Modeling the Impacts of Mediterranean Island Colonization by Archaic Hominins: The Likelihood of an Insular Lower Palaeolithic


  • Thomas Leppard International Archaeological Research Institute



biogeography, colonization, Lower Palaeolithic, Mediterranean islands, palaeoenvironments


It has been suggested that the islands of the Mediterranean were first settled during the Pleistocene. Attention has in particular been paid to recent claims that the occupation of Crete by hominins dates to the Middle Pleistocene. This paper examines what—if Lower Palaeolithic pre-modern hominins did indeed colonize the Mediterranean islands—environmental and evolutionary impacts this would have had, what forms these impacts would have taken, and what traces these forms would leave. Such impacts are modeled using information derived from island biogeography, historical ecology, and evolutionary biology. Probable outcomes of colonization scenarios—including turnover in insular faunas, ecological cascade events, and morphological changes in isolated populations of Homo—are compared to the palaeontological and palaeoenvironmental record for the Mediterranean islands. The absence of any obvious correlation casts doubt on large-scale and sustained colonization of the more remote Mediterranean islands during the Lower Palaeolithic, although this does not preclude the possibility of chance and short lived colonizations by pre-modern hominins.

Author Biography

Thomas Leppard, International Archaeological Research Institute

Thomas Leppard received his PhD from the Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World at Brown University in 2013, with a dissertation that addressed the relationship between spatial and social organization in colonizing communities in the Mediterranean and Caribbean. He has recently published articles on patterning in global island colonization (Journal of Island and Coastal and Archaeology 9: 1-15) and on Mediterranean Early Neolithic social organization and land-holding strategies (World Archaeology 46: 484-501). He continues fieldwork in the western Pacific, eastern Caribbean, and western Mediterranean.



How to Cite

Leppard, T. (2014). Modeling the Impacts of Mediterranean Island Colonization by Archaic Hominins: The Likelihood of an Insular Lower Palaeolithic. Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology, 27(2), 231–254.