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2014-01-24 17:07:01   •   ID: 1125

At the same time?

Figure 1
Figure 1 shows Ahmarian bladelets from Kebara; Israel (EUP). Figure 2 shows a classic Aurignacien ancien from S/W-France.

Carbon-14 (C-14) dating was presented by Willard Libby in 1949, for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. By the 1980s, with significant developments in the instrumentation used in radiocarbon dating (e.g. introduction of Accelerator Mass Spectrometry) and increased levels of precision in the measurements, important research was being conducted into ways of removing carbonaceous contaminants from dated samples.

In the subsequent decades, this field of pretreatment chemistry has been greatly advanced, with special attention given to old samples (>25 ka). New material-specific techniques were designed and developed, such as the ultrafiltration of bone collagen, the cleaning of charcoal with ABOx-SC, and the dating of compound-specific biomarkers that promise contaminant-free dates.

Finally improved statistical tools, such as Bayesian analysis, used in the modelling of the results and several calibration curves for correcting radiocarbon determinations older than 26 k.a cal BP allow more reliable results for Pleistocene-aged material.

New materials, not datable before, for example deliberately perforated marine shells, which are markers of early symbolic behavior can also be dated and the results of such measurements have entered just the field.

If good provenienced material and adequate treatment and measurements, that are checked against contamination and adequate calibrations are used, a dataset emerges, that give us one astonishing message: 

The Beginning of the Upper Paleolithic in the Near East, Italia, Germany, Austria and France  is around the Heinrich event 4 (ca 39 k.a. cal BP).

This dates include C-14 dates from Pataud (France; Aurignacian), Les Cottes (France; Protoaurignacian and Aurignacian), Geisenklösterle (Germany; Aurignacian), Willendorf II/3 Austria; Aurignacian), Bacho Kiro (Bulgaria; Bohunician), Stránská skála and Bohunice (Moravia; early Bohunician), Ksar Akil Ksar Akil (Lebanon; Early Ahmarian), Kebara Unit IV (Israel; early Ahmarian).

Figure 3
Using the (CI) Y-5 tephra as a cross-check , the data can indepently reproduced: In S-Aurope a Protoaurignacian or a Uluzzian always lies below an Aurignacian, if both entities are present. Wherever the (CI) Y-5 tephra marker is present (South and East Europe), the classic Aurignacian consistently overlies the Campanian Ignimbrite. In contrast, the Protoaurignacian (at Castelcivita) and Uluzzian (at Castelcivita and Cavallo) a are found below the tephra and must therefore be older than 39 k.a. cal BP. In these parts of Europe the classic Aurignacian therefore seems to be relative young.

Douka et al. recently published that McBurney’s Layer XXV Haua Fteah cave (Cyrenaica, northeast Libya), associated with Upper Palaeolithic Dabban blade industries which has a clear stratigraphic relationship with the (CI) Y-5 tephra.

Regarding this more complete “long stratigraphy” for the EUP on both sides of the Mediterranean, it remains unclear where the EUP really started. Maybe not in the Levant, as it has been suggested since Garrod's time.

However the redating of key-sites like Boker Tachtit remains an important cross- check for the new model and is urgently awaited.

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