The University of Southampton
University of Southampton Institutional Repository

Site distribution at the edge of the palaeolithic world: a nutritional niche approach

Record type: Article

This paper presents data from the English Channel area of Britain and Northern France on the spatial distribution of Lower to early Middle Palaeolithic pre-MIS5 interglacial sites which are used to test the contention that the pattern of the richest sites is a real archaeological distribution and not of taphonomic origin. These sites show a marked concentration in the middle-lower reaches of river valleys with most being upstream of, but close to, estimated interglacial tidal limits. A plant and animal database derived from Middle-Late Pleistocene sites in the region is used to estimate the potentially edible foods and their distribution in the typically undulating landscape of the region. This is then converted into the potential availability of macronutrients (proteins, carbohydrates, fats) and selected micronutrients. The floodplain is shown to be the optimum location in the nutritional landscape (nutriscape). In addition to both absolute and seasonal macronutrient advantages the floodplains could have provided foods rich in key micronutrients, which are linked to better health, the maintenance of fertility and minimization of infant mortality. Such places may have been seen as ‘good (or healthy) places’ explaining the high number of artefacts accumulated by repeated visitation over long periods of time and possible occupation. The distribution of these sites reflects the richest aquatic and wetland successional habitats along valley floors. Such locations would have provided foods rich in a wide range of nutrients, importantly including those in short supply at these latitudes. When combined with other benefits, the high nutrient diversity made these locations the optimal niche in northwest European mixed temperate woodland environments. It is argued here that the use of these nutritionally advantageous locations as nodal or central points facilitated a healthy variant of the Palaeolithic diet which permitted habitation at the edge of these hominins’ range

PDF Pal Nutriscape paper with figs Final.pdf - Author's Original
Download (1MB)


Brown, Antony, Basell, Laura, Robinson, Sian and Burdge, Graham C. (2013) Site distribution at the edge of the palaeolithic world: a nutritional niche approach PLoS ONE, pp. 1-38.

More information

e-pub ahead of print date: 11 December 2013
Organisations: Palaeoenvironment Laboratory (PLUS)


Local EPrints ID: 360255
ISSN: 1932-6203
PURE UUID: 8a59f634-1d74-4b2a-ac17-1672ef7dc3b1
ORCID for Sian Robinson: ORCID iD
ORCID for Graham C. Burdge: ORCID iD

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 05 Dec 2013 08:50
Last modified: 18 Jul 2017 03:14

Export record


Author: Antony Brown
Author: Laura Basell
Author: Sian Robinson ORCID iD

University divisions

Download statistics

Downloads from ePrints over the past year. Other digital versions may also be available to download e.g. from the publisher's website.

View more statistics

Atom RSS 1.0 RSS 2.0

Contact ePrints Soton:

ePrints Soton supports OAI 2.0 with a base URL of

This repository has been built using EPrints software, developed at the University of Southampton, but available to everyone to use.

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue without changing your settings, we will assume that you are happy to receive cookies on the University of Southampton website.