Reappraisal of Hominin Group Size in the Lower Palaeolithic

Event date: March 19 - March 23, 2017

    Naama Goren-Inbar (The Hebrew University)



    Estimates of prehistoric population size, and particularly those of group size, have long been a topic of interest as it reflects the importance of sociality for the human genus. Clearly its evolutionary success depends upon intra-group social interactions and group cohesion. We would like to explore this issue at the time when the hominins irrevocably identified as humans at the beginning of the evolutionary human journey into the present. As a rule, estimations of hominin group size have been based on assumptions drawn from ethnographic and primatological studies, studies in genetics, paleoanthropological data, as well as the archaeological one. Undoubtedly, there is a rise in the availability of this record, from many sites which, coupled with some recently acquired theoretical insights, may greatly contribute to a reappraisal of group sizes during the Early and Middle Pleistocene, the objective of this research proposal.

    We aim to explore the common assumption in archaeology, derived from population genetics and ethnography, that the minimum size of modern hunter-gatherer groups ranges between 30 and 50 individuals. Our hypothesis will test whether group size during the Lower Paleolithic, which represents non-modern human population, differed. We shall explore through integrative methods stemming from various fields of research: archeological, paleontological, paleobotanical and geological, the archaeological phenomena pertaining to the richness of archaeological sites which seems to indicate the presence of groups comprising more members than suggested earlier. Such groups may at times have aggregated, similarly to ethnographic open-ended systems. The results of this research will have important bearing for understanding social phenomena pertaining to the evolution of human social behavior.