Broad spectrum diets and the European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus): dietary change during the Pleistocene-Holocene transition in the Dordogne, southwestern France
In the Dordogne region of southwestern France, a broadening of the diet is known to have occurred toward the end of the Pleistocene, with diets heavily dependent on large ungulates being replaced by those heavily dependent on smaller species, and in particular on the European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus). There are two main hypotheses explaining this phenomenon: first, that climate change negatively impacted large mammal populations, thus forcing humans to begin incorporating smaller vertebrate species into their diets; and second, that humans themselves negatively impacted large mammal populations, which in turn forced humans to add smaller species to their diets. In this region, however, these hypotheses are complicated by the biogeographical history of Oryctolagus cuniculus. Since this species was present in only very small numbers in the Perigord prior to about 13,000 years ago, its increasing presence in archaeological faunas after this time may merely reflect its abundance on the landscape.In the research presented here, I use data from two sites in the Perigord---Moulin du Roc (Detrain et al. 1996) and Pont d'Ambon (Celerier 1998; Celerier et al. 1993, 1994)---to explore questions of how and why diets broadened at this time and in this place. I explore the two dominant hypotheses, but also consider two others: first, that the European Rabbit was not, in fact, a lower-ranked prey type; and second, that the Magdalenian was not (as is popularly believed) an "age of plenty."
- Anthropology