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The ‘mosaic habitat’ concept in human evolution: past and present

Reynolds, SC, Wilkinson, DM, Marston, CG and O'Regan, HJ (2015) The ‘mosaic habitat’ concept in human evolution: past and present. Transactions of the Royal Society of South Africa, 70 (1). pp. 57-69. ISSN 2154-0098

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The habitats preferred by hominins and other species are an important theme in palaeoanthropology, and the ‘mosaic habitat’ (also referred to as habitat heterogeneity) has been a central concept in this regard for the last four decades. Here we explore the development of this concept – loosely defined as a range of different habitat types, such as woodlands, riverine forest and savannah within a limited spatial area– in studies of human evolution in the last sixty years or so. We outline the key developments that took place before and around the time when the term ‘mosaic’ came to wider palaeoanthropological attention. To achieve this we used an analysis of the published literature, a study of illustrations of hominin evolution from 1925 onwards and an email survey of senior researchers in palaeoanthropology and related fields. We found that the term mosaic starts to be applied in palaeoanthropological thinking during the 1970’s due to the work of a number of researchers, including Karl Butzer and Glynn Isaac , with the earliest usage we have found of ‘mosaic’ in specific reference to hominin habitats being by Adriaan Kortlandt (1972). While we observe a steady increase in the numbers of publications reporting mosaic palaeohabitats, in keeping with the growing interest and specialisation in various methods of palaeoenvironmental reconstruction, we also note that there is a lack of critical studies that define this habitat, or examine the temporal and spatial scales associated with it. The general consensus within the field is that the concept now requires more detailed definition and study to evaluate its role in human evolution.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: This is a pre-copyedited, author-produced PDF of an article published in 'Transactions of the Royal Society of South Africa' following peer review. The published version of: Reynolds, S. C., Wilkinson D. M., Marston, C. G., O'Regan, H. J. (2015) Transactions of the Royal Society of South Africa. 70(1)57-69. Is available online at:http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/0035919X.2015.1007490
Subjects: C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CC Archaeology
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
Divisions: Natural Sciences & Psychology (closed 31 Aug 19)
Publisher: Taylor & Francis
Date Deposited: 25 Mar 2015 13:01
Last Modified: 04 Sep 2021 14:33
DOI or ID number: 10.1080/0035919X.2015.1007490
URI: https://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/820
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