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Late Pleistocene Technology, Economic Behavior, and Land-Use Dynamics in Southern Italy

  • Julien Riel-Salvatore (a1) and C. Michael Barton (a1)

This paper proposes a new methodology to study prehistoric lithic assemblages in an attempt to derive from that facet of prehistoric behavior the greater technoeconomic system in which it was embedded. By using volumetric artifact density and the frequency of retouched pieces within a given lithic assemblage, it becomes possible to identify whether these stone tools were created by residentially mobile or logistically organized foragers. The linking factor between assemblage composition and land-use strategy is that of curation within lithic assemblages as an expression of economizing behavior. This method is used to study eight sites from southeastern Italy to detect changes in adaptation during the Late Pleistocene. We compare and contrast Mousterian, Uluzzian, proto-Aurignacian and Epigravettian assemblages, and argue that the first three industries overlap considerably in terms of their technoeconomic flexibility. Epigravettian assemblages, on the other hand, display a different kind of land-use exploitation pattern than those seen in the earlier assemblages, perhaps as a response to deteriorating climatic conditions at the Last Glacial Maximum. While we discuss the implications of these patterns in the context of modern human origins, we argue that the methodology can help identify land-use patterns in other locales and periods.


Nous proposons une nouvelle approche pour l'étude des ensembles lithiques permettant d'identifier les systèmes techno-économiques dans lesquels ils s'insèrent. Utilisant comme paramètres analytiques la densité volumétrique d'artèfacts et le rapport outils/débitage, il devient possible d'attribuer un ensemble lithique préhistorique à un mode d'organisation « logistique » ou « à mobilité résidentielle ». Le degré de « conservation ë au sein d'un ensemble lithique, interprété comme l'expression variable d'une attitude économe vis-à-vis de la matière première, constitue le lien entre la composition d'un ensemble lithique et un mode préférentiel d'exploitation du territoire. Nous appliquons notre méthodologie à l'étude de huit sites de l'Italie méridionale remontant au Pléistocène supérieur. En comparant les résultats tirés d'ensembles moustériens, uluzziens, proto-aurignaciens et épigravettiens, nous constatons que les trois premières industries semblent caractérisées par une similarité marquée en ce qui a trait à leur flexibilité techno-économique alors que l'Épigravettien apparaît défini par un modèle distinct d'exploitation du territoire, représentant vraisemblablement une adaptation aux climats plus rudes du dernier maximum glaciaire. Nous interprétons les résultats de cette approche dans le contexte de l'origine de l'homme moderne, mais soulignons que cette méthodologie peut aussi permettre d'identifier les modèles d'exploitation du territoire dans les sites stratifiés d'autres périodes et régions.

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