Local extinctions on culture change and diversity in the Paleolithic


Modeling Effects of Local Extinctions on Culture Change and Diversity in the Paleolithic

L. S. Premo1*, Steven L. Kuhn2 

1 Department of Human Evolution, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany, 2 School of Anthropology, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona, United States of America

Source : http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0015582


The persistence of early stone tool technologies has puzzled archaeologists for decades. Cognitively based explanations, which presume either lack of ability to innovate or extreme conformism, do not account for the totality of the empirical patterns. Following recent research, this study explores the effects of demographic factors on rates of culture change and diversification. We investigate whether the appearance of stability in early Paleolithic technologies could result from frequent extinctions of local subpopulations within a persistent metapopulation. A spatially explicit agent-based model was constructed to test the influence of local extinction rate on three general cultural patterns that archaeologists might observe in the material record: total diversity, differentiation among spatially defined groups, and the rate of cumulative change. The model shows that diversity, differentiation, and the rate of cumulative cultural change would be strongly affected by local extinction rates, in some cases mimicking the results of conformist cultural transmission. The results have implications for understanding spatial and temporal patterning in ancient material culture.

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