Aegeus Society For Aegean Prehistory


10 April 2020

Food and ornaments: Diachronic changes in the exploitation of littoral resources at Franchthi Cave (Argolid, Greece) during the Upper Palaeolithic and the Mesolithic (39.000–7.000 cal BC)

Catherine Perlès Quaternary International 407 (July 2016): 45-58

The long Upper Palaeolithic and Mesolithic sequence of Franchthi Cave is often quoted for the importance of its marine resources. The first coastal resources to be exploited, from the very beginning of the Upper Palaeolithic, were ornamental shell species. Fish was captured since at least the 13th millennium cal BC, and Franchthi is well known for the episode of intense tuna fishing in the Upper Mesolithic (8th millennium cal BC). Shellfish, which include mostly gastropods, were introduced in the diet a millennium after fish, but were most intensely exploited during the Final Mesolithic (ca 7000 cal BC). With abundant marine remains and a distance to the coast that never exceeded 4 km, less than 2 km in the Mesolithic, Franchthi is thus an ideal site to study the patterns of littoral exploitation and their variations throughout the Upper Palaeolithic and the Mesolithic.

The successive introduction of the various marine resources was not correlated to sea level variations and the distance from the cave to the sea. The number of remains for each category varies importantly from phase to phase. To compensate for differences in the duration of each phase and frequency of occupation, I have standardized the numbers of remains for each category of coastal resource by the volume of sediment. This reveals that fish, shellfish and ornamental species were exploited independently, with important variations in intensity of deposition along the sequence. Except for two phases of more intense fishing, the exploitation of edible marine resources remained, however, rather modest. Terrestrial resources, game and plants, appear to have been predominant in most phases of occupation and terrestrial gastropods largely supersede marine gastropods in all phases from the Late Upper Palaeolithic to the Upper Mesolithic.


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