through exploring these processes in this fascinating period.
Supervisor: Chamberlain, Andrew T. ; Johnston, Robert Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available