Bio-cultural interactions and demography during the Middle to Upper Palaeolithic transition in Iberia: An agent-based modelling approach

Publication date: January 2018Source:Journal of Archaeological Science, Volume 89
Author(s): Carolina Cucart-Mora, Sergi Lozano, Javier Fernández-López de Pablo
The Middle to Upper Palaeolithic transition was a process of cultural and biological replacement, considered a turning point in human evolutionary history. Various hypotheses have been used to explain the disappearance of Neanderthals from Eurasia. However, very few studies have explicitly examined the causative role of demography on Neanderthal and anatomically modern humans (AMH) interaction. Here we use an integrative method based on computational modelling and the analysis of archaeological data to construct an agent based model that explores the influence of demographic variables (birth and death rates) and mobility (home range size) on the bio-cultural interaction between AMH and Neanderthals during the transition from the Middle to Upper Palaeolithic on the Iberian Peninsula (50 ka to 30 ka BP). Our simulation results are consistent with the current radiocarbon framework for the disappearance of Neanderthals in this region. This suggest that the extinction of Neanderthals could be explained by inter-specific differences in demographic behaviour and mobility patterns compared with AMH.