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Other research product . 2022

Environment Reincarnated - Paleodiet and Paleoecology of Pleistocene Herbivorous Mammals from Dmanisi

Bakhia, Alexander;
Open Access
Published: 01 Jan 2022
Publisher: Helsingin yliopisto
Country: Finland

The dispersal of hominin species out of Africa during the Early Pleistocene has been centred on the environmental conditions which the species dispersed into. Specifically, being polarised between those who reconstruct this dispersal as synchronous with the expansions of grasslands, placing hominins within this environmental niche. Conversely, new data suggests hominin species were a highly adaptable species, capable of occupying varied habitats and other non-grassland areas, including forests. In order to test these conflicting hypotheses, reconstruction of local paleoenvironments at major hominin sites is required. The Early Pleistocene site of Dmanisi is an excellent case study. As one of the major hominin sites, paleoenvironmental reconstructions of Dmanisi are important to understand its role in the hominin dispersal events. By understanding the environment hominins moved into, we can better understand the ecological factors behind their dispersal. The aim of this study is to deduce the paleodiets and the mean body mass of the herbivore community in Dmanisi to assess the biome they lived in. For dietary analyses I used mesowear, and for estimating body mass from skeletal measures I used regression equations. The mesowear scores were used in a cluster analysis where the fossil taxa were clustered with modern taxa, whose diet is well-known. The results indicated the dietary categories of the fossil taxa. A mean body mass value of all ungulates was calculated for Dmanisi, which was then put into a data sheet with mean body mass values from other localities. Relative body mass indices were calculated for each locality by dividing their mean body mass value with the largest mean body mass value in the set. These values were then correlated with locality-specific net primary productivity values, to see how the mean body mass value in Dmanisi performed against its net primary productivity, and against other localities. The herbivore community mainly consisted of mixed feeders and browsers, with minimal evidence for grazing in the mesowear analysis. Ungulates were comparatively small sized in Dmanisi, implying that the low net primary productivity, interspecific and intraspecific competition lead to lack of resource availability in the area, which in turn caused the relatively small ungulate community. The results show that Early Pleistocene hominins occupied a relatively diverse, ecotone habitat in Dmanisi, consisting of shrublands and woodlands. This suggests that the Dmanisi was not as grassy as previously assumed, and the spread of grassland environments probably was not the catalyst for the hominin dispersal.


Human evolution, Hominin migration, Pleistocene, Dmanisi, body size, mesowear, paleodiet, Arkeologia, Archaeology, Arkeologi, Kulttuuriperinnön maisteriohjelma, Master's Programme in Cultural Heritage, Magisterprogrammet i kulturarv

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