ArticlePDF Available

A New Research Strategy for Integrating Studies of Paleoclimate, Paleoenvironment, and Paleoanthropology



Paleoanthropologists (scientists studying human origins) universally recognize the evolutionary significance of ancient climates and environments for understanding human origins. Even those scientists working in recent phases of human evolution, when modern humans evolved, agree that hunter-gatherer adaptations are tied to the way that climate and environment shape the food and technological resource base. The result is a long tradition of paleoanthropologists engaging with climate and environmental scientists in an effort to understand if and how hominin bio-behavioral evolution responded to climate and environmental change. Despite this unusual consonance, the anticipated rewards of this synergy are unrealized and, in our opinion, will not reach potential until there are some fundamental changes in the way the research model is constructed. Discovering the relation between climate and environmental change to human origins must be grounded in a theoretical framework and a causal understanding of the connection between climate, environment, resource patterning, behavior, and morphology, then move beyond the strict correlative research that continues to dominate the field. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Dear reader,
Thank you for your interest in this article. This is, as you have obviously noticed, not the text for
which you were searching. The reason for this is that I am ‘not allowed’ to share the published
article through this channel (ResearchGate, Academia etc.).
Scientists publish their work in journals, but in doing so hand over the copyright of their work to the
publishing house (in the majority of cases). Many publishers have stated that, by and large, the
sharing of published articles on websites such as ResearchGate is an infringement of this copyright.
There are a few other avenues in which an author may share his or her article which varies
depending on the publishing house. I have chosen to host my articles on my website in a password
protected system (this is in line with the majority of publisher agreements with authors).
My articles are available from the link below (and, just maybe, so is the password )
Please feel free to email me with any questions you might have on the content.
If, like me, you are concerned about the stranglehold that publishers hold over science, please
consider using PeerJ for your future publications (www. Note that I am not affiliated
with PeerJ other than having author and reviewer accounts it is simply an amazing publishing
model in which our hard work is accessible to all (without draining our limited research accounts).
Alastair Potts
... (iii) Were changes in community structure and biotic interactions important in shaping hominin evolution and extinction? Attempts to answer these questions have fueled the recovery of paleoclimatic, paleoenvironmental, and paleoecological records [1][2][3][4][5], and the development of sophisticated analytical tools [6-8], but this progress has not always led to a deeper understanding of hominin evolution [9][10][11][12]. This stems from the limitations of research strategies that focus on linking temporal patterns of ecological change with milestones in hominin evolutionsuch as speciation and extinction events or shifts in hominin behaviorand inferring causal relationships between the two [9]. ...
... (iii) Were changes in community structure and biotic interactions important in shaping hominin evolution and extinction? Attempts to answer these questions have fueled the recovery of paleoclimatic, paleoenvironmental, and paleoecological records [1][2][3][4][5], and the development of sophisticated analytical tools [6][7][8], but this progress has not always led to a deeper understanding of hominin evolution [9][10][11][12]. This stems from the limitations of research strategies that focus on linking temporal patterns of ecological change with milestones in hominin evolutionsuch as speciation and extinction events or shifts in hominin behaviorand inferring causal relationships between the two [9]. ...
... Attempts to answer these questions have fueled the recovery of paleoclimatic, paleoenvironmental, and paleoecological records [1][2][3][4][5], and the development of sophisticated analytical tools [6][7][8], but this progress has not always led to a deeper understanding of hominin evolution [9][10][11][12]. This stems from the limitations of research strategies that focus on linking temporal patterns of ecological change with milestones in hominin evolutionsuch as speciation and extinction events or shifts in hominin behaviorand inferring causal relationships between the two [9]. How can hominin paleoecology move beyond this pattern-matching paradigm to generate enduring insights about the influence of ecological change on hominin evolution? ...
A central goal of paleoanthropology is understanding the role of ecological change in hominin evolution. Over the past several decades researchers have expanded the hominin fossil record and assembled detailed late Cenozoic paleoclimatic, paleoenvironmental, and paleoecological archives. However, effective use of these data is precluded by the limitations of pattern-matching strategies for inferring causal relationships between ecological and evolutionary change. We examine several obstacles that have hindered progress, and highlight recent research that is addressing them by (i) confronting an incomplete fossil record, (ii) contending with datasets spanning varied spatiotemporal scales, and (iii) using theoretical frameworks to build stronger inferences. Expanding on this work promises to transform challenges into opportunities and set the stage for a new phase of paleoanthropological research.
... Such studies provide the crucial material proxy archaeologists need to translate archaeological observations into knowledge of past behavior and culture. Advances in computation and modeling, grounded in ethnography and experimental foraging research, provide a pathway for developing such knowledge and testing previously formulated hypotheses (Marean et al., 2015). For example, Marean (2010) hypothesized that a series of changes in artifact and ecofact density at the site of PP13B, one of several Middle and Later Stone Age site along the south coast of South Africa (Fig. 1), indicated that early modern humans occupying the cave were tethered to the sea and that the site occupation waxed and waned as a function of its distance from the coast. ...
... The development of the PaleoscapeABM began as an effort to create a model that could explore the relationship between human behavior and the environment of the south coast of South Africa, centered on the archaeological sites at Pinnacle Point (Marean et al., 2015). The primary sequences there are presented by PP13B with a sequence dating from ~170-90 ka (Marean et al., 2007Jacobs, 2010), and PP5-6N with a sequence dating from ~90-50 ka (Smith et al., 2018). ...
The origins and significance of an aquatic diet in hominin evolution is a scientific research topic of high significance. Some have argued that marine shellfish collection was a key ingredient in the emergence of modern human behavioral and cultural complexity. The collection of marine resources, which can be productive and predictable, may have evolved into a coastal adaptation that led to reduction in residential mobility and other important changes in behavior and culture. Therefore, studying the emergence and intensity of coastal occupations is important to understand the rise of this particular aspect of modern humans' behavioral and cultural evolution. In this article, we use an agent-based model to explore the interaction between foraging behavior and the environment, and the impact of such interaction on sites' length of occupation, which in turn affects the accumulation of artifacts and ecofacts. The results of the model suggest that the intensive occupation of coastal sites is likely to be influenced by their position within a restricted band of productive coastal habitat. Even when foragers spend most of their time in other habitats, the cyclical reoccupation of coastal sites – due to the coast's cyclical productivity as well as the low number of locations that can be occupied there – could naturally result in higher artifact density in coastal than inland sites. Here, we argue that, given those results, coastal locations should accumulate large and dense deposits of occupation debris. These will be obvious features on the landscape and should be easier to find than inland occupations because of the coastal habitats' confined space. Finally, given the higher find densities of those sites, this may lead archaeologists to overestimate the contribution of marine resources in prehistoric diets. Therefore, what archaeologists have interpreted as intensive coastal adaptation in the past may be more the result of geographical constraints rather than important evolutionary changes.
... While the use of improved mapping technologies and geoarchaeological approaches (e.g., Bailey & Cawthra, 2021;Flemming, 2021;Wiseman et al., 2021) is welcome, their use alone cannot contribute to improving the understanding of underwater cultural heritage (UCH). A geoarchaeological approach necessitates understanding past and present processes to form a robust foundation (i) for resolving site formation, (ii) to explore and test ideas around past resource use and social landscapes, so it becomes possible to (iii) integrate these with associated environmental change (e.g., Marean et al., 2015Marean et al., , 2020 The attraction of the CB channel site to humans was argued to be its proximity to raw materials before marine inundation, and proximity to marine food resources thereafter (B2020: 21). While this may well be the case, interpretations of past human behavioural dynamics cannot be used to validate an assumption of primary context. ...
Full-text available
The absence of known prehistoric underwater cultural heritage (UCH) sites on the Australian inner shelf stands in stark contrast to the thousands of sites revealed elsewhere in the world. Two recent claims—Dortch et al. (D2019) and Benjamin et al. (B2020)—put forward the first in situ (i.e., primary context) UCH sites in the shallow waters of the Dampier Archipelago, North West Australia, each arguing that the stone artefact scatters are at least 7000 years old and are now submerged because of postglacial sea‐level rise. We present new hydrodynamic modelling and data on coastal erosion and bathymetry, and reassess each site's sedimentary setting and archaeological site‐formation history. D2019 and B2020 clearly present lithic cultural artefacts, but the arguments for their sites being of primary context and reflecting early Holocene land surfaces are mistaken. Rather, these sites occur in the intertidal zone, and many or all artefacts are likely to have been reworked. Sites of secondary context, if treated appropriately, can inform our understanding of site‐formation process and change, and may support more powerful contributions to submerged archaeology than attempts to seek the first or the oldest.
... Global prehistory has been governed by the effects of climate change (e.g. Behrensmeyer 2006;Breeze et al. 2016;Marean et al. 2015;deMenocal 2011). Its specific impact on past faunal and floral biodiversity is a matter of current concern since present-day biodiversity, which reflects ecosystem resilience (Willis et al. 2010), has been moulded by historical events. ...
The Middle Pleistocene archaeological record of the southern Levant has proven key to understanding human evolution and intercontinental faunal biogeography. Knowledge of archaeological sites of that period in the southern Levant is biased, with most Middle Pleistocene localities in the Mediterranean areas in the north, despite the mosaic of environments that mark the entire region. A key Middle Pleistocene location in the Judean Desert – on the eastern margin of the Mediterranean zone – is the site of Oumm Qatafa, excavated in the early 1900s, which yielded a faunal collection spanning an estimated time period of 500–200 kya. Here, we present a revised taxonomy of the macromammalian fauna from the site, discuss the palaeoenvironmental implications of this assemblage, and relate the finds to other Pleistocene sites from the Levant. These data enable a more precise palaeoenvironmental reconstruction which attests to an open landscape, but with the addition of a mesic Mediterranean component close by. In addition, detailed taphonomic observations on butchery marks and Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy analysis of burnt bone link the fauna for the first time to anthropogenic activities in the cave.
... Yet, linking hominin landscape ecology and climate variability to technological, morphological, or behavioral changes remains challenging as clear cause-and-effect relationships between specific climatic events and major evolutionary occurrences are difficult to establish. This is often due to temporal and spatial gaps in paleoclimatic, paleoenvironmental, and archaeological records (Marean et al., 2015;Faith et al., 2019;Faith et al., 2021). Additionally, recent discoveries of the earliest stone tools (i.e., the Lomekwian) from Kenya dating to 3.3 Ma (Harmand et al., 2015), the earlier appearance of H. erectus in southern Africa at 2.0 Ma (Herries et al., 2020), and the likelihood that Acheulean biface shaping emerged gradually out of bifacial core reduction during the Oldowan (Duke et al., 2021) are not evidently linked with major climate and environmental events. ...
Full-text available
Climate variability and hominin evolution are inextricably linked. Yet, hypotheses examining the impact of large-scale climate shifts on hominin landscape ecology are often constrained by proxy data coming from off-site lake and ocean cores and temporal offsets between paleoenvironmental and archaeological records. Additionally, landscape response data (most commonly, records of vegetation change), are often used as a climate proxy. This is problematic as it assumes that vegetation change signifies global or regional climate shifts without accounting for the known non-linear behavior of ecological systems and the often-significant spatial heterogeneity in habitat structure and response. The exploitation of diverse, rapidly changing habitats by Homo by at least two million years ago highlights that the ability to adapt to landscapes in flux had emerged by the time of our genus’ African origin. To understand ecosystem response to climate variability, and hominin adaptations to environmental complexity and ecological diversity, we need cross-disciplinary datasets in direct association with stratified archaeological and fossil assemblages at a variety of temporal and spatial scales. In this article, we propose a microhabitat variability framework for understanding Homo ’s adaptability to fluctuating climates, environments, and resource bases. We argue that the exploitation of microhabitats, or unique ecologically and geographically defined areas within larger habitats and ecoregions, was a key skill that allowed Homo to adapt to multiple climates zones and ecoregions within and beyond Africa throughout the Pleistocene.
... The Cape South Coast Palaeoscape Project has now generated a nearly fully coupled abiotic-biotic-human behaviour computer model. Marean et al. (2015) have laid out a research strategy where palaeoscientists can develop linked computer simulation models, constantly under improvement, that would begin with models of land, sea, geology, soil, and climate and ultimately integrate human activities and patterns of resource exploitation. The majority of the abiotic characteristics come from field and laboratory study starting with geology and marine geophysics (described above), and climate was projected onto these reconstructions using climate modelling validated using palaeoarchive data ( Engelbrecht et al., 2019 ). ...
Full-text available
In this paper we highlight the impact of sea-level change on the archaeological record of key developments in human history that took place during the late Pleistocene and the early Holocene. Before modern sea level became established from ∼7 ka onwards, most palaeoshorelines and large areas of coastal hinterland were exposed as habitable land and then drowned again by sea-level rise. We summarise the archaeological implications of this pattern and the conditions in which archaeological and geoarchaeological evidence from these submerged landscapes is preserved despite the potentially destructive erosional impact of sea-level rise. We provide examples of palaeolandscape reconstruction made possible through multi-disciplinary collaboration between archaeology and marine science, drawing on recent underwater research in the North Sea, the Red Sea and on the Cape Coast of South Africa, and discuss evidence of past human responses to sea-level change. We identify the types of modelling procedures that need to be developed to advance this field of research, emphasise the importance of inter-disciplinary collaboration involving two-way exchange of ideas and information between archaeology and marine science, and highlight the value of a long-term perspective in understanding the present and future human impact of sea-level rise.
... This research focuses on the results of a discard module added to the PaleoscapeABM, which is a component of the Paleoscape model explained in Marean et al. (2015) and illustrated in a recent special issue of Quaternary Science Review (e.g., Cleghorn et al., 2020;Cowling et al., 2020;Kraaij et al., 2020;Marean et al., 2020;Wren et al., 2020). The different models i.e., Paleoscape, Paleo-scapeABM, and projectile submodel, are explained below. ...
The invention of projectile technology had important ramifications for hominin evolution. However, the number of stone points that could have been used as projectiles fluctuates in archaeological assemblages, making it difficult to define when projectile technology was first widely adopted and how its usage changed over time. Here we use an agent-based model to simulate a hunter-gatherer foraging system where armatures are dropped according to their usage. We explore the impact of interactions between human behaviors and the environmental constraints of a data-informed landscape on the distribution and number of lithic armatures found in archaeological assemblages. We ran 2400 simulations modeling different population sizes, rates of hunting with projectiles, and tool curation levels. For each simulation, we recorded the location of dropped armatures and calculated the number and percentage of used armatures that were discarded at habitation camps vs. lost during hunting. We used linear regression to identify the demographic, behavioral, and environmental factor(s) that best explained changes in these numbers and percentages. The model results show that in a well-controlled environment, most armatures used as projectile weapons are lost or discarded at hunting sites; only ∼4.5% of used armatures (or ∼2 armatures per year of simulation) are discarded in habitation camps where they would likely be excavated. These findings suggest that even rare hafted armatures found in the Early and Middle Stone Age could indicate a well-established use of such tools. Our model shows that interactions between reoccupation of archaeological sites, population size, rate of hunting with projectile weapons, and tool curation levels strongly influence the count of lithic armatures found in archaeological assemblages. Therefore, we argue that fluctuations in the counts of armatures documented at archaeological sites should be evaluated within their demographic and environmental contexts to better understand if they reflect spatiotemporal changes in hunting behavior.
Full-text available
The potential of submerged palaeolandscapes to address questions about global migrations, broad-scale climate and landscape change and human response to this has, to date, been concentrated in the Northern Hemisphere. The Southern Hemisphere has less land, more water and water barriers, higher floral and faunal endemicity and lower population but with indigenous populations that have maintained a connection with coastal and offshore landscapes for at least 40,000 years in Australasia and almost 170,000 years in South Africa. We provide an overview of current knowledge in South America, Southern Africa and Australasia and explore how new palaeogeographic and palaeoecological research, alongside related coastal archaeology, is helping to map out future directions for submerged cultural landscape research in these regions. A common theme across is the need to raise awareness of submerged cultural resources and indigenous knowledge of these as well as the multi-disciplinary approach needed to understand the unique landscapes in which they are preserved.
Here we present an optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) age estimate of 64 ± 5 ka for an offshore aeolianite and draw regional correlations (within 45 km) between the Pleistocene geological sequence offshore of the Durban Bluff, and contemporary palaeoenvironmental records from Sibudu on the South African sub-tropical east coast. Considering this age estimate within the context of high-resolution hydroacoustic data and, in particular, sub-bottom profiles, we tentatively suggest phases of dune building during marine isotope stage (MIS) 4 along the east coast of South Africa. The age and depositional characteristics of the composite Bluff-Blood Reef aeolianites suggest that dune-building events were linked to sea-level stillstands during both highstands (with deposits now preserved above water from MIS 7 and 5e) and lowstands (preserved below water, specifically, MIS 4). Aeolianite remnants of late MIS 4 age show that the wind regime during this mild glacial was dominated by winds typical of modern-day temperate latitudes; prevailing directions preserved in foresets pointing towards northerlies and southeasterlies. This is in contrast to the present-day prevailing northeasterlies and southwesterlies in the study area. We investigate the role of a narrow shelf in the characteristics of the sedimentary depositional system of the Durban Bluff and the role of southeasterlies during MIS 4 in delivering sediment to the contemporary coast. We demonstrate the value in correlating offshore and onshore Quaternary sequences, and the role that submerged deposits can play in unravelling nuances of glacial conditions on ice-free continental shelves. Broadly, the correlations that we draw between the shelf aeolianites and the archaeological record of Sibudu, supports evidence of climatic and environmental variability during MIS 4 in this area.
The main thread of inquiry that runs through recent osteobiographic studies of ancestral Khoe-San skeletons is the question of whether being short can be adaptive, rather than a sign of some problem during growth. A thorough investigation of adult body size needs information about diet, disease, environmental hazards, child growth and habitual behaviors. The ethnographic records of northern Khoe-San communities of Namibia and Botswana can be useful (Howell, 2000, Howell, 2010, Lee, 2003), although there are also differences from the lifeways of the people represented by archaeology. All evidence points to the Khoe-San population at a biological set point of short stature, a set point that was nevertheless sensitive to environmental stressors. Natural selection for small size seems likely. Skeletal evidence is consistent with genomic studies indicating a demographically successful population that was growing in numbers throughout many millennia.
Full-text available
Cost benefit data on selected hunter-gatherer resources.
Six approaches for downscaling climate model outputs for use in hydrologic simulation were evaluated, with particular emphasis on each method's ability to produce precipitation and other variables used to drive a macroscale hydrology model applied at much higher spatial resolution than the climate model. Comparisons were made on the basis of a twenty-year retrospective (1975–1995) climate simulation produced by the NCAR-DOE Parallel ClimateModel (PCM), and the implications of the comparison for a future(2040–2060) PCM climate scenario were also explored. The six approaches were made up of three relatively simple statistical downscaling methods – linear interpolation (LI), spatial disaggregation (SD), and bias-correction and spatial disaggregation (BCSD) – each applied to both PCM output directly(at T42 spatial resolution), and after dynamical downscaling via a Regional Climate Model (RCM – at 1/2-degree spatial resolution), for downscaling the climate model outputs to the 1/8-degree spatial resolution of the hydrological model. For the retrospective climate simulation, results were compared to an observed gridded climatology of temperature and precipitation, and gridded hydrologic variables resulting from forcing the hydrologic model with observations. The most significant findings are that the BCSD method was successful in reproducing the main features of the observed hydrometeorology from the retrospective climate simulation, when applied to both PCM and RCM outputs. Linear interpolation produced better results using RCM output than PCM output, but both methods (PCM-LI and RCM-LI) lead to unacceptably biased hydrologic simulations. Spatial disaggregation of the PCM output produced results similar to those achieved with the RCM interpolated output; nonetheless, neither PCM nor RCM output was useful for hydrologic simulation purposes without a bias-correction step. For the future climate scenario, only the BCSD-method (using PCM or RCM) was able to produce hydrologically plausible results. With the BCSD method, the RCM-derived hydrology was more sensitive to climate change than the PCM-derived hydrology.
The south coast of South Africa provides the earliest evidence for Middle Stone Age (MSA) coastal resource exploitation by early Homo sapiens. In coastal archaeology worldwide, there has been a debate over the general productivity of intertidal foraging, leading to studies that directly measure productivity in some regions, but there have been no such studies in South Africa. Here we present energetic return rate estimates for intertidal foraging along the southern coast of South Africa from Blombos Cave to Pinnacle Point. Foraging experiments were conducted with Khoi-San descendants of the region, and hourly caloric return rates for experienced foragers were measured on 41 days near low tide and through three seasons over two study years. On-site return rates varied as a function of sex, tidal level, marine habitat type and weather conditions. The overall energetic return rate from the entire sample (1492 kcal h À1) equals or exceeds intertidal returns reported from other hunter-gatherer studies, as well as measured return rates for activities as diverse as hunting mammals and plant collecting. Returns are projected to be exceptionally high (~3400 kcal h À1 for men, ~1900 kcal h À1 for women) under the best combination of conditions. However, because of the monthly tidal cycle, high return foraging is only possible for about 10 days per month and for only 2e3 h on those days. These experiments suggest that while intertidal resources are attractive, women and children could not have subsisted independently, nor met all their protein-lipid needs from marine resources alone, and would have required substantial additional energy and nutrients from plant gathering and/or from males contributing game.
Four deceptively simple questions have guided our long-term research into the aboriginal lifeways of St. Catherines Island: 1. How and why did the human landscape (settlement patterns and land use) change through time? 2. To what extent were subsistence and settlement patterns shaped by human population increase, intensification, and competition for resources? 3. What factors can account for the emergence of social inequality in Georgia's Sea Islands? 4. Can systematically collected archaeological evidence resolve the conflicting ethnohistoric interpretations of the aboriginal Georgia coast (the so-called "Guale problem")? Over a span of four decades, the American Museum of Natural History has addressed these four fundamental questions using a broad array of field and analytical techniques. We conducted a 20 percent probabilistic transect survey of St. Catherines Island, walking and probing for buried sites across a series of 31 east-west transects, each 100 m wide. During this initial survey we located 122 archaeological sites, which we tested with more than 400 one-meter by one-meter units. Because the transect sampling was heavily biased toward sites with marine shell, we also conducted a systematic shovel testing program. We also augmented these systematic surveys with a direct shoreline reconnaissance (mostly following the late Holocene surfaces), recording roughly 84 additional shoreline sites on St. Catherines Island. By plotting the distribution of these known-age sites across the Holocene beach ridges, we have developed a detailed sequence documenting the progradation and erosion of beach ridge complexes adjacent to tidal estuaries and oceanward shorelines on the island. To evaluate the results of the 1000+ test explorations and excavations on St. Catherines Island, we have processed 251 radiocarbon determinations, including two dozen dates on "modern" mollusks (known-age specimens collected prior to atomic bomb contamination) to compute a "reservoir" correction factor specific to the estuaries around St. Catherines Island (of Δ5 = -134 ± 26). The results have been compiled into a dataset of 239 radiocarbon determinations for samples from St. Catherines Island. One hundred and ten of these dates (from 31 distinct mortuary and midden sites) could be directly associated with datable ceramic assemblages, which were classified according to Chester DePratter's (1979, 1991) Northern Georgia Coast chronology. By comparing the results of typological classification with the radiocarbon evidence currently available from St. Catherines Island, we propose a slightly modified ceramic chronology for St. Catherines Island. We analyzed the seasonal growth increments in modern hard clams (Mercenaria mercenaria) for a 9-year interval (beginning in 1975). Mercenaria suitable for seasonal analysis were recovered from nearly 85 percent (110 of 130) of the sites identified and sampled in the Island wide survey. We analyzed about 2000 individual hard clam shells recovered from these shell middens and, of these, 1771 individual specimens (or fragments) provided usable growth increment estimates, enabling us to address seasonal patterns during the 5000 years of human history. This study is reinforced by an oxygen isotope study of modern and ancient clams from St. Catherines Island. This transect survey produced an extensive and diverse set of vertebrate faunal remains collected systematically from archaeological sites tested across the entire island. Elizabeth Reitz and her colleagues analyzed this vertebrate faunal assemblage, which contains at least 586 individuals represented by 14,970 vertebrate specimens weighing 21,615 g. These materials provide a solid basis for refining hypotheses not only for St. Catherines Island, but for most coastal locations. With the exception of the first and last occupations (the St. Simons and Altamaha periods), the samples suggest a stable pattern of resource use through time, with little variation through time or across space (although the small sample sizes for each time period and circumscribed geographical setting might constrain this interpretation). She also notes the presence of numerous seasonal indicators in the vertebrate zooarchaeological samples recovered from archaeological sites on St. Catherines Island - including unshed deer antlers, juvenile deer dentition, and shark and sea catfish remains. But we also recognized the importance of examining diverse sources of seasonal information in our attempt to flesh out overall patterns of site utilization. We also include analysis of the vertebrate zooarchaeological assemblages from Meeting House Field and Fallen Tree, two additional sites intensively investigated by the American Museum of Natural History and the University of Georgia. The intensive program of mortuary archaeology has recovered the remains of more than 725 individuals from 18 archaeological sites on St. Catherines Island. More than 90 percent of these remains were analyzed by Clark Spencer Larsen and his colleagues, using a variety of microscopic, biomechanical, and stable isotopic techniques. In this monograph, we address the archaeology of St. Catherines Island using the broad-based theoretical approach known as optimal foraging theory, which is grounded in the more general paradigm of human behavioral ecology (that studies human behavior by applying the principles of natural selection within an ecological context). The broad rubric of "optimal foraging theory" encompasses a broad range of specific models, each of which employs a unique set of simplifying assumptions and constraints, and each can be used to derive testable hypotheses about foraging behavior under certain environmental circumstances. Each model is a formal, mathematical construct and they share the key assumption that during "economic" pursuits, the forager will operate to maximize the overall rate of energetic return. Specifically, we have employed three basic models to address the archaeology of St. Catherines Island. The diet-breadth (or prey choice) model addresses the issue of which foods should an efficient forager harvest from all those available on St. Catherines Island. Diet-breadth models predict that foragers will optimize the time spent capturing prey, and employ the simplifying assumptions that all resources are randomly distributed (without patches) and that "capture/handling" and "search" times represent the sum total of all time spent foraging. We also apply the patch choice model, which, combined with the central limit theorem, predicts that foraging effort will correlate directly with efficiency rank order, meaning that foragers should spend more time working the higher-ranked patches and less time in patches with lower energetic potential. Finally, we likewise employ the centralplace foraging model to investigate the time/energy spent processing resources at temporary camps before transport to a residential base. We find central place foraging theory to be useful for addressing the role and location of the residential base as a locus for provisioning offspring and mates or potential mates. This monograph also reports the results of optimal foraging experiments conducted over a 2-year period on St. Catherines Island, specifically addressing procurement and return rates for key marine and terrestrial resources that would have been available to aboriginal foragers on St. Catherines Island.