Something that struck me whilst reading Steven Mithen’s book (see post on the !Kung of the Kalahari), was how few data points we have. What historical information we have is from excavations, of mostly cave sites, spread over the vast reaches of southern Africa.
It seems to me that identifying potential sites for investigation should not be too complex if you have a list of environmental determinants. Enter GIS. Now I suspect this may have already been done but I’ll outline my idea anyway.
Pre-historic or early Holocene populations would be dependent on a few environmental variables:
-easy access to water (within a few hundred metres of a water course of other body of fresh water).
-access to sustainable food (grasslands, forests, water holes etc)
-suitable shelter (caves in limestone escarpments)
So, if we have our GIS all we need are topgraphic and geology layers to identify potential shelter sites, a hydrology layer adjusted for changes since the Holocene (uplift, sea level change; there should be topographic evidence for this), and a reconstruction of vegetation for a given time (or modern data as a proxy). Then you merely identify locations that exist in all layers and go out cave hunting!
It was just a thought.