About RPHGM

Reconstructing prehistoric hunter-gatherer mobility: building new inter-disciplinary frameworks in the Quaternary

INQUA HaBCom Project 1502P

The Reconstructing Prehistoric Hunter-gatherer Mobility project (RPHGM) aims to unite diverse research practices and establish the current state of knowledge regarding prehistoric hunter-gatherer mobility as an essential step to building coherent and robust frameworks for future interdisciplinary enquiry. Research into past hunter-gatherer lifeways in the Pleistocene and Holocene has burgeoned into ever-more specialized areas over the past few decades, with a continuously growing array of techniques of study. The sub-disciplines of archaeology, palaeontology, and genetics have provided new methods of analyses and diversified the types of data collected, but often the fundamental questions under investigation are the same: how did humans organise themselves at landscape-scales, within the spatially and temporally heterogeneous biomes of the Pleistocene and early Holocene?

Flint blade fragment from multi-period silcrete extraction locale, Rapavi, Saint-Pierre-Eynac, France . Object originally sourced from c. 40 km distant. (Image: Wragg Sykes). Sourcing of lithic objects is the most commonly applied proxy for models of human mobilty: this project aims to establish new intersections between diverse proxies – faunal, genetic, anatomical, ethnographic– for more robust data and models.
Flint blade fragment from multi-period silcrete extraction locale, Rapavi, Saint-Pierre-Eynac, France . Object originally sourced from c. 40 km distant. (Image: Wragg Sykes). Sourcing of lithic objects is the most commonly applied proxy for models of human mobilty: this project aims to establish new intersections between diverse proxies – faunal, genetic, anatomical, ethnographic– for more robust data and models.

Despite the fact that mobility is a central concern in reconstructions of past human behaviour, there has been remarkably little critical discussion of what we mean by this concept, how we identify it and how to develop common analytical frameworks we can use to examine the data. The proposed project will stimulate debate and strengthen inter-disciplinary networks, promoting integrative approaches that balance the disadvantages of single methods, as well as enabling comparisons and testing against multiple forms of data. We will bring together expert researchers, especially those at early career stages, who are working across the various fields that focus on the reconstruction of human mobility. Specific long-term goals include:

  1. Clarifying the theoretical frameworks and identifying the different types of direct and indirect data that researchers use to analyse and measure past hunter-gatherer mobility.
  2. Targeting areas of potential fruitful interdisciplinary research and defining new frameworks that enable the integration and comparison of disparate models and datasets.
  3. Establishing the importance of understanding mobility for ongoing and future Quaternary research using empirical and replicable data to better integrate theories that depend on concepts such as adaptive responses and social networks.
Reindeer in tundra- one of the hunted species with diverse migratory patterns
Reindeer; one of the species for which better understanding of past dynamics, including possibilities of long-distance migration, would improve mobility models for hunter-gatherer groups. Image: By Alexandre Buisse (Nattfodd) (self-made (http://www.alexandrebuisse.org CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

We are currently funded for 2015 to establish the project, thanks to the International Union for Quaternary Research; please also see our page on the INQUA website.

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