"The relationship between climate and culture is one of the most important areas of debate in the case of the Late Pleistocene, c.60,000-10,000 BP (years ago), when profound and frequently abrupt climatic changes coincided with significant human migrations and shifts in behavioural complexity. A major weakness in past research is that models of climate:people interactions in the Late Pleistocene have been based on regional data sets of very variable quality, so it is impossible to move beyond broad generalisations about how humans did or did not respond to climatic change. This is particularly the case in North Africa, the focus of the proposed project. There were certainly climate shifts, but they did not result in uniform environmental change: the peak of cold conditions c.18,000 BP was characterized by considerable aridity and steppe-like vegetation, but certain locations may have remained better-watered ‘rifugia’. Cultural shifts were also profound but not uniform: in the Maghreb, for example, ‘Iberomaurusian’ stone technologies continued to be used from c.24,000 BP right up to the end of the Pleistocene c.10,000 BP, whereas in Libya a distinctive Late Stone Age industry (‘Dabban’) was replaced by an ‘Oranian’ industry in some respects similar to the Maghreb Iberomaurusian c.15,000 BP. The relationships between shifts in climate, environment, and human behaviour therefore remain obscure. The proposed project will examine the stone industries of two contrasting case study regions in Libya where the results can be compared with high quality palaeoenvironmental and palaeoeconomic data. It will apply innovative methodologies to determine the likely significance of technological change in terms of cultural (social networks) and behavioural (subsistence) shifts. Integrating the various data sets will yield a nuanced perspective on human responses to climate change in North Africa in the Late Pleistocene, of wide relevance for Palaeolithic studies generally."
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