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The primitive hunter culture, Pleistocene extinction, and the rise of agriculture

Smith, Vernon L. (1975) The primitive hunter culture, Pleistocene extinction, and the rise of agriculture. Journal of Political Economy, 83 (4). pp. 727-756. ISSN 0022-3808.

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The hypothesis that megafauna extinction some 10,000 years ago was due to "overkill" by Paleolithic hunters is examined using an economic model of a replenishable resource. The large herding animals that became extinct, such as mammoth, bison, camel, and mastodon, presented low hunting cost and high kill value. The absence of appropriation provided incentives for the wastage killing evident in some kill sites, while the slow growth, long lives, and long maturation of large animals increased their vulnerability to extinction. Free-access hunting is compared with socially optimal hunting and used to interpret the development of conservationist ethics, and controls, in more recent primitive cultures.

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Additional Information:© 1975 University of Chicago. Support from the National Science Foundation, the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, and the Fairchild Distinguished Scholar program at Caltech is gratefully acknowledged. I wish also to express my debt to Robert F. Heizer for a great deal of help and encouragement in the course of many discussions on the topic of this paper and for providing me with a guide to the relevant archaeological literature. If I have been a poor student, he bears no responsibility for the final product. Formerly SSWP 37.
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Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral SciencesUNSPECIFIED
Sherman Fairchild FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Issue or Number:4
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20171205-161147438
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Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:83711
Deposited By: Jacquelyn Bussone
Deposited On:02 Jan 2018 21:13
Last Modified:03 Oct 2019 19:09

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