A Levallois refugium in Central Asia: chronology and causes of conservatism
Arina Khatsenovich, Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography SB RAS, Novosibirsk – PI
Evgeny Rybin, Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography SB RAS, Novosibirsk – CI
John W. Olsen, School of Anthropology, University of Arizona, Tucson – CI
Byambaa Gunchinsuren, Institute of Archaeology, MAS, Ulaanbaatar – CI
Ge Junyi, Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, CAS, Beijing – CI
A new chronological model for Mongolian Middle Paleolithic and Early Upper Paleolithic Levallois complexes in the Orkhon Valley and the Gobi Altai region will be constructed using a convergence of evidence approach. OSL and AMS radiocarbon dating will be applied at the Moil’tyn-am, Orkhon-1, Orkon-7, Tsagaan Agui Cave, Chikhen 2 and Chikhen Agui rockshelter sites in central and southern Mongolia. Since the answers to our research questions lie within the blank spaces in an increasingly complex map of human species’ movements and the chronology of those migrations, we seek to articulate archaeological, geological, chronometric, and paleoenvironmental data to yield an enhanced understanding of Upper Pleistocene human demography and population dynamics in Central Asia.
Mongolia may be regarded as a contact zone between populations from East Asia and South Siberia. From this perspective, the study of Mongolia’s Paleolithic assemblages can make a significant contribution to the debate over two models of the transition from the Middle to the Upper Paleolithic in northern and eastern Asia: rapid changes in technology and migrations of Initial Upper Paleolithic (IUP) populations that created a gap between the Middle and Upper Paleolithic, or the gradual transformation of local Middle Paleolithic (MP) traditions leading to the emergence of a distinctive Upper Paleolithic technocomplex, coexisting with in-migrated populations, possibly of another human species (Derevianko et al., 2010; Li et al., 2014). Our first task is to create a new chronological model for Mongolian Middle Paleolithic and Early Upper Paleolithic (EUP) Levallois complexes in the Orkhon Valley and the Gobi-Altai region based on new dates, and correlate those technologies with the blade-based Initial Upper Paleolithic and reconstruction of paleoclimatic conditions in this “Levallois refugium” to understand if this a genuine zone of technological persistence or the result of taphonomic factors. Chronological modeling, based upon a new series of reliable chronometric dates, will resolve the period of the co-existence of these traditions and help illuminate possible migration routes. OSL and AMS radiocarbon dating, along with the analysis of stratigraphic sequences, faunal remains, and DNA extracted from sediments, will be used to shed light on these important questions.
- Re-analysis of previous archaeological collections
- The search for human fossil remains
- New excavations of Tsagan Agui cave in Gobi Altai
- Establishing a reliable chronology