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Title: Human responses to climate change during the Younger Dryas in Northwest Europe
Author: Andrews, Christopher James
ISNI:       0000 0004 7230 5575
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2018
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This study discusses the extent to which hunter-gatherer mobility strategies are changed by abrupt climate change events by monitoring changes in lithic assemblage compositions through the Pleistocene/Holocene Transition, from ca. 14,000 cal BP to 10,000 cal BP in northwest Europe, with a focus on the Younger Dryas Stadial event, which occurred around 12,900 cal BP to 11,700 cal BP. A set of predicted archaeological indicators were formed from existing theoretical models, based largely on Binford’s logistical and residential mobility model, with the expectation that a more residential mobility strategy would be used by hunter-gatherer-populations during warmer climatic phases (i.e. the Allerød and Preboreal) and a more logistical mobility strategy would be used during cold climatic phases (i.e. the Younger Dryas). The lithic assemblages from sites across northwest Europe were then compared with these expectations in order to determine if a shift from a more residential strategy to a more logistical strategy can be seen from the lithic record. Additionally, a further comparative dataset was collected from south Europe in order to determine if there were differences in the response to the Younger Dryas at lower latitudes where the impact of this event is assumed to be less severe. The results found that in northwest Europe there is evidence to suggest there was indeed a shift from a more residential strategy during the warm Allerød interstadial to a more logistical strategy during the Younger Dryas Stadial, and the adoption of a more residential strategy with the return of warmer conditions during the Preboreal. However, it appears that the Preboreal Interstadial shows significant differences between the Allerød Interstadial, with the Preboreal sharing more characteristics in common with the Younger Dryas. This has been interpreted as a response to the unstable climatic conditions reported from the environmental evidence in this region during the Preboreal, which may have limited the ability of hunter-gatherer populations to return to similar levels of residential mobility seen during the Allerød. The south Europe dataset provides evidence that the lesser impact of the Younger Dryas at lower latitudes brought about a more muted response by hunter-gatherer populations to this event when compared with the northwest. However, there appears to be a reversal of that seen in the northwest, with more logistically mobile populations during the Allerød and especially the Preboreal, and more residentially mobile populations during the Younger Dryas. This is despite the environmental evidence showing a very similar environmental response to the northwest, with a distinct opening of the landscape during the Younger Dryas. The apparent difference in mobility strategies appear to be more related to the available faunal species within a region and their behaviour within their environment rather than directly to the climate. In the south, species such as red deer and ibex are the main source of faunal subsistence throughout the Pleistocene/Holocene Transition, unchanged by shifts in temperature and environment, but the way in which hunter-gatherers would hunt such species would be expected to change in more wooded environments compared with more open environments. If we compare this with the northwest, there is evidence of a distinct change from hunted prey, such as red deer, during the Allerød and Preboreal, to reindeer and horse during the Younger Dryas (although faunal preservation is poor in this region). With this shift to a more mobile prey species, along with a harsher, more open environment it may be more suitable to practise a more logistical strategy. Additionally, the instability of the Preboreal may have also changed the environment on a smaller scale, which would have required the hunting of warmer climate prey in shifting local environments, much like that of the Younger Dryas in south Europe. This might explain the differences seen between the Allerød and the Preboreal. Overall, there appears to be strong evidence supporting the theory that colder, harsher climates promote a more logistically mobile response from hunter-gatherer populations as seen in the northwest of Europe, and that there was a more muted, different response to the Younger Dryas in the lower latitudes of south Europe. However, it is the opinion here that changes in human mobility are not controlled directly be climatic conditions, rather controlled by the available major prey species and their behaviour in changing environments.
Supervisor: Nigst, Philip Sponsor: AHRC
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Younger Dryas ; Late Glacial ; Climate Change ; Northwest Europe ; Stone Tools ; Mobility ; Hunter-gatherers