Food around 16,000 BC



Southwest Asia

Archaeological sites throughout southwest Asia during the late Upper Pleistocene, from about 20,000 to 16,000 BC are often concentrations of stone tools, ash, and the bones of large, hoofed mammals. Almost all of the meat eaten by people came from just a few species of ungulates, mainly gazelles and wild cows. Based on the tools and other articfacts from Southwest Asian sites of this period, it appears that the basic social unit was a band of about fifteen or twenty people comprising several families who season after season moved through this area hunting animals and gathering plants. (Patterns in Prehistory)

The Levantine cultures of between 18,000 and 15,000 years ago are called Kebaran, followed from about 15,000 to 12,500 BP by the Geometric Kebaran cultures. If the Kebaran peoples were doing something that inexorably led their remote descendants to become farmers, it is not obvious in their archaeological traces. (Patterns in Prehistory)


Excavations in the Nile Valley have revealed campsites that date from 16,000 BC to around 9000 BC, but these sites reflect a society subsisting on rigorous hunting and fishing. Known as the Sebilian culture, these sites clearly show a decrease in the size of tools. Although knowledgeable about animal domestication near the end of the period, the Sebilians were nothing more than the traditional hunter-gatherers of the Old Stone Age From 9000 to 6000 BC, there exists a "dark age" in North African history, from which little information is available. During this time, the Sebilians were living in the valley. Afterward, New Stone Age communities began to dot the landscape with a new concept of living centered on agriculture, yet the Sebilians held fast to their traditional ways of hunting and fishing. Some believe that agriculture was introduced from outside to these hunter-gatherers, who were not eager to become farmers. (Before the Pharaohs)

Indus Valley





Mammoths, horses, and many other animals were hunted by these upper Paleolithic peoples, but the reindeer was the staff of life: at many sites 99% of all animal bones found belonged to reindeer. (Patterns in Prehistory)

One of the most amply documented Upper Paleolithic cultures in eastern Europe is the Kostenski-Bershevo culture centered in the Don River Valley, about 470 kilometers southeast of Moscow. About 25,000 to 11,000 years ago, the people of Kostenski subsisted primarily through big-game hunting, mainly of mammoths or horses, with an occasional wild cow or reindeer. (Patterns in Prehistory)

Undeniably, the hunting of big game – megafauna – made a significant contribution to the subsistence of Upper Paleolithic people. In central and eastern Europe, for example, sites dating between 28,000 BP and 10,000 BP reflect the major role of the wooly mammoth in the subsistence base of Upper Paleolithic people. Portrayals of ancient hunters fighting a daily duel to the death with huge, aggressive beasts may offer us a romantic image, but it seems an unlikely strategy for survival. It is far more likely that the people of the Upper Paleolithic subsisted on a broad spectrum of foods, including the meat from animals both large and small, birds, fish, seeds, nuts, berries, and starchy roots. Archaeological evidence is finally beginning to support this sensible reconstruction. (The Past in Perspective)

South America




North America