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2022-05-20 10:16:53   •   ID: 2332

On the Move: The Early Upper Paleolithic in Europe -Part I

Plate 1 from ESA; Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 IGO license
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Figure 1-3 show Blade and Bladelet blanks, aside with a narrow fronted core from Kebara Cave (Israel), suggestive for an early Ahmarian.

Figure 3-5 displays three slightly curved unretouched Lamelles Dufour (Dufour subtype) from Pataud (Dordogne; France) and Les Cottes (Vienne; France), along with a corresponding carinated core, traits of an Aurignacian sensu lato.

The spread of the Upper Paleolithic led through the Levant over the Balkans and the East European Plain to Central and South Europe and was most possibly linked to the spread of Homo Sapiens, some of them had mated with Neanderthals, shortly before their arrival in Europe.

Waterways, either along the Danube and / or along the the Mediterranean cost may have played a crucial role in the process.

These are the findings of the last decade although there were certainly other routes of AHMs that remain to be evaluated, regarding that our ancestors were earlier present in Asia than in Europe- a rather marginal „cul de sac“ in Human Evolution.

Archeologically; the common lithic denominator of the Upper Paleolithic remains a technique that relied on both a blade and a bladelet technology in the production of innovative multicomponent hunting projectiles.

If the desired blank was a flake, upper Palaeolithic ensembles may be defined by their systematic use of backed Lunates, a technology that was totally absent during the European Middle Paleolithic.

In my opinion, this picture will not change much. The archaeological, paleogenetic, paleoanthropological and chronological evidence fits too well. In addition "Big data“ processing and complex Modelling algorithms became more important and point to the same direction.

This Blog has already reported about the evolution of the the Initial and Early Upper Paleolithic (IUP / EUP) in the Levant - see here: 2237 .

The Post and the following one are focused on possible routes from the Levant to Europe and on signatures of the earliest Upper Palaeolithic in Europe shortly after its appearance in Continental Europe.

The Archeological record of the initial and Early Upper Palaeolithic is patchy. For the critical time frame between 50-40 k.a. BP, findings were preserved only under specific conditions especially in Cave sites (Bacho Kiro, Fumane, Caves in the Swabian Jura) or sealed in mighty Loess Deposits (Brno Area, Wachau).

I try to avoid transferring regional findings to geographically distant areas. Since the toolkit of a local group was certainly modified within just several generations and innovations got even lost from time to time, local assemblages should be used very cautiously to draw conclusions about distant regions.

As I have already argued before, I do not use the Ash tray term "transitional industries" -see: 1603 -My position has emerged because this term implies that the regional continental Middle Paleolithic evolved several times gradually into an Upper Paleolithic entity - for which there is no good evidence, except perhaps for the Szeltian in Moravia.

Furthermore, I remain sceptical about associating technocomplexes with certain human species. Anyhow, a link between AHM migration and the appearance of IUP/EUP assemblages in Europe remains the most parsimonious hypothesis.

However, the influence of the Neanderthals on the development of the Upper Paleolithic remains unclear. Theoretically, one can assume a mutual acculturation between AHMs and Neanderthals which was certainly manifold. All historical examples support this idea. Acculturation is never unidirectional.

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If we base the idea of an association of Lithic ensembles with specific human remains, then the evidence of AHM-remains in association with an early Ahmarian at Ksar Akil (Lebanon) provides the only key witness in the debate. However, the find was made about 70 years ago with outdated excavation techniques.

In Europe reliable associations between AHMs and the Initial / Early Upper Paleolithic are still rare, but increased during the last years (Grotte de Mandrin: Neronian 57-51 k.a.; Bacho Kiro: Bacho-Kirian - ca 46 k.a., Grotta del Cavallo: Uluzzian ca 45 k.a. / All dates in calendar years).

An indisputable association between AHMs and Upper Paleolithic industries exist only for the time after the final Neanderthal Extinction.

Automatically relating Initial or Early Upper Paleolithic inventories to Homo sapiens is rather unscientific. Further East this approach is even more problematic, as recently noted by M.Kot (2022).

Orography: South-Eastern Europe can be imagined as an enormous plain bounded by the Carpathians to the North and East, the Dinaric Alps to the West, by the southern arc of the Carpathians to the South and finally by the Balkan Mountains to the far South - see here: Orography

The Dinaric Alps are a mountain range in Southern and Southeastern Europe, separating the continental Balkan Peninsula from the Adriatic Sea. They stretch from Italy in the northwest through what is now Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, and Kosovo to Albania in the southeast.

The Carpathians are a range of mountains forming an arc across Central and Eastern Europe. Roughly 1500 km long, it is the third-longest European mountain range after the Urals at 2500 km and the Scandinavian Mountains at 1700 km.

Today the Carpathians stretch from the far eastern Czech Republic (3%) and Austria (1%) in the northwest through Slovakia (17%), Poland (10%), Hungary (4%), Ukraine (10%), Romania (50%) to Serbia (5%) in the south. The highest range within the Carpathians is known as the Tatra mountains in Slovakia and Poland, where the highest peaks exceed 2600 m.

People, traveling on foot, starting at the Marmara region, who want to avoid the troublesome mountainous regions, to finally enter Central and West Europe, would probably reach the Continent through the Thracian Basin and the lower Danube plain near the today's Town of Varna and the Dobruja.

Afterwards, they could travel without great difficulties to transcapatic territories into today's Moldavia and Ukraine and would get access to the vast East European Plain.

Alternatively they could cross the southern Carpathian arc along the Danube River and reach the Great Pannonian Plain this way.

The Pannonian Plain (also Pannonian Basin or Carpathian Basin) is an extensive lowland plain in south-central Europe, crossed by the middle course of the Danube and the lower course of the Tisza.

The basin lies largely in Hungary, but six other states share in it. Geologically, it is related to the (much smaller) Vienna Basin and the mountain formation of the Carpathian Arc. Interestingly, the Carpatian basin was not a primary settlement area during the IUP / EUP, with the exception of its "Hilly Flanks" like the Bükk Mountains.

However the hilly terrains and mountain slopes of the Carpathian Basin are clearly areas where Upper Paleolithic sites in general and Aurignacian sites in particular are found, either in situ or as surface lithic artefacts scatters (Demidenko et al 2012).

Via the Danube and its tributaries, Pannonia has several transects to today's Moravia and Slovakia. The Moravian Gate gives easy access to the North European Plain via the Oder River.

Over the Viennese and Korneuburg Basins located in the middle course of the Danube in today's Lower Austria can be reached, with the settlement-favorable areas along the Danube between Krems and Willendorf in the Wachau with a dense settlement cluster already during the Aurignacian.

Heading West, and after overcoming the Dinaric Alps our Wanderers would gain connection to the Adriatic Plain. By the way, the number of still existing pass routes is more impressive than I have ever imagined - See here: Passes in the Dinaric Alps

During certain cold/dry phases of the Late Pleistocene (for example the LGM), a crossing of today's Adriatic Sea would be possible already at the height of the Gargano Peninsula and people would have arrived at the costal plains of the Italian peninsula.

The Padan Plain or Val Padana is a major geographical feature of Northern Italy. It extends approximately 650 km in an east-west direction, including its Venetic extension not actually related to the Po river basin; it runs from the Western Alps to the Adriatic Sea.

The flatlands of Veneto and Friuli are often considered apart since they do not drain into the Po, but they effectively combine into an unbroken plain, making it the largest in Southern Europe. The Padan Plain and the Po river basin as well as sites in the the karstic Venetian Fore-alps allow the access to Liguria and Southern France and finally the Rhone Valley. During the IUP / EUP Paleolithic exactly this route seems to be of major importance.

In principle, an incursion of H. Sapiens into Italy via the Rhone Valley would also be possible. Unfortunately, the temporal resolution of the C-14 data is not sufficient to generate a temporal gradient based on the numerous in-situ sites.

Of course, the immigrants did not necessarily follow the proposed route because other factors influenced their behaviour.

These include microclimatic conditions, the game densities of specific regions, the availability of drinking water, the presence of already established AHMs or Neanderthal populations, pass routes through mountains and river fords, and raw material sources for lithic and non-lithic production, to name just a few.

Major landscape features were likely an important issue and a key element in the navigation of AHMs, entering new and unknown regions.

Of course, a reconstruction of "inner maps" is not possible, but I assume that ideology and religion had a non-negligible influence on migratory movements.

Part II will ask for evidence for the migration of people and ideas on the basis of selected finds - See: 2334


Levenstein and Perseke Collection

Suggested Readings:

The more you know, the more you know you don't know (Ascribed to Socrates)

Ed.: Thomas Litt; Jürgen Richter; Frank Schäbitz (Eds): The Journey of Modern Humans from Africa to Europe; 2021

Jiri Swoboda et al. Dolní Vestonice-Pavlov: Explaining Paleolithic Settlements in Central Europe (Peopling of the Americas Publications) 2020