Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Paleolithic papers in Near Eastern Archaeology

The June 2006 issue of Near Eastern Archeology contains four papers, all of which deal with the Paleolithic. Included in this fine lot is a paper by the team of Mike Bisson, one of my colleagues at McGill, about their recent work in Jordan. I'm providing the abstracts of all these papers here:
The Pleistocene Peopling of Anatolia: Evidence from Kaletepe Deresi
By Ludovic Slimak, Damase Mouralis, Nur Balkan-Atli, Didier Binder, and Steven L. Kuhn
Anatolia has been called the crossroads of Eurasia, forming as it does a land-bridge between Europe, the Levant, and central Asia. Historical documents and the region's rich archaeological record provide ample testimony to frequent movements of people, ideas, and goods across Anatolia over the last few millennia. A range of evidence, both circumstantial and direct, suggests that humans and human ancestors repeatedly traversed the region in even more remote times.

Late Acheulian Variability in the Southern Levant: A Contrast of the Western and Eastern Margins of the Levantine Corridor

by Gary O. Rollefson, Leslie A. Quintero, and Philip J. Wilke

One of the fascinating aspects of the archaeology of very ancient times is that it offers glimpses of extinct lifeways. We find this particularly true for the cultural behavior of hominids during the Lower Palaeolithic. Interestingly, relatively little is known about the daily habits of people during the fairly well-studied period of the Acheulian in the Levant, in spite of numerous site discoveries of considerable note. Much of this deficiency results from a lack of preserved perishable goods; these seldom survive time depths in the hundreds of thousands to well over a million years. But also lacking is clear understanding of the behavioral significance of those objects that do survive the wear and tear of time, specifically the numerous stone artifacts. This article presents new research that assists our quest for understanding of these ancient lives.

Human Evolutions at the Crossroads: An Archaeological Survey in Northwest Jordan
by Michael S. Bisson, April Nowell, Carlos Cardova, Regina Kalchgruber, and Maysoon al-Nahar
Human evolution can be traced back 7,000,000 years. Modern humans evolved in Africa 160,000 years ago and as recently as 26,000 years ago we shared parts of the world with at least one other species - the Neanderthals. Since the discover of the first Neanderthal in 1856 in Germany, this species has generated controversy; specifically, there are questions concerning their genetic relationship to modern humans, their capacity for language and artistic expression, or the reasons for their extinction. Resolving thse debates in the long term depends on an accumulation of evidence for how Neanderthals adapted to the physical and cultural environments around them. In other words, in order to understand why they died, we need to first understand how they lived.

Shelter or Hunting Camp? Accounting for the Presenceof a Deeply Sratified Cave Site in the Syrian Steppe
By Bruce Schroeder

No abstract available.

The latest issue also contains a paper on the Lower Paleolithic of Iran:
The Lower Paleolithic Occupation of Iran
By Fereidoun Bigalri and Sonia Shidrang

Iran is a natural bridge connecting Western Asia to South and Central Asia and therefore, we might expect it to have been a main route for hominin expansion eastwards. Despite its strategic location, however, it has so far produced little evidence for early hominin occupation. The authors present here the results of new investigations in the region that affirm the archaeological potential of this region for understanding Lower Paleolithic hominin adaptaton to their environment.

This should all help shed greater light on the Pleistocene record of the Near/Middle East, which is always good, especially in light of some of my current projects. I'm especially excited about the Schroeder paper, since there haven't been a whole lot of publications about his work at Jerf Al-Ajla, which contains an important Middle-Upper Paleolithic transitional sequence (as well as some late Acheulean material).

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