Reindeer Hunting in the Upper Palaeolithic: Sex Ratios as a Reflection of Different Procurement Strategies.
Journal of Archaeological Science, 29, (4), . (doi:10.1006/jasc.2002.0716).
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This paper is a first attempt to investigate the variability in reindeer-procurement strategies in Upper Palaeolithic sites by means of sex ratios, as reflected by osteometrical data. For this purpose the “Variability Size Index” method is employed. The idea behind the analysis is that sex ratios in reindeer (but also in red deer and in bovids) were mainly determined—as they are in modern populations—by the reproductive biology of the animals and not by environmental conditions. Thus, any deviations from these ratios must be explained in terms of behavioural/cultural variables.
The faunal material for the study comes from sites in southwest France, Switzerland and southern Germany. During the Upper Palaeolithic females dominate in all assemblages, but a clear variability can be seen: some sites show sex ratios similar to those found in Palaeolithic carnivore dens, whereas other sites show somewhat higher frequencies of bulls. The variation in the sex ratios of reindeer among Upper Palaeolithic sites cannot be explained by either their chronological position or topographical location, but it is more probably a result from seasonal differences in reindeer-procurement. Thus generalizations about the exploitation of reindeer or other prey species based on results of a single site or layer of a site will mask the variability in the subsistence strategies which existed either during the Upper Palaeolithic or, at a finer scale, even during the Magdalenian.
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