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How many elephant kills are 14?: Clovis mammoth and mastodon kills in context


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Recent evaluation of the use of Pleistocene megafauna by Clovis hunter-gatherers has suggested that a small number of reliable associations between Clovis artifacts and the remains of Proboscideans are documented, with perhaps as few as 14 occurrences currently known. Specifically, we ask whether 14 is a large or a small number of associations given the spatio-temporal dimensions of the Clovis period in North America. To place these 14 occurrences into context, we compare the time–space density and relative frequency of Clovis Proboscidean-bearing sites to those of Old World contexts. We develop models to identify the variables contributing to the archeological record of Proboscidean site creation, destruction, and sampling. While acknowledging potential biases in the record, comparative analysis suggests that the Clovis archeological record, with the possible exception of Lower Paleolithic of Iberia, indicates the highest frequency of subsistence exploitation of Proboscidea anywhere in the prehistoric world.
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Quaternary International 191 (2008) 82–97
How many elephant kills are 14?
Clovis mammoth and mastodon kills in context
Todd A. Surovell
, Nicole M. Waguespack
Anthropology Department 3431, University of Wyoming, 1000 East University Ave., Laramie, WY 82071, USA
Available online 15 December 2007
Recent evaluation of the use of Pleistocene megafauna by Clovis hunter-gatherers has suggested that a small number of reliable
associations between Clovis artifacts and the remains of Proboscideans are documented, with perhaps as few as 14 occurrences currently
known. Specifically, we ask whether 14 is a large or a small number of associations given the spatio-temporal dimensions of the Clovis
period in North America. To place these 14 occurrences into context, we compare the time–space density and relative frequency of Clovis
Proboscidean-bearing sites to those of Old World contexts. We develop models to identify the variables contributing to the archeological
record of Proboscidean site creation, destruction, and sampling. While acknowledging potential biases in the record, comparative
analysis suggests that the Clovis archeological record, with the possible exception of Lower Paleolithic of Iberia, indicates the highest
frequency of subsistence exploitation of Proboscidea anywhere in the prehistoric world.
r2007 Elsevier Ltd and INQUA. All rights reserved.
1. Introduction
Clovis projectile points and other artifacts have been
recovered in association with the remains of mammoths
and mastodons from throughout the continental United
States (e.g., Sellards, 1952;Haury, 1953;Haury et al., 1959;
Leonhardy, 1966;Warnica, 1966;Hester, 1972;Rayl, 1974;
Graham et al., 1981;Frison and Todd, 1986;Laub et al.,
1988;Hannus, 1989;Overstreet, 1996;Overstreet and
Kolb, 2003). From this simple observation, it has been
induced that Clovis peoples hunted Proboscideans. This
much we can agree is true. In this paper, we accept this
basic premise, and address one particular facet of the
Paleoindian–Proboscidean relationship; how frequently
were mammoths and mastodons taken? One can envision
the answer to this question as a continuum, varying from
Proboscidean meat being a dietary staple to being one that
a person might enjoy once or twice in a lifetime. In order to
establish the limits of such a continuum, we quantitatively
compare the Clovis record of elephant exploitation with
similar records from other parts of the world.
Using the most lenient and problematic standard of
Proboscidean use, simple presence in zooarcheological
assemblages, we previously estimated that at least 91
individual mammoths and mastodons are known from a
total of 26 Clovis sites (Waguespack and Surovell, 2003,
Table 2). Based on available data, no other taxon is present
in as many sites or is represented by as many individuals.
These findings suggested that Proboscideans were utilized
more frequently than other types of prey. Using more
stringent and taphonomically rigorous standards, Grayson
and Meltzer (2002, 2003) found that there are only 14 sites
and 15 Clovis components showing secure associations
with Proboscideans (see also Cannon and Meltzer, 2004).
Two of these contain mastodon and 13, mammoth.
Although Grayson and Meltzer’s (2002, 2003) studies were
concerned primarily with evaluation of Martin’s overkill
model (Martin, 1973, 1984;Mosimann and Martin, 1975;
Martin and Steadman, 1999), they suggest that the rarity of
reliable associations between Clovis artifacts and Probos-
cidean remains indicates that there is ‘‘little support for the
assertion that big-game hunting was a significant element
in Clovis-age subsistence patterns’’ (Grayson and Meltzer,
2002, p. 348). From the Paleoindian faunal record then,
two interpretations widely divergent on the Proboscidean
use continuum, have been proposed.
1040-6182/$ - see front matter r2007 Elsevier Ltd and INQUA. All rights reserved.
Corresponding author. Tel.: +1 307 766 3239; fax: +1 307 766 2473.
E-mail addresses: (T.A. Surovell), (N.M. Waguespack).
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By contrast, Haynes (1999, p. 23; 2002, p. 183) has
argued that the number of Clovis elephant kill sites is
extremely high in comparison to the record of elephant
hunting from Africa, a considerably larger region and one
where humans have coexisted with Proboscideans for a
significantly longer period of time:
The United States contains more megamammal
killsites than there are elephant killsites in all of
Africa—a land mass that is much larger than the United
States. Not only is Africa much larger, but its hominin
presence extends back at least 100 times the chonos-
tratigraphic span of the human presence in North
America. Yet there are fewer than a dozen probable
killsites, spanning a time range from Plio-Pleistocene
to mid-Holocene y[emphasis in original] (Haynes,
To Haynes (2002, p. 183), the Clovis data ‘‘show how
breathtakingly abundant the associations are.’’ These
clear differences in opinion are about a relative simple
question: is the archeological record of Proboscidean
hunting in North America characterized by abundance
or scarcity? Examined from a North American-centric
perspective it is difficult to evaluate just how many
Proboscidean kills equate to ‘‘a lot’’ versus ‘‘a little’’
subsistence use.
In this paper, we use the Grayson and Meltzer (2002,
2003) estimate of 14 reliable subsistence associations with
Proboscideans as a benchmark for comparison. In
particular, we ask whether 14 is a large number when
viewed in a comparative context. Humans have also hunted
and likely scavenged Proboscideans in contexts beyond
Clovis in Africa, Europe, Asia, and Central and South
America. We focus specifically on the record of subsistence
use of Proboscideans from the Old World in comparison to
Clovis by quantifying the spatio-temporal density and
relative frequency of elephant-bearing sites. Following
Haynes (1999, 2002), we argue that by using a comparative
framework we are able to better evaluate counts of
Paleoindian–Proboscidean associations. At this time, we
cannot derive an absolute estimate of the frequency of
elephant hunting in Clovis times, but we can address
whether elephant hunting by Clovis foragers was relatively
common or rare as compared to other slices of hunter-
gatherer space and time manifested archeologically.
Making such quantitative comparisons is not simple
or straightforward because numerous sampling issues
interfere. The organization of the paper is as follows. We
first build a comparative Old World dataset, and to
highlight the sampling issues involved and to guide our
analyses, we construct formal models of the quantitative
abundance of Proboscidean-bearing sites. Finally, we
compare quantitative measures of spatio-temporal densi-
ties and relative frequencies of Proboscidean kill/scavenge
(PKS) sites for the Clovis period and the Old World
2. The archeological of record subsistence exploitation of
elephants in the Old World
By our estimates, hundreds of archeological sites from
Africa, Europe, and Asia are known to contain the remains
of elephants. For example, Gamble (1986, Tables 7.3 and
7.4) records approximately 100 occurrences of Probosci-
deans from Middle and Upper Paleolithic cave assemblages
from various regions of Europe alone (see also Haynes,
1991, pp. 195–263). Furthermore, archeological associa-
tions with elephants are found from the early phases of the
Lower Paleolithic (Leakey, 1971;Berthelet and Chavaillon,
2001;Delagnes et al., 2006) to the Holocene (MacCalman,
1967;Haynes, 1991, p. 195), and the archeological history
of such finds stretches back to at least the end of the 17th
century (Grayson, 1983, pp. 7–8). As in the Clovis case,
there has been considerable debate concerning the roles of
Proboscideans in various places and times in Old World
prehistory, best exemplified by questions of hunting,
scavenging, and taphonomy at the Spanish Lower Paleo-
lithic sites of Torralba and Ambrona (Howell, 1966;
Freeman, 1973;Howell and Freeman, 1983;Shipman and
Rose, 1983;Binford, 1987;Klein, 1987;Villa, 1990;
Haynes, 1991;Villa et al., 2005), and the role of mammoth
in the Eastern Gravettian and Epigravettian economies of
Central and Eastern Europe (Klein, 1973;Kozlowski,
1986;Soffer, 1985, 1993;Haynes, 1991;Svoboda et al.,
1996, pp. 154–157). These debates underscore the difficulty
of reliably establishing the identification of subsistence use
of Proboscideans from the archeological record (Haynes
and Stanford, 1984;Haynes, 1991;Grayson and Meltzer,
2002;Cannon and Meltzer, 2004).
We suggest that the best evidence for subsistence use of
Proboscideans comes from kill/scavenge sites (Haynes,
2002, p. 183), what Gamble (1999, p. 344) has referred to as
‘‘gatherings around single carcasses,’’ or what others have
called ‘‘single carcass sites’’ (Delagnes et al., 2006, p. 448).
These sites often contain the remains of one to a few
animals, often partially articulated, associated with small
artifact assemblages typically less than 10 to a few hundred
pieces. Limiting the sample this way, we are able to take a
vast number of Old World sites containing elephants and
pare them down to a manageable sample that we argue
provide the best evidence for the subsistence use of
elephants. By focusing on ‘‘gatherings around carcasses’’,
a phrase that is intentionally ambiguous with respect to the
question of hunting or scavenging, the frequency of such
occurrences throughout time and space enable large-scale
comparisons for identifying differences in Proboscidean
use by prehistoric foragers. We also include in our sample
two special cases, La Cotte de St. Brelade (England) and
Lugovskoye (Russia) that are discussed in greater detail in
the following text.
It is important to note, however, that by applying this
standard to the archeological record of the Old World, we
are not applying one that the Clovis record of mammoth
and mastodon exploitation cannot meet. All but one of the
T.A. Surovell, N.M. Waguespack / Quaternary International 191 (2008) 82–97 83
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14 sites that Grayson and Meltzer (2002, Table VII)
identify as reliable evidence of human predation of North
American Proboscideans are sites with small numbers of
animals well-associated with artifact assemblages, the
exception being Pleasant Lake (Fisher, 1987), which lacks
artifacts. Semantically, it might be difficult to fit Naco
(Haury, 1953) and possibly Escapule (Hemmings and
Haynes, 1969) into the category of ‘‘gatherings around
carcasses’’ since they are sometimes interpreted to repre-
sent animals that were targets of human predation but
escaped (Haynes, 1966;Grayson and Meltzer, 2002,
p. 348). However, the association of these animals with
Clovis projectile points is undeniable. Also, Lehner (Haury
et al., 1959), Colby (Frison and Todd, 1986), and Dent
(Figgins, 1933;Brunswig and Fisher, 1993) could be
interpreted as not meeting our criteria since they contain
at least 7, 13, and 12 animals, respectively. However, at
Lehner and Colby, we find the association with Clovis
weaponry convincing evidence that at least some of the
animals at these sites were hunted, but we agree with
Grayson and Meltzer (2002, p. 337) that of these, Dent is
certainly the most problematic. Therefore, put another
way, in attempting to make a quantitative comparison
between Clovis and Old World elephant exploitation, we
are only asking of the Old World record that it be
qualitatively comparable to that of Clovis.
In sum, we are able to identify a total of 25 sites,
localities, or components showing evidence of hunting or
scavenging of elephants from Africa, Europe, and Asia
(Table 2,Fig. 1). We include sites that could be considered
to have somewhat weak associations in our sample (e.g.,
Torralba, Skaratki, and Zoo Park), and by doing so, we
may be artificially inflating our sample of Old World sites
relative to Clovis. There are a number of similar sites from
North America that could be included in a comparable
sample, such as Boaz (Palmer and Stoltman, 1975),
Martins Creek (Brush and Smith, 1994;Brush et al.,
1994), McLean (Ray and Bryan, 1938;Ray, 1942), and
Guest (Rayl, 1974;Hoffman, 1983), but these are excluded.
Although we have been criticized for ignoring taphonomic
considerations in the past (Cannon and Meltzer, 2004,
p. 1956), by including sites with questionable associations
only from Old World contexts, we are biasing our analysis
against a position we have previously taken, that early
Paleoindians in North America preferentially targeted
Pleistocene megafauna (Waguespack and Surovell, 2003;
Surovell and Waguespack, in press).
Proboscidean kill/scavenge sites are most common in the
Lower Paleolithic, representing 56% of the sample. These
include five sites dating to the Early Pleistocene, including
the remains of two Proboscideans tightly associated with
artifact assemblages from two levels of the FLK North
Locality at Olduvai Gorge (Leakey, 1971, pp. 64–66,
85–86) a single Elephas recki at Barogali in the Republic of
Djibouti (Berthelet and Chavaillon, 2001), an E. recki
associated with more than 2000 Acheulean artifacts at
Site 15, Olorgesailie Member I in Kenya (Potts et al., 1999,
pp. 768–769), and a similar association at Mwanganda’s
Village in Malawi (Clark and Haynes, 1970;Kaufulu,
1990). Eight Lower Paleolithic sites dating to the Middle
Pleistocene are known. The youngest known kill/scavenge
site of an African E. recki, dating to ca. 700 ka, is Nadung’a
4 in West Turkana, Kenya, where a single animal was
recovered with almost 7000 artifacts (Delagnes et al., 2006).
The remaining Lower Paleolithic associations occur out-
side of Africa in southwest Asia or western Europe and are
all associated with Paleoloxodon antiquus. These include
Gesher Benot Ya’aqov, Israel (Goren-Inbar et al., 1994),
Notarchirico, Italy (Piperno and Tagliacozzo, 2001),
Aridos I and II (Villa, 1990;Santonja et al., 2001) and
Torralba and Ambrona (Howell, 1966;Freeman, 1973,
1975;Villa, 1990;Villa et al., 2005), Spain, and the
Southfleet Road and Ealing sites in Great Britain (Brown,
1889;Wenban-Smith et al., 2006).
Four Middle Paleolithic occurrences are known, repre-
senting 16% of the sample. All occur in northern Europe
and likely date to interglacial periods. Two sites, Lehringen
and Gro
¨bern, are located in northern Germany. At
Lehringen, a single P. antiquus was recovered in association
with a 2.5 m long wooden spear (apparently found between
Fig. 1. World map showing the spatio-temporal distribution of Proboscidean kill/scavenge sites for Africa, Europe, Asia, and North America. Site
location is indicated by the base of the pin and site age is indicated by pin length. Ages (and pin lengths) are logarithmically scaled.
T.A. Surovell, N.M. Waguespack / Quaternary International 191 (2008) 82–9784
Author's personal copy
the ribs of the elephant) and 24 chipped stone artifacts
(Movius, 1950;Adam, 1951;Thieme and Veil, 1985;
Weber, 2000). This one of the few sites in the Old World
for a which a strong argument for a kill can be made due to
the association with weaponry (but see Gamble, 1987).
¨bern also produced a single P. antiquus in association
with 28 lithic artifacts and one possible bone artifact,
interpreted to be to a projectile point (Mania et al., 1990;
Weber, 2000). At La Cotte de St. Brelade (Channel Islands,
England) two levels contain what appear to be cultural
piles of wooly mammoth and rhinoceros remains (Scott,
1980, 1986;Callow, 1986). This site does not qualify as a
‘‘gathering around a carcass’’, but we include it in our
sample because the site is generally believed to present
evidence of two episodes of the killing of mammoths by
driving them over a cliff, or by funneling them into a trap
(e.g., Scott, 1980, 1986;Lister and Bahn, 1994, p. 129;
Mellars, 1996, p. 229).
Seven Upper Paleolithic and Later Stone Age sites occur,
accounting for 28% of the sample. Three sites associated
with woolly mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius) cluster in
the early Upper Paleolithic of eastern Europe. This include
Nowa Huta (Kozlowski et al., 1970) and Skaratki
(Chmielewski and Kubiak, 1962) in Poland, and Halich,
Ukraine (Wojtal and Cyrek, 2001). Two M. primigenius
sites occur in the late Upper Paleolithic of Sibera,
Lugovskoye, Russia (Maschenko et al., 2003;Zenin et
al., 2003) and Shikaevka II (Vasil’ev, 2003). Lugovskoye
(ca. 13.5 ka) is the only site of this group that is not a
‘‘gathering around a carcass’’, but instead, mammoth
hunting is inferred from the presence of a steeply retouched
blade fragment embedded within a thoracic vertebra of an
adult mammoth (Maschenko et al., 2003;Zenin et al.,
2003). The Upper Paleolithic site of Lake Nojjiri, Japan
has yielded three distinct aggregations of Palaeoloxodon
naumanni remains and artifacts (Kondo et al., 2001). The
youngest site in the Old World sample, Zoo Park,
Namibia, believed to date ca. 10 ka contains two elephants
(Loxodonta sp.) roughly 10 m apart, both associated with
artifacts (MacCalman, 1967).
3. Modeling spatio-temporal density
Having compiled a dataset, it is tempting to simply begin
comparing relative site frequencies with the aim of
constructing a continuum of Proboscidean use. Unfortu-
nately, there are numerous sampling issues that make it
extremely difficult to directly and meaningfully compare
the number of elephant kills between any two regions.
Greater numbers of sites evidencing the subsistence use of
Proboscideans are expected in regions characterized by
greater land areas and/or greater archeological temporal
depth. These issues come into play when making compar-
ison between a portion of North America and the
significantly larger combined area of Africa, Europe, and
Asia. Similarly, prehistoric humans and hominids lived
side-by-side with Proboscideans in the Old World for more
than 1 million years, while in the New World, people only
coexisted with mammoths and mastodons for a few
hundred to a few thousand years. Therefore, we might
expect a priori that there would be considerably more
elephant kills in the Old World than North America. To
correct these problems, it is possible to use spatio-temporal
densities of elephant kill sites as a proxy for per capita rates
of elephant hunting, but a number of additional complica-
ting factors must be considered, such as spatio-temporal
variation in past human population densities, taphonomy,
and archeological research intensity. In the proceeding
section we examine this multitude of variables involved in
attempting to answer the question; how many elephant
kills are 14?
In the simplest sense, the number of PKS, those sites
showing evidence of the subsistence utilization of Probos-
cideans, known from a region (n
) can be modeled as a
function of two variables: the number of sites in existence
today (n
), and the intensity of archeological research (i):
where irepresents the proportion of sites in existence today
that have been discovered and investigated. The number of
PKS in existence today (n
) can be expressed as
where n
is the total number of PKS created by human
hunters in a region throughout time, and xis the
proportion of PKS surviving in the archeological record
to the present. Combining these two equations yields a
simple model of the total number of kill sites known from a
region (n
nr¼ncxi (3)
Therefore, the current archeological sample of PKS
can be expressed simply as a function of the total number
created, the proportion surviving destructive taphonomic
processes, and the archeological research intensity in a
given region. The spatio-temporal density of PKS (d)is
modeled as
where t
is the time depth of elephant hunting and ais the
land area of that region.
Eq. (4) is an extremely simplistic portrayal of the system,
and most of the terms in the equation can be further
decomposed. For example, we are not interested as much
in the number of subsistence sites created, but instead how
they relate to the relative frequency of elephant use for
prehistoric humans, the per capita rate of Proboscidean
exploitation. Therefore, we can decompose the term n
, the
total number of PKS created, into more appropriate
variables. The variable of interest is the number of
elephants used per person per year (r
). The variable n
can be expressed as a function of r
T.A. Surovell, N.M. Waguespack / Quaternary International 191 (2008) 82–97 85
Author's personal copy
where p
is the average human population density over
time t
in a region of area a. Substituting this Eq. (5) into
Eq. (4) gives
d¼phrhxi (6)
Eq. (6) shows that when counts are divided by space
and time, both variables cancel out of the equation,
showing that spatio-temporal densities, unlike simple
counts, are insensitive to the spatio-temporal dimensions
of the region sampled. The critical variables become the
average human population density (p
), the per capita rate
of elephant use (r), site preservation (x), and research
intensity (i).
There are many ways that we could decompose the term
i, archeological research intensity. The term is meant to
express the concept of sample size. Hypothetically, if we
had a 10% sample of all of the Clovis sites created, but we
only have a 1% sample of all of the Paleolithic sites ever
created, then even if the rate of elephant use was the same
for Clovis and Paleolithic times, the spatio-temporal
density of Clovis PKS would appear 10 times greater.
The variable research intensity (i) can be modeled as the
total number of archeological sites excavated (s
) relative to
the total number of sites created (s
Following Eq. (5), the total number of archeological sites
created (n
) is modeled as
where p
is the average human population density over the
entirety of archeological time, ais the land area, r
is the
mean per capita rate of archeological site creation, and t
the entire archeological time depth. The variables p
, and
differ from p
, and t
in that the former refer to all of
archeological time, while the latter refer to only that time
when humans coexisted with Proboscideans in a particular
region. Therefore, archeological research intensity can be
modeled as
To highlight what we see as one of the most serious
sampling problems affecting this analysis, we can also
decompose the term s
, the number of archeological sites
excavated to date:
where p
is the mean population density of archeologists
over the history of archeological research, r
is the mean
per capita rate of site excavation (the number of sites
excavated per archeologist per year), and t
is the time
depth of archeological research (the amount of time
archeologists have been at work). Combining Eqs. (9)
and (10) yields
Except for the variable land area (a), which cancels out of
the equation, six variables remain. Research intensity is a
function of the population density of archeologists, the per
capita rate of excavation, the time depth of archeological
research, the average prehistoric population density, the
rate of archeological site creation, and the time depth of
prehistoric occupation. The most troubling aspect of this
equation is that if all variables are assumed to be constant,
except the time depth of human occupation, there is a
problem of ‘‘temporal research dilution’’ in comparing
Clovis to the Paleolithic.
Humans have occupied the New World for approxi-
mately 10
yr, while elephant-using hominids have occu-
pied Africa, Europe, and Asia for approximately 2 10
a difference of two orders of magnitude. If we hold all
variables constant, except prehistoric time depth, the
research intensity in New World archeology would be
expected to be roughly 100 times greater than that of the
Old World. To put this problem another way, we can think
of 10 archeologists working in two regions: A and B.
In Region A, there are 1000 years of prehistory, and in
Region B, there are 1,000,000 years of prehistory. In
Region A, there is one archeologist for every 100 years of
prehistory. In Region B, there is one archeologist for every
100,000 years of prehistory. Therefore, even if the
archeologists in both regions work equally hard, the
research intensity for Region B will be 1000 times less
than for Region A, simply because research in Region B is
temporally diluted. Therefore, if we were to simply
compare the spatio-temporal densities of elephant kills in
Clovis and Old World Paleolithic contexts, then we would
necessarily bias our results in favor of Clovis.
Combining Eqs. (6) and (11) provides a model that is
considerably more complex than the one we started with:
Furthermore, we have not even approached to question of
site preservation. Some of the factors that likely would go
into modeling the variable x(the proportion of sites not
surviving to the present) might be hunting practices, animal
behavior, age, ecology, geomorphology, and climate, but
rather than reducing this equation further, we leave it in its
current state because it underscores the difficulties involved
in using spatio-temporal densities of archeological sites to
monitor rates of Proboscidean use.
In the simplest sense, from Eq. (12), we can state that all
things being equal, the spatio-temporal density of PKS (d)
will be proportional to the per capita rate of Proboscidean
use (r
) The key to that statement, of course, is the phrase
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‘‘all things being equal’’. Those ‘‘things’’ include: (1) the
average prehistoric human population density during
the time in which humans and elephants coexisted, (2)
the proportion of kill sites surviving to the present, (3) the
average population density of archeologists over the
history of archeological research, (4) the per capita rate
of site excavation, (5) the time depth of archeological
research, (6) the average prehistoric human population
density over all archeological time, (7) the average per
capita rate of archeological site creation, and (8) the time
depth of human occupation. In order to directly compare
spatio-temporal densities between any two regions, then,
would require one to control all of these factors, a
seemingly daunting task.
Our point is not to suggest that such an analysis is
impossibly difficult or hopeless. We only wish to point out
that such analyses are far more complex than they are
commonly portrayed to be. The most serious problem in
this case, we argue, is temporal research dilution. There is
simply too much time in the Old World and too few
archeologists to treat research intensities as equivalent for
Clovis and the Paleolithic. While vastly more Paleolithic
sites have been excavated in comparison to Clovis, it is
likely that the known Clovis archeological record is
actually a larger sample in comparison to the total number
of sites in existence. Another problem that we think
presents a similar obstacle to comparing spatio-temporal
densities is the population density of archeologists.
Considering the vastness of Africa and East Asia (including
Siberia) and the relatively small numbers of archeologists
working in these regions, again in comparison to Clovis,
these areas have yet to be sampled archeologically to the
same extent as North America. Site preservation and
destruction is another term that is highly problematic. We
have treated it as a constant, and yet it undoubtedly could
be modeled as a function of time, in that the probability of
a site surviving to the present should be inversely
proportional to its age (Surovell and Brantingham, 2007),
and in this sense, we suspect that huge numbers of
Paleolithic sites have been lost to destructive geomorphic
and taphonomic factors in comparison to Clovis. Likewise,
the probability of finding evidence of the use of elephants
from the Paleolithic of central Africa or southeast Asia (or
eastern North America) is very low due to geochemical
conditions not conducive bone preservation. One factor
that might act to bias the analysis in the opposite direction
is prehistoric human population density. We suspect that
average population densities for Clovis were significantly
lower than for much of the Upper Paleolithic, and in this
sense large numbers of elephant-bearing sites in Clovis
contexts suggests greater frequencies of exploitation in
comparison to the Upper Paleolithic.
If these problems are not difficult enough, there are
additional assumptions built into the model. For example,
it is assumed that archeological research is unbiased and
produces a representative sample of time–space patterning
in the archeological record, an assumption unlikely to be
valid. Our efforts to mathematically model the compound-
ing factors influencing the archeological record of Probos-
cidean subsistence use may appear to produce an
overwhelming array of ‘‘what if ’s’’, it is important to
consider that all variables must be addressed before
declarations regarding the relative abundance or paucity
of elephant hunting in particular times and places are
made. After all, any archeological interpretation regarding
the frequency of particular behaviors through time or
across space must account for the variables outlined in our
3.1. Quantifying spatio-temporal density
In order to estimate spatio-temporal densities, we must
also control for space and time. Beginning with the
question of space, we can simply sum the areas of the
continents of Africa, Asia, and Europe, but to do so would
be to ignore two important factors. First, the repeated
growth and recession of glaciers over during the Pleisto-
cene resulted in regular fluctuations in the area of habitable
Also, humans did not occupy all of Europe, Africa,
and Asia during all of this time. While the question of the
timing of initial migration out of Africa continues to be
debated (Roebroeks and Kolfschoten, 1994;Swisher et al.,
1994;Gibert et al., 1998;Klein, 1999;Roebroeks, 2001;
Klein and Edgar, 2002;Dennell, 2003), it is clear that
hominids entered Eurasia prior to the Bruhnes/Matuyama
boundary at 780 ka (Carbonell et al., 1995;Gabunia et al.,
2001;Belmaker et al., 2002). Also, humans apparently did
not colonize arctic environments until 30 ka (Pitulko et al.,
2004). Various species of Proboscideans did, however,
occupy virtually all of this area during the Pleistocene
(Todd and Roth, 1996). For Clovis, the same problems
could apply, especially if Clovis is assumed to be a
colonizing population. With respect to time, there is the
question of the timing of the extinction of elephants in the
Old and New Worlds, and that they did not go extinct in
portions of Africa and Asia. The timing of Proboscidean
extinctions appears to have varied considerably across
Eurasia (Tchernov, 1984;Soffer, 1993, pp. 41–44; Stuart
and Lister, 2001;Stuart et al., 2002, 2004;Baryshnikov,
2003;Kuzmin et al., 2003;Ugan and Byers, in press), while
in North America, extinction was temporally more
constrained with many of the latest occurrences of
mammoth and mastodon appearing in association with
Clovis artifacts or are contemporaneous with Clovis
(Meltzer and Mead, 1985;Haynes, 1993;Grayson and
Meltzer, 2002, 2003;Haynes, 2002).
We opted to simplify our calculations and proceed
bearing in mind these potential complicating factors
because we are trying to identify coarse differences at large
scales. For our Old World sample, the total area of Africa,
Changes in sea level have also increased habitable area at time in the
past, but because these areas have not been sampled, they have no impact
on spatio-temporal densities.
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Europe, and Asia is 84,852,000 km
, and temporally, the
sites stretch from approximately 1.75 ma to 13.5 ka, a span
of 1.74 million years. For the New World sample, the
area of the 48 continental United States is roughly
8,081,000 km
. The age range for Clovis was calculated
using age difference for the calibrated ages of the oldest
and youngest sites. The Hebior mammoth produced three
dates ranging between 12,480760 (CAMS 28303) and
CyrBP(Overstreet and Kolb, 2003), and the
Clovis occupation at Murray Springs is dated to approxi-
mately 10,900750
C yr BP based on the average of eight
charcoal dates (Haynes, 1992). After calibration,
the sites
span a total of approximately 2000 years. The total sample
of elephant associations from Clovis contexts includes 14
sites (Table 1), but because Hebior lacks artifacts, we
exclude it from our sample. The North American sample
remains 14 because Blackwater Draw contains two
separate localities (Table 1;Fig. 1). Our Old World
sample includes a total of 25 localities, components, or
sites (Table 2;Fig. 1).
Using these data, it is possible to calculate spatial,
temporal, and spatio-temporal densities for the Clovis and
Old World samples (Fig. 2). Beginning with spatio-
temporal densities for Clovis, there are approximately
0.87 sites per billion km
yr, and 0.0002 sites per billion k-
yr for the Old World sample (Fig. 2a). In other words,
elephant subsistence sites are roughly 5000 times more
abundant in Clovis when standardized to space and time.
Looking only at time, for the Clovis sample there are 7.0
sites per thousand years, and for the Old World sample
there are 0.014 sites per thousand years (Fig. 2b). There-
fore, Clovis elephant subsistence sites are approximately
600 times more abundant with respect to time. Of course,
both of these analyses are problematic because of the
temporal research dilution problem discussed previously.
One solution to this dilemma is to ignore time, using only
spatial densities. Although this analysis should in theory
bias the sample toward the Old World, where considerably
more time is represented, Clovis still comes out on top.
There are approximately 1.73 Clovis sites per million km
as compared to only 0.29 per million km
in the Old World
(Fig. 2c).
From Fig. 1, it is clear that sites with evidence for
subsistence use of elephants are considerably more
common in Europe than in Africa or Asia, despite that
Europe represents the smallest land area. This pattern is
likely due in part to differences in research intensity.
Consequently, it seems fruitful to repeat the analysis
comparing only the European record to that of Clovis.
The continent of Europe is roughly 10,000,000 km
in area,
and our European sample includes 14 sites, spanning a
period of roughly 650,000 years. In comparison to Clovis,
the European record of elephant use is quite impoverished
when time is figured into the equation (Fig. 2b and c). For
example, there are only 0.02 PKS per thousand years in the
European record as compared to 7 for Clovis, a difference
of two orders of magnitude. The spatial densities of the two
regions however, are quite comparable with 1.4 sites per
million km
for Europe versus 1.73 sites per million km
Clovis. Furthermore, during multiple glaciations, a larger
proportion of Europe was covered by ice than for North
America in Clovis times, suggesting that the true spatial
densities for these two regions are likely quite similar. It
remains difficult to make conclusive interpretations of
these findings due to complicating factors such as a much
greater time span of human occupation in Europe.
Although admittedly course-grained, according to this
preliminary analysis the archeological record of Clovis
appears to be especially rich in sites showing the
subsistence use of elephants with 14 occurrences known
from a relatively small slice of space and time. The record
of elephant use in Europe, which spans a time period more
than 300,000 times that of Clovis, approaches Clovis in
spatial density. There are numerous assumptions that must
Table 1
Clovis sites showing secure subsistence associations with Proboscideans
Site and locality State Latitude Longitude Age
(ka) Taxon
Hebior Wisconsin 43N 88W 12.5 Mammuthus primigenius
Colby Wyoming 44.0N 107.9W 11.2 Mammuthus columbi
Domebo Oklahoma 35.0N 98.4W 11.1 Mammuthus imperator
Lubbock Lake Texas 33.6N 101.9W ca. 11 Mammuthus columbi
Blackwater Draw Mammoth Pit New Mexico 34.3N 103.3W ca. 11 Mammuthus columbi
Escapule Arizona 31.6N 110.2W ca. 11 Mammuthus columbi
Blackwater Draw El Llano Dig No. 1 New Mexico 34.3N 103.3W ca. 11 Mammuthus columbi
Kimmswick Missouri 38.4N 90.4W ca. 11 Mammut americanum
Miami Texas 35.6N 100.6W ca. 11 Mammuthus columbi
Naco Arizona 31.4N 109.9W ca. 11 Mammuthus columbi
Lehner Arizona 31.3N 110.1W 10.9 Mammuthus columbi
Murray Springs Arizona 31.6N 110.2W 10.9 Mammuthus columbi
Lange-Ferguson South Dakota 43N 103W 10.8 Mammuthus sp.
Dent Colorado 40.3N 104.8W 10.8 Mammuthus columbi
Uncalibrated radiocarbon ages.
Radiocarbon dates were calibrated using OxCal v. 3.9 (Ramsey, 2003).
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be made if one wishes to take these results at face value,
and many of those assumptions are tenuous. We simplify
the problem considerably by supplementing this initial
analysis with one based on the relative proportions of
elephant-bearing sites for various divisions of space and
time. As we show in the following text, such an analysis
allows us to eliminate many of the problematic, yet
necessary, assumptions when comparing spatio-temporal
4. Modeling relative site frequencies
Instead of standardizing counts of elephant-bearing sites
to space and time, if we standardize them relative to the
total sample of sites known from a given spatio-temporal
region, we can make fewer and perhaps more justifiable
assumptions. To model the relative frequency of
PKS, we need only two terms, one describing the
number of PKS excavated to date and a second term
describing the total number of sites excavated to date.
From above, the numerator of Eq. (6) describes the
total number of elephants subsistence sites excavated to
date (n
) for a spatio-temporal region of area (a) and time
span (t
ne¼pharhthxi (13)
where p
is the average human population density, r
is the
per capita rate of elephant site creation, dis the proportion
of sites not surviving to the present, and iis the research
intensity. The total number of sites (n
) excavated within
Table 2
Old World sites showing evidence of subsistence use of Proboscideans
Site and locality Country Latitude Longitude Phase Age Taxon
FLK North Upper Bed I Tanzania 3S 35E LP 1.7–1.8 ma Elephas recki
FLK North Lower Bed II Tanzania 3S 35E LP 1.2–1.7ma Deinotherium sp.
Barogali Djibouti 11N 42E LP 1.3–1.6 ma Elephas recki
Olorgesaille Member I Site 15 Kenya 2S 36E LP 974–992 ka Elephas recki
Mwanganda’s Village Malawi 10S 34E LP 0.6–1.2 ma (?) Elephas sp. (?)
Gesher Benot Ya’aqov Israel 33.0N 35.6E LP ca. 750 ka Palaeoloxodon antiquus
Nadung’a 4 Kenya 4N 36E LP ca. 700 ka Elephas recki
Notarchirico Italy 41N 16E LP 600–740 ka Palaeoloxodon antiquus
Aridos I Spain 40.3N 3.5W LP 300–500 ka (?) Palaeoloxodon antiquus
Aridos II Spain 40.3N 3.5W LP 300–500 ka (?) Palaeoloxodon antiquus
Southfleet Road UK 51.4N 0.3E LP ca. 400 ka Palaeoloxodon antiquus
Ealing UK 51.5N 0.3W LP? 300–500 ka (?) Palaeoloxodon antiquus (?)
Ambrona Spain 41N 2.5W LP 200–400 ka (?) Palaeoloxodon antiquus
Torralba Spain 41N 2.5W LP 200–400 ka (?) Palaeoloxodon antiquus
La Cotte de St. Brelade Level 3 UK 49.2N 2.3W MP 120–200ka Mammuthus primigenius
La Cotte de St. Brelade Level 6 UK 49.2N 2.3W MP 120–200ka Mammuthus primigenius
Lehringen Germany 52.8N 9.5E MP ca. 120 ka Palaeoloxodon antiquus
¨bern Germany 51.8N 12.5E MP ca. 120 ka Palaeoloxodon antiquus
Lake Nojiri Japan 36.8N 138.2E UP? 33–39 ka
Elephas naumanni
Nowa Huta Poland 50N 20E UP 35 ka (?)
Mammuthus primigenius
Skaratki Poland 52.0N 19.8E UP? 29–32 ka (?)
Mammuthus primigenius
Halich Ukraine 49.1N 24.7E UP 20–24 ka
Mammuthus primigenius
Shikaevka II Russia 56.3N 66.4E UP 18 ka
Mammuthus primigenius
Lugovskoye Russia 61.0N 68.5E UP ca. 13.5 ka
Mammuthus primigenius
Zoo Park Namibia 22.5S 17.1E LSA 10 ka (?)
Loxodonta sp. (?)
Uncalibrated radiocarbon age.
Old World
Spatio-Temporal Density
(Sites •10-9km-2yr-1)
Temporal Density
Old World
Spatial Density
(Sites •10-6km-2)
Old World
Fig. 2. Spatio-temporal (a), temporal (b), and spatial (c) densities of Proboscidean kill/scavenge sites for the Old World (Africa and Eurasia), Europe, and
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that spatio-temporal region can be modeled the same way:
ne¼pharsthxi (14)
where r
is the per capita rate of archeological site
formation. Taking the ratio of these two equations then
allows us to model the relative frequency of elephant
subsistence sites (f):
Therefore, the relative frequency of elephant subsistence
sites (f) should be a function of only two variables, the per
capita rate of elephant subsistence site creation (r
) and the
per capita rate of site creation. All of the remaining
variables cancel out of the equation because they are
assumed to be constant.
Are these assumptions reasonable? With respect to
population density, area, and time these assumptions are
unquestionable since time and space are held constant. The
assumptions that research intensity (i) and site preservation
(x) are constant for PKS and all other sites are clearly
tenuous. For example, geomorphic and taphonomic factors
might bias preservation for or against sites showing
evidence for the use elephants relative to other site types.
Also, research bias might increase or decrease the like-
lihood that a PKS will be excavated relative to other site
types. However, in contrast to using spatio-temporal
densities as a measure of the relative frequency of
Proboscidean exploitation, when using site proportions,
these are the only two assumptions that are necessary.
4.1. Quantifying relative site frequencies
Data reporting the percentage of sites containing
Proboscidean remains from various spatio-temporal re-
gions of the Old World were compiled from four sources
(Soffer, 1985;Gamble, 1986, Tables 7.3–7.5; Borziyak,
1993;Vasil’ev, 2003).
These data (Table 3) are based on
the presence or absence of Proboscideans with no concern
for taphonomy. Therefore, we begin by comparing these
data to our estimate for Clovis, which is also based solely
on presence or absence in faunal assemblages (Waguespack
and Surovell, 2003). In our study, we found that
Proboscidean remains are present in 79% of Clovis sites
that have faunal assemblages. Some regions of the Old
World show comparable and even higher frequencies of
elephant remains (Fig. 3). For example, elephants are
found in 98% of Upper Paleolithic sites from the Central
Russian Plain (Soffer, 1985), and in 90% of cave
assemblages from the Upper Paleolithic (35–20 ka) of
Southern Germany (Gamble, 1986). On the other end of
the scale, fewer than 10% of Middle and Upper Paleolithic
sites from Cantabrian Spain and southern France contain
elephant remains, and various spatio-temporal regions
show intermediate values (Gamble, 1986).
On the surface it appears that the frequency of elephant
exploitation seen in Clovis may not be particularly unique.
However, these data, including those for Clovis, are
problematic since they include all occurrences of elephants,
whether they represent reliable subsistence associations or
not. Consider for example, the two cases where Probosci-
deans are more common than Clovis; many doubts linger
concerning whether elephants played any role in the
subsistence economies of these areas. For example, for
the Central Russian Plain, Soffer reports:
At present, therefore, I conclude that mammoth did not
play the major role in subsistence that has been widely
attributed to them in both Soviet and Western literature.
While some mammoth were undoubtedly hunted, how
many remains a question for future research, as does
determination of the frequency of mammoth kills y
(Soffer, 1985, p. 281)
Unfortunately, no unequivocal kill sites have been
found in the study area. (Soffer, 1985, p. 309)
In fact, none of Soffer’s sites would qualify as a subsistence
association using our criteria, essentially turning the 98%
frequency figure for the Central Russian Plain to 0%
(see also Soffer, 1985, Table 5.16). Likewise, for the Upper
Paleolithic of southern Germany, Niven reports:
Indisputable evidence of mammoth hunting has not yet
been documented in southern Germany although
mammoth remains are found in 90% of cave localities
in this region during the Upper Paleolithic. (Niven,
2001, p. 323)
Therefore, the 90% frequency data point for Southern
Germany, like the Central Russian Plain, can potentially be
reduced to 0%. What about Clovis?
Clovis contrasts starkly with these areas, and we argue
that it is like few other spatio-temporal regions arche-
ologically documented. In contrast to the regions from
Table 3 where Proboscidean remains are quite common in
the archeological record (e.g., the Central Russian Plain,
Siberia, England, the Crimea, and southern Germany) in
Clovis not only are elephant remains common, but Clovis
sites that include elephant remains in their faunal
assemblage frequently exhibit evidence of subsistence
exploitation of these animals (Haynes, 1999).
If we were to revise our original estimate of 79% by
eliminating questionable associations, 46.7% of Clovis sites
The data in Tables 2 and 3 were compiled independently, and for those
in Table 3, in particular, we relied on the work of others (as cited). As
much as we would have liked to include spatio-temporal regions in Table 3
that included all of the PKS in Table 2, it would have been extremely
difficult to do so. This would require compiling nearly complete samples of
excavated sites with faunal remains from many parts of Africa, Europe,
and Asia. There are numerous difficulties involved in doing so, most
notably, it would require an impressive level of linguistic competence that
we admittedly lack. As such, we decided in would be prudent to rely on
compilations already produced by regional experts.
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or localities still show strong evidence for the subsistence
use of elephants. To derive this second figure, we exclude
Boaz, Schaefer, Leikem, and McLean because if we remove
the association with mammoths or mastodons in these
sites, they effectively lack culturally associated faunal
remains of any kind. Also, we count Blackwater Draw
twice since two localities provide evidence of mammoth
hunting (or scavenging?). We estimate that approximately
one-half of Clovis sites with preservation of bone show
strong evidence for the subsistence use of Proboscideans.
A second independent estimate is derived from Grayson
and Meltzer (2003). By querying the FAUNMAP database
Table 3
The relative frequency of the occurrence of Proboscideans in faunal assemblages from various Old World spatio-temporal regions in comparison to Clovis
Region Time period % of sites or components
with Proboscideans
Sites and
Central Russian Plain Upper Paleolithic 93 16 Soffer (1985), Table 5.8
Southern Germany 35–20 kyr 90
20 Gamble (1986), Table 7.4
North America Clovis 79 33 Waguespack and Surovell (2003), Table 2
Crimea 118–35 kyr 69
13 Gamble (1986), Table 7.3
England 35–20 kyr 66
13 Gamble (1986), Table 7.4
Southern Germany 118–35 kyr 63
20 Gamble (1986), Table 7.3
Dnestr River, Moldova Late Upper Paleolithic 44 25 Borziyak (1993), Table 1
Siberia Middle Upper Paleolithic 35 40 Vasil’ev (2003), Table 4
Siberia Early Upper Paleolithic 32 31 Vasil’ev (2003), Table 3
Siberia Middle Paleolithic 30 33 Vasil’ev (2003), Table 2
¨kk Mountains, Hungary 35–20 kyr 30
20 Gamble (1986), Table 7.4
Southern Germany 20–10 kyr 19
47 Gamble (1986), Table 7.5
SW France 35–20 kyr 17
46 Gamble (1986), Table 7.4
Siberia Late Upper Paleolithic 15 235 Vasil’ev (2003), Table 5
England 20–10 kyr 15
33 Gamble (1986), Table 7.5
Switzerland 118–35 kyr 14
14 Gamble (1986), Table 7.3
SW France 20–10 kyr 9
70 Gamble (1986), Table 7.5
SW France 118–35 kyr 8
59 Gamble (1986), Table 7.3
S. France 118–35 kyr 7
38 Gamble (1986), Table 7.3
Cantabrian Spain 20–10 kyr 6
54 Gamble (1986), Table 7.5
Cantabrian Spain 118–35 kyr 5
19 Gamble (1986), Table 7.3
Cantabrian Spain 35–20 kyr 3
19 Gamble (1986), Table 7.4
Sample includes only cave assemblages.
Relative Frequency of Proboscideans
Central Russian Plain (UP)
Southern Germany (EUP)
North America (Clovis)
Crimea (MP)
England (EUP)
Southern Germany (MP)
Dnestr River (LUP)
Siberia (MUP)
Siberia (EUP)
Siberia (MP)
Bükk Mtns, Hungary (EUP)
Southern Germany (LUP)
SW France (EUP)
Siberia (LUP)
England (LUP)
Switzerland (MP)
SW France (LUP)
SW France (MP)
Southern France (MP)
Cantabrian Spain (LUP)
Cantabrian Spain (MP)
Cantabrian Spain (EUP)
Spatio-Temporal Region
% of Assemblages
Fig. 3. The relative frequency of the occurrence of Proboscideans in faunal assemblages from various Old World spatio-temporal regions in comparisonto
Clovis. UP ¼Upper Paleolithic, EUP ¼Early Upper Paleolithic, MUP ¼Middle Upper Paleolithic, LUP ¼Late Upper Paleolithic, MP ¼Middle
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under the terms ‘‘Clovis’’ and ‘‘Paleoindian’’, Grayson and
Meltzer (2002, p. 317) identified 76 sites in which ‘‘extinct
mammal remains of any kind were found in what appeared
to be a Clovis or Paleoindian archeological context.’’ Of
these, 47 ‘‘failed to produce minimally acceptable evidence
of an association between artifacts and extinct mammals’’
(Grayson and Meltzer, 2002, p. 321), leaving a total sample
of 29 sites. The 47 sites eliminated were cut due to
insufficient data, the presence of only bone tools, and/or
doubtful archeological status. Using solely these data, it is
difficult to determine precisely how many of these sites are
indeed archeological and Clovis, but their hesitance to even
include them in their careful analysis does warrant some
caution in using them to estimate the frequency of elephant
subsistence sites. Using their total sample (n¼76), 18.4%
of sites have reliable associations with Proboscideans.
However, according to Grayson and Meltzer (2003) in this
sample, 21 sites have archeological status that is ‘‘doubt-
ful’’, and an additional five sites are characterized only by
the presence of bone tools. Eliminating these sites provides
a minimum estimate of 28% of Clovis faunal assemblages
showing reliable evidence for the use of Proboscideans.
Alternatively, using their reduced sample of 29 sites, 46.7%
show reliable use of mammoth or mastodon (again
counting Blackwater Draw twice), precisely the figure we
derived from our sample.
Therefore, combining the
estimates derived from Grayson and Meltzer (2002) and
Waguespack and Surovell (2003), we can say with some
degree of confidence that between 28% and 46.7% of
Clovis sites with faunal remains show strong evidence
of the use of Proboscideans. Again, we are left with
the difficult task of determining whether these values
represent ‘‘a lot’’ or ‘‘a little’’ evidence of Proboscidean
subsistence use.
Comparing this to our Old World sample, Clovis
appears to be somewhat unique with respect to the
abundance of reliable subsistence associations with ele-
phants. Fig. 1 shows the spatio-temporal distributions of
sites showing strong or possible evidence for the use of
Proboscideans for the Old World and Clovis samples. The
Clovis record shows a clear cluster in space and time, while
the record of elephant exploitation in the Old World is
considerably more dispersed. Perhaps the spatio-temporal
region most similar to Clovis is the Lower Paleolithic of the
Iberian Peninsula where four localities, Aridos I and II,
Torralba, and Ambrona cluster fairly tightly in space and
time. Other possible regions include the Lower Paleolithic
of East Africa, with four sites represented (over a period
of more than 1 million years), the Middle Paleolithic of
northern Germany with two sites, the Upper Paleolithic of
Eastern Europe with two sites, and the late Upper
Paleolithic of Siberia with two sites.
Do any of these regions even meet the minimum estimate
of Clovis with 28% of sites with faunal remains being
elephant subsistence sites? In part, the answer to this
question depends on how the spatio-temporal regions are
defined. If a region is defined very narrowly encompassing
one or two elephant-bearing sites and little else, then
elephant subsistence sites will appear very common. If a
region is defined broadly, then such sites become diluted in
larger samples. Using our sample of Old World sites, there
is at least one reasonably sized region nears Clovis in terms
of the relative frequency of Proboscidean exploitation
sites—the Lower Paleolithic of the Iberian Peninsula where
four sites are known. A compilation Lower Paleolithic sites
and components from this region from Straus (1992),
Carbonell et al. (1995),Gibert et al. (1998), and Santonja
and Villa (1990) yielded a total of 15 additional arche-
ological components with lithics and fauna.
Torralba and Ambrona, 21% of the Lower Paleolithic sites
from this area are elephant subsistence sites, and in
comparison to the minimum and maximum estimate for
Clovis, these differences are not statistically significant
(Fisher’s exact test, Iberia versus Clovis Min., p¼0.398;
Iberia versus Clovis Max., p¼0.064).
The Middle Paleolithic of Germany, like the Lower
Paleolithic of Spain, has two sites, Lehringen and Gro
showing strong evidence for the use of Proboscideans, but
unlike Iberia, it has a much greater number of sites that do
not (e.g., Gamble, 1986, 1999;Conard and Prindiville,
2000). The same is true of the Late Upper Paleolithic of
Siberia where two sites, Lugovskoye and Shikaevka II,
suggest the subsistence use of mammoth, but Vasil’ev
(2003) reports 234 additional archeological components
with faunal remains. Similarly, in the Upper Paleolithic of
Eastern Europe, despite mammoth bone being very
common in sites of this region, sites with evidence for the
subsistence use of mammoth (Nowa Huta, Halich, and
Skaratki according to our definitions) are swamped out by
those that do not (e.g., Klein, 1973;Soffer, 1985;
Kozlowski, 1986). Lower Paleolithic East Africa also
contains far more localities with artifacts and faunal
assemblages that do not show subsistence use of elephants
than do (e.g., Leakey, 1971;Isaac, 1977;Chavaillon et al.,
1979;Bunn, 1982;Clark et al., 1984).
Therefore, with the single possible exception of the
Lower Paleolithic of Iberia, Clovis appears to be uniquely
rich in evidence of the subsistence use of elephants.
Although we have identified other possible regions
where there appear to be minor clusters in elephant use,
such as Lower Paleolithic East Africa, Middle Paleolithic
Germany, and Upper Paleolithic Eastern Europe,
The reduced Grayson and Meltzer (2002, 2003) sample, what they call
‘‘sites that made the first cut’’, includes four sites that contain only
proboscidean remains (Boaz, Schaefer, Burning Tree, and Pleasant Lake).
If the associations at these sites are eliminated, there is no evidence for the
use of any other taxa at these sites, and removing these sites from the
sample increases the Clovis estimate to 53%.
These are El Castillo (Levels 24, 25a, 25b, 26), Pinedo, Arganda II,
´geno, San Isidro, Cu´ llar-Baza I, Solan del Zambotino (Multiple
Levels), Cueva Hora
´, Gran Dolina (Levels TD4 and TD6), Barranco
´n-5, and Fuentenueva-3a.
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elephants and hominids have occupied most of Africa,
Europe, and Asia for hundreds of thousands of years;
yet, for most of archeological time and space, there is
little if any evidence of the subsistence utilization of
5. Discussion
In recent years, it has become commonplace to question
many of the things that we once ‘‘knew’’ about Clovis. The
‘‘old Clovis model’’ can be succinctly stated as follows.
Clovis peoples were highly mobile, prodigiously reprodu-
cing, specialized hunters of large game, who migrated to
the unpopulated continent of North America from Asia via
the ice-free corridor approximately 12,000 years ago, and
upon their arrival promptly hunted the Pleistocene mega-
fauna to extinction. Virtually every descriptive phrase in
this statement has been questioned despite having once
been widely accepted. While we strongly believe that
questioning and of reevaluating entrenched ideas is a good
thing, we suggest that it is time to step back and truly
evaluate what the archeological record of Clovis represents
and detach issues of Clovis adaptations from Clovis origins
(Meltzer, 1989, p. 477). With this so-called ‘‘paradigm-
shift’’ (Bonnichsen and Turnmire, 1999) in Paleoindian
archeology, it has become routine, for example, to discount
the record of Clovis large game hunting using various
arguments ranging from the theoretical to the empirical
(Meltzer and Smith, 1986;Meltzer, 1993;Dixon, 1999;
Dillehay, 2000;Adovasio and Page, 2002;Grayson and
Meltzer, 2002, 2003;Cannon and Meltzer, 2004;Chilton,
2004;Byers and Ugan, 2005). One way of doing this is to
point out a perceived rarity of evidence of the exploitation
of extinct elephants:
That there are so few actual sites of mammoth kills
(and virtually none of horse, camel, or sloth kills)
is a major embarrassment to the overkill theory y
[emphasis added] (Adovasio and Page, 2002, p. 127)
Clovis is the only firmly documented New World
archaeological complex positively associated with mam-
moth procurement. However, only about twelve archae-
ological sites have been reported where Clovis projectile
points are associated with the bones of these large
extinct elephant-like creatures yAlthough there is no
doubt that some Clovis people hunted mammoth and
possibly mastodon, current research suggests that these
rather spectacular kill sites are probably not typical of
Clovis culture. [emphasis added] (Dixon, 1999, p. 216)
Obviously, given our arguments above, we should not be
arguing that there are ‘‘so few’’ or ‘‘only about twelve’’
mammoth kills, but instead asking why there are so many?
In over 1 million years of archeology spread over four
continents, we have attempted to demonstrate that there is
likely nothing that has yet to be documented archeologi-
cally that compares to Clovis in terms of the frequency of
Proboscidean exploitation, with the single possible excep-
tion of the Lower Paleolithic of Iberia.
Certainly, 14 sites do not seem like a very large number,
but when viewed in a comparative context, it is in fact a
very large number. Furthermore, the number of elephant
kill sites in Clovis is truly remarkable when we consider the
total number of elephant kills documented from four
continents. Of the 21 sites we have identified in the Old
World, only two or three have weaponry associated with
carcasses. The two best cases are Lehringen and Lugovs-
koye, and the third case, Gro
¨bern, is questionable. There-
fore, in the entire archeological records of Africa, Europe,
Asia, and North America, there are a total of 16 strong
cases for hunting of elephants, and 14 of these are found in
Clovis. Furthermore, between of 28% and 46.7% of
excavated Clovis sites that have preserved fauna are
mammoth or mastodon kill sites. Why?
According to our model of the archeological frequency
of elephant subsistence sites, there are three possible
answers. The first possibility is that Clovis hunter-gatherers
regularly hunted mammoth and mastodon, or at least did
so more frequently than people did in any other time and
place in the world. The second possibility is that the
archeological record of North America is strongly biased
toward elephant kills, and/or the record of the Old World
is biased against elephant kills. In other words, our sample
of archeological sites from the Clovis record is not random,
and in particular, it is biased toward the discovery
elephant-bearing sites over sites that do not contain
elephants. Such biases can conceivably come from many
different factors, such as site preservation, discovery, or
excavation. The third possibility is that both factors are
operating. Clovis peoples frequently hunted Probosci-
deans, and the record is biased toward the discovery of
these sites.
At this point, we are somewhat at a loss. Despite
attempts to show that the Clovis faunal record is biased
(Cannon and Meltzer, 2004), it is impossible to directly test
a hypothesis about sample bias without a theoretical or
empirical null model of the population that is sampled (see
Surovell and Waguespack, in press). Therefore, the most
that we are willing to conclude with any confidence is that
the archeological record of Clovis Proboscidean exploita-
tion is unique. Whether that is a function of the behavior of
Paleoindians, Paleoindian archeologists, or geological
systems is very difficult to address, and ultimately may
have to be resolved with large sample sizes and/or different
methods of sampling the archeological record. For the time
being, we are, by necessity, forced to make arguments
concerning the plausibility of sample bias and the frequent
killing of Proboscideans.
Elsewhere, we have presented theoretical arguments
concerning the plausibility and likelihood of specialized
large mammal hunting in late Pleistocene North America
(Waguespack, 2003;Waguespack and Surovell, 2003). We
argue that a focal large game subsistence economy during
Clovis times is not only plausible but also likely and
T.A. Surovell, N.M. Waguespack / Quaternary International 191 (2008) 82–97 93
Author's personal copy
theoretically expected (but see Byers and Ugan, 2005).
Concerning the issue of sample bias, we begin with
discovery bias, perhaps the most frequently invoked bias
in discussions of Clovis subsistence. Grayson (1988) and
Meltzer (1989) have argued that Clovis elephant kill sites
have a greater probability of discovery than other Clovis
sites because elephant bones are extremely visible in
cutbanks, backhoe trenches, or surface exposures (see also
Cannon and Meltzer, 2004). In contrast, an exposed
Clovis-aged flake or rabbit bone does not have the same
visibility and therefore probability of discovery. This would
inevitably bias discovery toward elephant-bearing sites,
and we agree. However, this bias should not be unique to
Clovis, and there is no reason to believe that it would not
apply to our Old World sample as well. In fact, many of the
sites we have identified were discovered this way- first the
elephant bone, then the artifacts. In other words, there very
well may be a bias operating but in this comparative
framework, it should be more or less constant.
Is there a preservation bias? Grayson and Meltzer (2002,
2003) have pointed out that four of the sites in the Clovis
sample are from one very small corner of southeastern
Arizona, and Holliday (2003, p. 1373) attributes this cluster
to ‘‘fortuitous circumstances of preservation and expo-
sure’’. Similarly, Grayson (1988) has written:
In short, the history of the discovery of Clovis sites in
Southwest and Plains is such as to suggest that we have
an extraordinarily biased sample of those sites, one that
may have given us a greatly exaggerated impression of
the importance of large mammals in the daily lives of
those people. (Grayson, 1988, p. 115)
There is no question that the geochemical and geomorphic
conditions in Eastern North America and the Far West
leave a lot to be desired with respect to the preservation of
Paleoindian faunal assemblages. Certainly, the vast major-
ity of Clovis sites with faunal remains come from a limited
portion of North America, and extrapolating what we see
in the Plains and Southwest to the remainder of the North
America is a precarious practice (Meltzer and Smith, 1986;
Meltzer, 1988, 1989, 1993). However, sites in both the East
and the Far West evidencing the possible subsistence use of
elephants do exist (e.g., Rayl, 1974;Gustafson et al., 1979;
Graham et al., 1981;Laub et al., 1988;Overstreet and
Kolb, 2003). Furthermore, the sample we have is the
sample with which we must work, and in that sample,
elephant kill sites are remarkably common.
Could it be that Clovis elephant kills have a greater
chance of preservation than Old World elephant kills?
Certainly, because Clovis sites are considerably younger
than virtually our entire Old World sample, they have
withstood considerably less time over which destructive
forces have operated. However, when we quantify the
relative frequency of elephant subsistence sites for various
spatio-temporal regions, site preservation is a constant and
factors out of the equation (Eq. (15)). The critical question
is whether Clovis elephant kills relative to other Clovis sites
have a greater probability of preservation than the same
ratio for Old World contexts. This question is extraordi-
narily difficult to answer. Certainly, African elephants
often die near water (Conybeare and Haynes, 1984;
Haynes, 1987, 1991), and archeologically, elephant sub-
sistence sites are found near ancient water sources, but this
is true for the Old and New World samples. Obviously, wet
lowland settings act as sediment traps increasing the
likelihood of burial and preservation over upland settings.
However, campsites, with or without elephant bone, are
often found in similar contexts. At this point, we are
content to leave this question unresolved.
Let us surmise for a moment that the abundance of
elephant kill sites in the Clovis record is due to human
behavior. Is it reasonable to expect that one out of two, or
even one out of four archeological sites created during
Clovis times were elephant kills? We suspect not. To us,
this number seems very high and strongly suggests that
some biases are likely operating. However, those same
biases should operate in the Old World as well, and
therefore, we suspect that a strong behavioral signal is
coming through our sample, biased or not. In other words,
the abundance of mammoth and mastodon kills known
from Clovis contexts relative to Old World contexts is
largely a product of past human behavior. Does this mean
that mammoth meat was served on the dinner table every
night in the latest Pleistocene of North America? Abso-
lutely not. From our analysis, we cannot estimate an
absolute frequency of elephant hunting. All we can say is
that in comparison to the Old World record, Clovis peoples
seem to have exploited elephants with much greater
frequency than in any other time and place.
We would like to thank Matt Hill, Joaquin Arroyo, and
Oscar J. Polaco for providing us the opportunity to
contribute to this volume, and Bob Kelly and David
Meltzer, who provided valuable comments on an earlier
version of this paper.
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... In North America, for example, where all large mammals over 1000 kg went extinct toward the end of the Late Pleistocene (Koch & Barnosky, 2006), scientists across relevant fields have debated the cause of these extinctions for decades with little consensus. While some argue that human overhunting caused the megafauna extinctions (Alroy, 2001;Haynes, 2018;Martin, 1973;Mosimann & Martin, 1975;Surovell et al., 2016;Surovell & Waguespack, 2008), others contend that the effect of humans on these extinctions is unclear. Instead, they propose that a combination of climatic changes and human interference caused the demise of megafauna such as proboscideans (mammoth and mastodon) (Agam & Barkai, 2018;Araujo et al., 2017;Barnosky, 2008;Barnosky et al., 2004;Grayson & Meltzer 2003;Koch & Barnosky, 2006;Meltzer, 2015). ...
... When studying prehistoric proboscidean hunting and butchery, researchers frequently consider stone tools that are clearly associated with zooarchaeological remains as strong evidence of human-animal interactions. In North America, such examples have been discovered at multiple archaeological sites associated with proboscideans, including Lehner, Colby, Murray Springs, Blackwater Draw, Dent, Domebo, Naco, and Escapule (Grayson, 1984;Grayson & Meltzer, 2002, 2003Johnson, 2007;Surovell & Waguespack, 2008). Despite this evidence, diagnostic stone tools have been relatively infrequent at proboscidean kill and butchery sites (Grayson, 1984;Grayson & Meltzer, 2002, 2003. ...
... In the 1960s, radiocarbon dating revealed that the North American extinctions had occurred at a time when humans were arriving to and dispersing throughout the continent. The seeming contemporaneity of North American large mammal disappearances and human appearance events led researchers to hypothesize causal linkages between them (Alroy, 2001;Martin, 1973;Mosimann & Martin, 1975;Nagaoka et al., 2018;Surovell & Waguespack, 2008). Evidence from the archaeological record suggests that some Late Pleistocene people may have hunted large mammals or scavenged their remains (Brunswig & Pitblado, 2007;Figgins, 1933;Grayson & Meltzer, 2002;Haury, 1956). ...
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Toward the end of the Pleistocene, the world experienced a mass extinction of megafauna. In North America these included its proboscideans—the mammoths and mastodons. Researchers in conservation biology, paleontology, and archaeology have debated the role played by human predation in these extinctions. They point to traces of human butchery, such as cut marks and other bone surface modifications (BSM), as evidence of human-animal interactions—including predation and scavenging, between early Americans and proboscideans. However, others have challenged the validity of the butchery evidence observed on several proboscidean assemblages, largely due to questions of qualitative determination of the agent responsible for creating BSM. This study employs a statistical technique that relies on three-dimensional (3D) imaging data and 3D geometric morphometrics to determine the origin of the BSM observed on the skeletal remains of the Bowser Road mastodon (BR mastodon), excavated in Middletown, New York. These techniques have been shown to have high accuracy in identifying and distinguishing among different types of BSM. To better characterize the BSM on the BR mastodon, we compared them quantitatively to experimental BSM resulting from a stone tool chopping experiment using “Arnold,” the force-calibrated chopper. This study suggests that BSM on the BR mastodon are not consistent with the BSM generated by the experimental chopper. Future controlled experiments will compare other types of BSM to those on BR. This research contributes to continued efforts to decrease the uncertainty surrounding human-megafauna associations at the level of the archaeological site and faunal assemblage—specifically that of the BR mastodon assemblage. Consequently, we also contribute to the dialogue surrounding the character of the human-animal interactions between early Americans and Late Pleistocene megafauna, and the role of human foraging behavior in the latter’s extinction.
... Hoffman's talk was given an 11:00 p.m. slot on Friday night in a general session. Since then, the Guest Mammoth site is occasionally cited as a possible Late Pleistocene megafauna exploitation locality (Anderson et al., 2015;Cannon and Meltzer, 2004;Surovell and Waguespack, 2008) but questions remain about the site's geologic context and age. ...
... Hoffman's investigations were remarkable for the time but left behind several questions, most notably whether the site can be included in lists of Clovis-aged or older sites (Grayson and Meltzer, 2015;Surovell and Waguespack, 2008;Waters and Stafford, 2007;Waters et al., 2020). Renewed investigations in 2017 focused on reevaluating the stratigraphy of the site, assessing the association of the lithics with the mammoths, and obtaining accurate ages of the mammoths and the overlying and underlying geologic units. ...
... OSL ages suggest the Guest Mammoth's are unlikely to date earlier than 13,735 cal yr BP. Evidence on the extinction of megafauna in the America's suggests the death of these mammoth does not post-date~12,700 cal yr BP (Halligan et al., 2016;Grayson and Meltzer, 2015;Surovell and Waguespack, 2008). Given that Unit 2 may have remained exposed for millennia prior to burial, it is possible that at least part of the assemblage is the result of later groups that arrived on site. ...
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In 1983, a five-page article was published in The Florida Anthropologist which reported on a submerged mammoth kill site in the Silver River near Ocala, Florida. This claim was supported by evidence consisting of a projectile point, six direct percussion flakes, and “numerous” pressure flakes found in situ with the remains of three Columbian Mammoths. In addition, three of the mammoth bones exhibited what were interpreted as cut-marks. The Guest Mammoth site was the first professional archaeological investigation on an underwater precontact site in the Americas. At the time of discovery, no locality east of the Mississippi River had yielded convincing evidence of human and megafauna interaction. For these reasons and others, the Guest Mammoth site fell into archaeological limbo. The author directed geoarchaeological investigations at the Guest Mammoth site from 2014 to 2019 to assess the standing hypothesis that the site is an intact Late Pleistocene archaeological locality. This paper evaluates the results of the original site excavations and contributes new geoarchaeological data to determine the Guest Mammoth's place in the North American archaeological record. The data presented here do not support the conclusion that the Guest Mammoth site is an unequivocal Late Pleistocene archaeological locality because the mammoth bone and artifact bearing component is not stratigraphically secure and has limited chronological control. However, the presence of datable Late Pleistocene strata and faunal material along with non-diagnostic artifacts indicate that the Silver River is worthy of further geoarchaeological inquiry for Late Pleistocene archaeological sites.
... Later, Kaufulu (1990) reinvestigated the site with large geological trenches to further understand the relationship between the Chitimwe and Chiwondo Beds that were reported as occurring in contact at the location by . This "Elephant Butchery Site" at MGD has since been frequently cited as an early MSA or Sangoan industry site with evidence for the in situ disarticulation of an elephant (e.g., Piperno and Tagliacozzo, 2001;Surovell and Waguespack, 2008;Yravedra et al., 2012). From 2009 to 2013, the Malawi Earlier-Middle Stone Age (MEMSAP) team mapped the area, collected samples, and conducted new excavations at MGD (MGD-I to III, Fig. 2). ...
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Mwanganda's Village (MGD) and Bruce (BRU) are two open-air site complexes in northern Malawi with deposits dating to between 15 and 58 thousand years ago (ka) and containing Middle Stone Age (MSA) lithic assemblages. The sites have been known since 1966 and 1965, respectively, but lacked chronometric and site formation data necessary for their interpretation. The area hosts a rich stone artifact record, eroding from and found within alluvial fan deposits exhibiting poor preservation of organic materials. Although this generally limits opportunities for site-based environmental reconstructions, MGD and BRU are located at the distal margins of the alluvial fan, where lacustrine lagoonal deposits were overprinted by a calcrete paleosol. This has created locally improved organic preservation and allowed us to obtain ecological data from pollen, phytoliths, and pedogenic carbonates, producing a regional- to site-scale environmental context for periods of site use and abandonment. Here, we integrate the ecological data into a detailed site formation history, based on field observations and micromorphology, supplemented by cathodoluminescence microscopy and μ-XRF. By comparing local, on-site environmental proxies with more regional indicators, we can better evaluate how MSA hunter-gatherers made decisions about the use of resources across the landscape. Our data indicate that while tree cover similar to modern miombo woodland and evergreen gallery forest prevailed at most times, MSA hunter-gatherers chose more locally open environments for activities that resulted in a lithic artifact record at multiple locations between 51 and 15 ka.
... Clovis lithic technology has been characterized as containing complex biface and blade technologies, multiple flake and blade tools such as end scrapers and spokeshaves, and distinctive patterns of raw material selection (Bradley et al. 2010;Collins 1999;Ellis 2013;Goodyear 1979;Huckell 2007;Huckell and Kilby 2014;Kelly 1988). However, most of what we know about Clovis stone tool technology comes from surface finds, including isolated Clovis points, and from buried contexts, most of which represent megafauna kill sites (Grayson and Meltzer 2002;Haynes and Huckell 2007;Surovell and Waguespack 2008;Waguespack and Surovell 2003). Information about domestic tasks unrelated to megafauna hunting practices, such as exploitation of other organic and inorganic resources, lithic raw material quarrying activities, and ritual behavior, is limited because the archaeological record of these activities is very rare. ...
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El Fin del Mundo is an archaeological site in Sonora, northwest Mexico, that contains a buried Clovis megafauna kill in a lowland area and concentrations of Clovis and later lithic materials scattered on the deflated surface of the surrounding uplands. The Clovis lithic assemblage from the site, identified by its technological and typological features, has been classified into three modes: bifaces, unifaces, and blades. The kill locality only contains Clovis points, whereas the assemblage from the uplands includes multiple bifaces reflecting diverse stages of the manufacture process from blank production to finished, highly reduced, and discarded broken Clovis points, numerous end scrapers, and blades and blade manufacture byproducts. This assemblage is indicative of a campsite where stone tool production and possibly other domestic tasks took place. In addition, a rhyolite outcrop near both the campsite and the kill was intensively exploited, as reflected in the high proportion of this raw material in the Clovis assemblage. Unequivocal association of the kill locality and the campsite is not confirmed; however, the configuration of the site indicates that the campsite was established in uplands near locations with water, game, and lithic resources.
... In other parts of the world, sudden increases in fire incidence, as marked by upticks in charcoal particles in lake sediments, have been interpreted as a sign of human arrival (e.g., Australia [Turney et al. 2001, Miller et al. 2005 Since the discovery of Folsom points amid skeletons of Bison antiquus in 1927, Paleoindian hunting of megafauna has been evident (Martin 1967(Martin , 1973(Martin , 2005Fiedel and Haynes 2004;Fiedel 2009;Haynes 2007Haynes , 2013. Clovis hunting of mammoth was already known in 1932 at Blackwater Draw, and has since been demonstrated at 15 or more sites (Surovell and Waguespack 2008;Haynes 2013;Grayson and Meltzer 2015). In South America there is good evidence for hunting of horses, ground sloths, and other megafauna (e.g., Jackson et al. 2007;Martinez 2001;Nami 2019;Prates and Perez 2021). ...
The study of the peopling of the Americas has been transformed in the past decade by astonishing progress in paleogenomic research. Ancient genomes now show that Native American ancestors were formed in Siberia or the Amur region by admixture of ca. 15–30% Ancient North Eurasian genes with those of East Asians. The Anzick infant, buried with Clovis bifaces at 12,900 cal BP, belonged to a group that was ancestral to later Native Central and South Americans. Fishtail points, derived from Clovis, mark the arrival and rapid expansion of Clovis-descended Paleoindians across South America, also evident in the sharp increase of radiocarbon dates, continent-wide, at 13,000–12,500 cal BP. In both North and South America, extinction of most genera of megafauna was virtually simultaneous with Paleoindian expansion. Human hunting must have been involved, perhaps in concert with other indirect impacts. Contrary to the alternative bolide impact theory, there is no evidence of a dramatic human population decline after 12,800 cal BP. Ancient genomes show that divergent lithic traditions after 13,000 cal BP need not be attributed to a separate Pacific Rim migration stream. Several recent finds raise the possibility that pre-Clovis people might have reached the Americas before 20,000 cal BP, but these precursors must have either failed to thrive, or were ultimately replaced by proto-Clovis or Clovis people. Consilient paleogenomic and archaeological data indicate that initial colonization by Paleoindian ancestors of living Native Americans occurred after 14,500 cal BP.
... This pattern continues in the New World. When humans entered the Americas after the Last Glacial Maximum, a temporally brief, but spatially extensive record of exploitation of mammoths, mastodons and gomphotheres is evident in the centuries surrounding 13,000 BP (e.g., Haury, 1953;Haury et al., 1959;Leonhardy and Anderson, 1966;Warnica, 1966;Graham et al., 1981;Frison and Todd, 1986;Nuñez et al., 1994;Haynes and Huckell, 2007;Surovell and Waguespack, 2008;Sanchez et al., 2014;Hannus, 2018;Mothé et al., 2020). This pattern in time and space provides a unifying thread tying together the records of the Old and New Worlds, and suggests that not only did modern humans and our hominin relatives regularly prey upon taxa in the order Proboscidea when the opportunity was available, but also that we very likely contributed to the extinction of these animals over much of their range (Martin, 1984;Martin and Steadman, 1999;Surovell et al., 2005Surovell et al., , 2016; but see Meltzer, 2002, 2015). ...
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The La Prele Mammoth site is a Clovis archaeological site in Converse County, Wyoming (U.S.A.) that preserves chipped stone artifacts in spatial association with the remains of a subadult Columbian mammoth (Mammuthus columbi). The site was discovered in 1986 and initially tested by George Frison in 1987, but work ceased there until 2014 due to a disagreement with the landowner. In the intervening years, questions arose as to whether the artifacts and mammoth remains were truly associated, and the site was largely dismissed by American archaeologists. Recent excavations have not only demonstrated that La Prele was the location of a mammoth kill by Clovis hunters around 12,850 years ago, but it also preserves a campsite in close proximity to the kill. The camp includes multiple hearth-centered activity areas that appear to represent domestic spaces, reflected by the presence of a diversity of stone tool forms, bone needles, a bone bead, a large area of hematite-stained matrix, and the butchered and cooked remains of at least one other large mammal species. The site has the potential to inform us about aspects of the social organization of Clovis bands, particularly with respect to mammoth hunting and butchery.
South America is the continent with the largest amount of megafauna extinctions at the end of the Pleistocene (∼50 genera), but the empirical evidence of megafauna exploitation by humans is little known by the international scientific community and often ignored from systematic reviews of global megafauna extinctions. Here, we systematically searched for archaeological records with human-megafauna interaction in South America, and then classified and described the megafauna kill sites (MKSs) by following three protocols with successively restricting criteria: Grayson and Meltzer (2015, 2002), Borrero (2009) and Mothé et al. (2020). We identified 134 studies presenting 69 archaeological sites with evidence of human-megafauna interactions over the late Quaternary of South America (from ∼17,000 cal yr BP to ∼7,900 cal yr BP), from which we classified up to 17 reliable MKSs with 15 exploited megafauna genera. Our results show that humans have exploited mastodons, giant ground sloths, giant armadillos, equids, bears, cervids and camelids for over 10,000 years, a much longer period than predicted by Paul Martin's overkill hypothesis. By synthesizing the complete evidence about human-megafauna interaction in an unnoticed continent, our database (available at fill an important gap from the international literature and will shed light on the analyses about the role of the human hunting activity on late Quaternary extinctions.
Proboscideans may have been important prey for Pleistocene foragers in the Americas. Dozens of proboscidean sites have been claimed to show evidence of human involvement dating to MIS 3 or in a few cases even earlier. Summaries are provided here for >70 sites. Also presented are discussions of patterns and variability in the claims. Suggestive traces of human use of carcasses such as associated stone tools or butchering marks vary from few or none in the oldest sites to relatively many in the latest (Clovis-era) sites. Evidence to distinguish scavenging from killing is not clear in most cases, but cut marks on bones in a few sites indicate that fully fleshed carcasses were butchered before carnivores stripped meat. Only one assemblage contains a bone with a possible weapon tip fragment embedded in it, a kind of find that is also rare in Eurasian mammoth sites. The oldest sites in the Americas are notably different from Old World assemblages, including those dating >1 Ma
Discovering World Prehistory introduces the general field of archaeology and highlights for students the difference between obtaining data (basic archaeology) and interpreting those data into a prehistory, a coherent model of the past.
At some time around the end of the last ice age, around 11,500 P14PC yr BP / 13,300 Cal yrs BP, the first human hunter-gatherer groups entered North America where they encountered diverse environments and climates. These groups once separate and exploring these landscapes in a vast continent were hunting and killing the same megafauna; perhaps for the first time, they would have encountered mammoth, mastodon, gomphothere, giant sloth and camel etc. Other smaller, more recognisable species were also present and hunted; elk, deer and caribou and bison for example. Clovis fluted points were long regarded as the hallmark of the first humans to occupy the Americas. The different environments and landscapes encountered by these separate groups may account for the extent of the variability of these points that are so characteristic of this period. In this thesis research I suggest that Clovis was not the first stone tool technology in North America and that fluted points evolved from an earlier technology, and that Clovis was a localised fluted form that evolved regionally as these first groups spread out across the continent. In a previous study I asked the question "what is Clovis", perhaps after the present study "what is not Clovis" may be more appropriate.
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If we can judge by the behavior of our closest living relatives among the apes, our remotest ancestors, who evolved in Africa more than four million years ago, probably ate little or no meat. In contrast, meat was a significant dietary staple in most historic hunter-gatherer societies. It has generally been assumed that meat-eating became progressively more important as people evolved, but it is also possible that the shift occurred in relatively short bursts coinciding with major evolutionary events, such as the emergence of modern humans sometime between 100,000 and 40,000 years ago. It is also possible that there was a stage, perhaps a very long one, in which meat was acquired mainly by scavenging, or alternatively that hunting was important even early on, perhaps becoming more important and more successful as time passed.
There is a general consensus in the literature that subsistence practices of Late Paleolithic groups inhabiting periglacial Europe were based on hunting while gathering played a role of secondary importance, and fish and shellfish collecting were only occasionally pursued in coastal and riverine environments. Detailed studies of regional subsistence practices reveal that, in reality, this general broad picture is made up of regionally diverse practices each of which reflected differing local climatic conditions, disparate developmental levels in productive forces and in the relationships of production, as well as different traditions of which species were exploited and how. This diversity was further augmented by seasonal differences in what taxa were procured.
In recent years there has been growing skepticism among some students of the pre-Sapiens sapiens hominids that the earlier romantic views, which pictured early man as a mighty hunter, are an accurate construction of the past. In fact, the trend in much recent work has been to modify this view and to see as unwarranted much of the evidence previously cited in support of the “mighty hunter” view of the past. Some have begun the serious investigation of the distinct possibility that early man was more commonly a scavenger of animal carcasses than a successful predator. This view, while seriously discussed for the pre-Homo erectus hominids, has not been popularly adopted for the investigation of Homo erectus himself. In fact, many theorists consider Homo erectus to be the author of what is referred to as the “hunting way of life” and believe that this shift may in fact stand behind the species’ successful radiation into new environmental zones (Shipman 1984).