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Walking in a winter wonderland? Strategies for Early and Middle Pleistocene survival in mid-latitude Europe

Hosfield, R. (2016) Walking in a winter wonderland? Strategies for Early and Middle Pleistocene survival in mid-latitude Europe. Current Anthropology, 57 (5). pp. 653-682. ISSN 0011-3204

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1086/688579

Abstract/Summary

Any occupation of northern Europe by Lower Palaeolithic hominins, even those occurring during full interglacials, must have addressed the challenges of marked seasonality and cold winters. These would have included the problems of: wind-chill and frostbite; duration, distribution and depth of snow-cover; reduced daylight hours; and distribution and availability of animal and plant foods. Solutions can essentially be characterised as a ‘stick or twist’ choice: i.e. year-round presence on a local scale vs. extensive annual mobility. However these options, and the ‘interim’ strategies that lie between them, present various problems, including maintaining core body temperature, meeting the energetic demands of mobility, coping with reduced resource availability and increasing patchiness, and meeting nutritional requirements. The feasibility of different winter survival strategies are explored with reference to Lower Palaeolithic palaeoenvironmental reconstructions and on-site behavioural evidence. Emphasis is placed upon possible strategies for (i) avoiding the excessive lean meat protein problem of ‘rabbit starvation’ (e.g. through exploitation of ‘residential’ species with significant winter body fat and/or by targeting specific body parts, following modern ethnographic examples, supplemented by the exploitation of winter plants); and (ii) maintaining body temperatures (e.g. through managed pyrotechnology, and/or other forms of cultural insulation). The paper concludes with a suggested winter strategy.

Item Type:Article
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Faculty of Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science > Department of Archaeology
ID Code:43354
Additional Information:See http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/692818 for the author's reply to Ian Gilligan's comment on this article: Gilligan, Ian. 2017. Clothing and hypothermia as limitations for midlatitude hominin settlement during the Pleistocene: a comment on Hosfield 2016. Current Anthropology 58(4):534–535.
Publisher:University of Chicago Press

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