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2016-07-05 18:35:25   •   ID: 1454

The Ahmarian and Protoaurignacian- Enigma in 2016

Figure 1
Figure 1: On the left: A bladelet from the Protoaurignacian of S-Europe; on the right: A bladelet from the Ahmarian of b Kebara cave in Israel.

Both technocomplexes, which show much similarities but also regional and diachronic variability are ascribed to Homo sapiens who entered Europe before the H4 Event at 41 k.a. Cal BP. But were the toolkit of AMH on their way to Europe really characterized by the Ahmarian / Protoaurignacian technology, initially invented in the Middle East? 

Seeking origins is looking for the beginnings of something, finding out why and when something that did not exist before did so afterwards. Rather than looking for the origins of new technologies, we should focus on transitions using a evolutionary gradualism and keep in mind the low temporal resolution of current dating techniques.

The new chronometric results and Bayesian model from the reference Palaeolithic site of Ksar Akil suggest that both the EUP (Ahmarian) of the northern Levant is roughly contemporaneous with, and not older than, their corresponding (Proto- or Early Aurignacian) technocomplexes in Europe.

At the moment we do not know where (Proto)-Aurignacian innovations were first developed and adopted. We just know they were widespread, beginning roughly around the same time around the Mediterranean. It could be possible that the knowledge of Aurignacian and Ahmarian techniques circulated in European hunter-gatherer networks first- and not in the Middle East.

Insofar these technologies cannot seen as the signatures of an "out of Africa" event by AHM via the Levantine corridor. Based on the currently published dates and Bayesian modelling, the Emiran (layers I–F) in Üçağızlı starts between 44.3–43.5 k.a. Cal BP and the Early Ahmarian (layers E –B) starts around 41.6–40.3 k.a. Cal BP (68.2%).  

The Early Ahmarian is roughly contemporaneous at both Ksar Akil and Üçağızlı. In Umm el Tlel (Syria), levels III2a' and II base, described as “Paléolithique intermédiaire”, have been dated rather later, at 36.5±2.5 ka by TL on burnt flint, and at 34.5±0.89 k.a. BP with AMS dating. Anyhow, a set of early charcoal dates from Kebara Cave place the start of the EUP, specifically the Early Ahmarian Unit IV at, 48–46 k.a. Cal BP.

This dates remein an anomaly, because  Kebara would currently the only site where such early determinations have been obtained for a classic Ahmarian assemblage. Complex site-formation processes render the association of the dated charcoals with the archaeology they are thought to date more than problematic.

New data from Boker Tachtit, Manot cave and Kebara are awaited not before 2020 but may clear the chronometric Enigman.

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