Revisiting Late Pleistocene-Early Holocene mountain gazelle (Gazella gazella) body size change in the southern Levant: A case for anthropogenic impact

Natalie D. Munro*, Roxanne Lebenzon, Lidar Sapir-Hen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The average body size of human prey animals in archaeological sites is influenced by myriad environmental, physiological and anthropogenic variables. When combined with supporting evidence, body size has the potential to provide a proxy for several variables of fundamental interest to archaeologists including climatic change, food availability and hunting impacts, among other things. In the southern Levant changes in mountain gazelle (Gazella gazella) body size in the Late Pleistocene were initially interpreted as evidence for a climatic downturn, but the picture has become increasingly murky as data has grown. Here we reconsider trends in gazelle body size using an updated dataset from the Mediterranean zone that spans the Early Epipaleolithic to the Middle Pre-Pottery Neolithic B period (ca. 24,000-9,500 cal BP). Our results reveal that gazelle were smallest in the Early and Middle Epipaleolithic (Kebaran and Geometric Kebaran), reached their largest size in the early Late Epipaleolithic (Early Natufian) and then shrunk slightly before stabilizing in size through the Middle Pre-Pottery Neolithic. We see no evidence that sex ratio, or climatic factors influenced this trend. Instead, we explore the role of human impacts on gazelle populations and their habitats as they grew in earnest at the beginning of the Late Epipaleolithic when people first began to settle into more permanent communities. Initially, in the Early and Late Natufian, anthropogenic impacts related to more intensive hunting and the increased footprint of more permanent settlements on the landscape. This may have pushed gazelle numbers below what could be supported by the environment, thus increasing the amount of food available for each animal and hence average body size. Later, as humans began to cultivate plants, manage animals and establish permanent villages, avoidance of humans and livestock by gazelle, and greater stability in food and water availability provided by agriculture, may have similarly reduced gazelle population size and intraspecific competition, thus allowing individual animals to grow larger on average.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0273024
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number8 August
StatePublished - Aug 2022


Dive into the research topics of 'Revisiting Late Pleistocene-Early Holocene mountain gazelle (Gazella gazella) body size change in the southern Levant: A case for anthropogenic impact'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this