The emergence and intensification of early hunter-gatherer niche construction

Jessica C. Thompson, David K. Wright, Sarah J. Ivory

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Hunter-gatherers, especially Pleistocene examples, are not well-represented in archeological studies of niche construction. However, as the role of humans in shaping environments over long time scales becomes increasingly apparent, it is critical to develop archeological proxies and testable hypotheses about early hunter-gatherer impacts. Modern foragers engage in niche constructive behaviors aimed at maintaining or increasing the productivity of their environments, and these may have had significant ecological consequences over later human evolution. In some cases, they may also represent behaviors unique to modern Homo sapiens. Archeological and paleoenvironmental data show that African hunter-gatherers were niche constructors in diverse environments, which have legacies in how ecosystems function today. These can be conceptualized as behaviorally mediated trophic cascades, and tested using archeological and paleoenvironmental proxies. Thus, large-scale niche construction behavior is possible to identify at deeper time scales, and may be key to understanding the emergence of modern humans.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)17-27
Number of pages11
JournalEvolutionary anthropology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Anthropology


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