Mesolithic Pleistocene/Holocene Transition Hunter-Gatherer Complexity Mesolithic in Europe, Scandanavia, SW Asia, East Asia
Pleistocene/Holocene Transition • 10-12,000 years ago. • Changes in ice distribution and sea levels irregular. • Core borings of coral beds shows that sea levels at glacial max were 121 meters below modern levels. They rose by 20 between 15 and 10,500 years ago, then a rise of 24 meters in 1,000 years. • Levels had significance to geography. • Bering Land Bridge formed. • North Sea flooded. • Britain separated from the continent.
Vegetation, Fauna, Temp, Rainfall • Northern latitudes after the ice sheet shifted from glacial tundra to northern forest. • Pleistocene mammals such as mammoth, mastodon, Bison antiquus, camelids, others extinct. • Temperatures became warmer, rainfall increased. • All responsible for major changes in complexity.
Why Cultural Changes? • Why didn’t changes occur earlier during other climatic shifts (last interglacial 120,000 years ago)?? • population density increased • carrying capacity became stressed, people couldn’t move as freely so restricted mobility and greater competition for resources.
Sea Level Changes (~330 feet) Pleistocene Holocene
Pleistocene Mammal Extinctions • natural declines • over-exploitation by humans • habitat modification by humans • human introduction of foreign organisms
Consequences • People began to be less mobile. • Exploit a greater variety of resources. • Changes in Technology • downsizing of projectile points. • specialized hunting weapons. • bow and arrow in the Old World around 15,000 • versatile toolkits. • storage technology, such as basket and clay-line pits for nut and wild plant seeds
Hunter-Gatherer Complexity • Stereotype • Hunter-gatherers move around a lot and live in small groups • Based on living, marginal groups such as the !Kung San and the Inuit. • Much greater diversity existed at end of Pleistocene. !Kung san camp (http://www.wsu.edu/gened/learn-modules/top_agrev/3-Hunting-and-Gathering/hunt-gathering1.htm)l
Hunter-Gatherers • Gathering in temperate and tropic areas provides 75 to 80% of the total calories consumed, with hunting providing the rest. • In existing hunting and gathering cultures, women usually do most of the gathering, while the men specialize in hunting. • They live in a small, personal world defined by the band, which seldom consists of more than 250 people. http://www.wsu.edu/gened/learn-modules/top_agrev/3-Hunting-and-Gathering/hunt-gathering2.html
Conditions for more complexity • Higher-than normal pop, concentrated in relatively small areas such as river valleys, circumscribed by geography and neighbors. • More intense, diverse, specialized food gathering. • Food storage and preservation • Permanent and nearly permanet settlements, often linear. • Highly developed food procurement and processing technologies. • Divison of labor , Simple social ranking, and trade. • More elaborate ritual and ceremonial beliefs.
Population growth over time http://www.globalchange.umich.edu/globalchange2/current/lectures/human_pop/human_pop.html
Mesolithic in Europe • Mesolithic forest and coastal h-gs replaced tundra reindeer hunters around 13,000 b.p. • Not impoverished as earlier thought but rich in wildlife such as red and roe deer, many plant foods. • Coast, estuaries very productive. • Called affluent foragers. • Distinct cultures of the Upper Paleolithic covering areas of over 38 k sq miles, but in the Holocene reduced to 6 k sq miles and many different zones and territories. • European Mesolithic ended around 8,000 B.P. with the spread of agriculture.
Discovery of a Mesolithic burial at Mezzocorona, Trento, Italy The modern town of Mezzocorona is located north of Trento, in the Adige valley, by the northern margin of the Rotaliana plain, a fertile alluvial fan at the confluence of the Noce stream and the river Adige. http://web.unife.it/progetti/notes/emezzoc.htm
The burial was formed by a shallow grave, oriented east-west; the eastern and western walls were slightly inclined, whereas the northern and southern ones were almost vertical. The northern side of the grave is bordered by the cliff wall face and the southern side by one fallen large rock. The deepest part of the grave is in the middle. On the west, the grave cut into an occupational level rich in artifacts (flint, bones, charcoal) and on the east, into a gravel deposit. The burial was covered by more than forty stones of different sizes; they were assembled directly over the body (particularly its upper part) and arranged to form a small tumulus. On some of them, there were traces of red ochre. Mezzocorona burial http://web.unife.it/progetti/notes/emezzoc.htm
Mezzocorona burial • Inside the grave, a skeleton, probably of a female aged over 30 years, lied in a supine position. She was oriented east-west, with her face looking south, her hands on the stomach and her feet slightly on top of one another. Both here head and feet were positioned above her pelvic girdle. No grave goods were present. • A preliminary analysis of the skeleton, which was well preserved, showed that she had lost her molar teeth from some time as the roots had filled in naturally. http://web.unife.it/progetti/notes/emezzoc.htm
Mesolithic people at Mezzocorona • The occupation layers are rich in tools, microliths, cores, shatters and flaking products. • Among tools, endscrapers, either made from blades, or ogee-shaped, shoulder shape and nosed flakes are present. • The endscrapers obtained from flakes are short and very short. In addition to the above-mentioned lithics there were found denticulated flakes and blades, and notched flakes. • The burins that were present in the assemblage were characterized by their robustness. • Furthermore triangles are well represented in the microlith assemblage and especially the long scalene type which have a narrow base and which are retouched on three sides. • The double-backed points are generally long. http://web.unife.it/progetti/notes/emezzoc.htm
NW Europe & Scandinavia • Maglemose Period (9500-7700 B.P.) • Seasonal exploitation of rivers, lakes and terrestrial hunting. • Inland spring and summer settlements are represented by the Ulkestrup site in Denmark. • People lived in large huts with bark and wood floors on a peat island near a lake. • Used canoes, one paddle was found preserved. • people fished with bone and antler barbed points, trapped birds and hunted red deer, wild ox and pig. • In fall bands foraged for hazelnuts and other plants, elk and other game were hunted, fishing less important.
Starr Carr • Starr Carr in Yorkshire was a typical Mesolithic site in England. • Around 9,500BP about 20 individuals inhabited the site. • They used stone axes and adzes to fell trees, and made a variety of barbed bone and antler spear points. • Hunting was the main activity, with red deer, elk, aurochs, and roe deer being the main prey. • Hunters used long wooden arrows tipped with small flint blades that were set in the shaft with tree resin. • Dogs assisted in hunting. • Hazelnuts were collected in the autumn and perhaps stored. • Initial analysis by Clarke suggested winter, short time occupation. • Later analyses by Mellars and Dark showed: • Late spring/early summer occupation • Purposeful burning of grasses/reed areas around site (land clearing).
Star Carr Excavations http://portfolio.indy-net.co.uk/mesobrit/starcarr.html
Star Carr Artifacts Burins Bone “Pins”
Red deer antler head-dress Early Mesolithic, about 9,500 years old From StarCarr, http://portfolio.indy-net.co.uk/mesobrit/starcarr.html
Oronsay Island sites • Six Mesolithic shell middens on Oronsay were discovered in Scotland. • Studies of these sites in the 1970s provided radiocarbon dates of 6,300 - 4,300 years BP, placing them in the late Mesolithic period. • The material found within the middens showed that fish was extremely important in the diet of the communities on Oronsay. • Around 90% of the fish bones found on the island were those of the saithe or coalfish. This suggests the occurrence of marine fishing, although neither nets or fishhooks have been found. http://portfolio.indy-net.co.uk/mesobrit/oronsay.html
Area of Oronsay sites http://portfolio.indy-net.co.uk/mesobrit/oronsay.html
Shell Midden at Oronsay http://portfolio.indy-net.co.uk/mesobrit/oronsay.html
Scandinavia • Kongemose Period (7700-6600 B.P.) • Baltic sea coast sites, along bays and near lagoons, exploitation of marine and terrestrial resources. • Segebro settlement (larger than earlier ones) which is now submerged in brackish water. • occupied year round, but mainly in spring and summer. • carbon isotope analysis of human bone show that fish and sea mammals were major diet.
Scandinavia • Ertebolle Period (6600-5200 B.P.) • Culmination of Mesolithic culture, occupying coastal settlements year round, wide range of food resources, wide variety of tools. • Greater social complexity, such as cemetaries and more diverse technology. • VedbokBogebakkencemetary had at least 22 people of different ages buried. • extended positions. • grave goods. • some showing evidence of violent death, such as projectile points embedded in bone.
Southwest Asia (Mediterranean and Middle East) • Transition to more complex hunter-gatherers (14-12,000 B.P.). • Small and highly mobile hunter-gatherer bands, found in a wide variety of environments, variation in tool kits. • 11,000 B.P. significant environmental and vegetational changes. • more concentrated stands of wild cereal grains (emmer wheat, barley, etc.) and nuts (almonds and pistachios). • harvestable over longer periods of time, less temperature sensitive.
Franchthi Cave, Greece • Characterized by two new developments: • (1) the appearance of large quantities of fish bones, particularly those of large fish; • (2) the appearance of substantially larger quantities of obsidian from Melos as a material in the local chipped stone industry. • These two developments were initially considered to be closely related and to show that the inhabitants of Franchthi Cave not only sailed to Melos (150 kms. away) for obsidian but also fished in deep water for the first time. • There is still no pottery or architecture.
Burial at Franchthi • The earliest burial found at Franchthi is of Mesolithic date: • a 25-year-old male buried in a contracted position in a shallow pit near the mouth of the cave. • The pit was covered with fist-sized stones; there were no burial goods; the young man had died from blows to the forehead, but he seems to have already been suffering severely from malaria.
SW Asia • 13-10,000 B.P. Kebaran cultures. • By 10,000 B.P. people began to more intensively exploit these plant resources called the Natufians. • exploited wild emmer and barley, nuts, gazelle hunting also important. • larger populations, more sedentary hamlets, clear signs of social ranking .
Important sites • Jericho • Three separate settlements have existed at or near the current location for more than 11,000 years. • The position is on an east-west route north of the Dead Sea. • Wild plants and animals (especially gazelles). • Later becomes one of the first areas of plant domestication.
Excavations at Jericho http://www.webpages.uidaho.edu/~rfrey/PDF/220/220%20Jaricho.pdf
Clay modeled on human skull, Jericho ca. 9,000 BP http://www.angelo.edu/faculty/rprestia/1301/list_of_illustrations1.htm
AinMallaha • The size of the settlement totaled about 2,000 square meters. • The houses of the settlers were between 7 and 9 meters in diameter and were very well built which suggests that they were permanent houses. • The inside floor of the house was about 4 feet below the ground outside.
CatalHoyuk, Turkey Settlement in southern Anatolia, dating from around 7500 B.C.E. for the lowest layers. Multiple murals and figurines are found throughout the settlement, on interior and exterior walls. Also, clay figurines of women have been found in the upper levels of the site.
CatalHoyuk Excavations http://www.catalhoyuk.com/
Interior of House with two Lionesses facing each other http://www.catalhoyuk.com/
Auroch heads on walls in houses http://www.catalhoyuk.com/
Deity seated on a throne flanked by two lionesses http://www.catalhoyuk.com/
CatalHoyuk Reconstruction http://www.catalhoyuk.com/
Interior of House Reconstruction http://www.catalhoyuk.com/