Late Pleistocene and Holocene coastal palaeoeconomics: A reconsideration of the molluscan evidence from northern Spain

Geoff N. Bailey, Alan S. Craighead

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

89 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The worldwide increase in shell midden deposits on coastlines during the Holocene has been variously explained as the result of human population growth, economic intensification, changes in the visibility of midden deposits with changes in sea level, or climatic and environmental changes. Since coastlines are relatively unstable in geological and ecological terms, and since many archaeological sequences span periods of major climatic change, a critical issue is the ability to disentangle palaeoenvironmental from cultural and anthropogenic effects. We draw on a case study from the cave sequences of northern Spain to illustrate the problems and possibilities of palaeoeconomic and palaeoenvironmental interpretation, using studies of palaeogeographical context and analysis of abundance, taxonomic representation, ecological tolerances, size, growth structures, and other physical and chemical characteristics of the molluscs themselves. We demonstrate that the dominant, but by no means exclusive, factor in archaeologically visible long-term changes in shell-gathering behavior is environmental change rather than cultural change.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)175-204
Number of pages30
JournalGeoarchaeology
Volume18
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2003
Externally publishedYes

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Late Pleistocene and Holocene coastal palaeoeconomics: A reconsideration of the molluscan evidence from northern Spain'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this