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Climate induced population breakdown and its consequences for hunter-gatherer social networks around the Last Glacial Maximum
Andreas Maier  1@  
1 : Institute of Prehistoric Archaeology, Friederich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnebrg
Kochstrasse 4/18, 91054 Erlangen -  Allemagne

The late Gravettian (ca. 29,000-25,000 calBP) probably saw the severest demographic crises of Homo sapiens sapiens in Europe. Temperatures were at the lowest level of the entire Upper Paleolithic and continuously decreasing solar insolation presumably led to a steady decline in net primary production affecting also the available ungulate biomass. As a consequence, previously settled areas in Great Brittan, Belgium and Germany were abandoned. Demographic estimates indicate that population was shrinking everywhere in Europe. This speaks rather in favor of regional extinction events than for migration processes from northern areas to the south. It seems that the number of people drops roughly to the threshold value for minimal viable populations. The severe population decline apparently coincides with a decrease in typological variability in comparison to the early Gravettian and maybe also the loss of technological complexity. This situation changes during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM, ca. 24,000-19,000 calBP). During this period, temperatures were rather stable at a level above the one of the late Gravettian and solar insolation started rising again. It is under these conditions that we see renewed demographic growth alongside with different adaptions in Western and Central Europe. Whereas hunter-gatherers in Western Europe preferred areas south of the permafrost line, the population in Central Europe had adapted to conditions north of the permafrost line, namely in the region of Lower Austria, Moravia and southern Poland. The adaption to cooler conditions coincided with larger site catchments as is indicated by raw material acquisition patterns and a very low number of people. The archaeological record indicates that this area might have been abandoned later after around 22,000 calBP. It seems that the pan-European communication network established during the Aurignacian and early Gravettian was severely disturbed during the late Gravettian resulting in increasing dissimilarity and accumulations of regional idiosyncrasies at the end of the late Gravettian and the beginning of the LGM, as is visible for instance in the Solutrean. However, re-occurring similarities in typological and technological concepts suggest that this situation was overcome rather quickly at around the onset of the LGM.

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