A global perspective on the spatiotemporal pattern of the Late Pleistocene human and woolly mammoth radiocarbon record


We examine the temporal and geographic distribution of a worldwide sample of human and woolly mammoth radiocarbon ages (40–11,500 radiocarbon years BP) in order to examine how fluctuations in the two taxa may be related. These include human data from Europe, Siberia, and Australia and proboscidean radiocarbon ages from Europe, Siberia, and North America. We show that the geographic ranges of dated human occupations and mammoth remains do overlap across the terminal Pleistocene of the Old World, but concentrate in different areas. While frequencies of human dates in different regions covary with each other, mammoths do not. Increases in archaeological dates also fail to coincide with declines in mammoths. Rather, fluctuations in the two taxa remain largely uncorrelated during the run-up to the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM; ca. 18,000 radiocarbon years BP) after which both groups increase sharply until 13–12,000 BP. The decline and eventual extinction of the mammoths only occurs after this period, consistent with the premise that human impacts on now-extinct proboscidean populations occurred within the context of the sharp climatic shifts and widespread environmental reorganization of the Pleistocene–Holocene transition.

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