The Middle to Upper Paleolithic Transition: The Levant

    Several sites in the Levant have produced evidence for a gradual technological transition from the Middle Paleolithic to Upper Paleolithic nearly 40,000 years ago. In contrast, archaeological studies in Europe reveal a rapid replacement of Middle Paleolithic industries, produced by Homo sapiens neanderthalensis, with the Upper Paleolithic industries of fully modern humans 5,000 to 8,000 years later. This inter-regional distinction raises the possibility that fully modern humans may have partly evolved from indigenous Neanderthals of the Near East.

    The proposition for a multi-regional evolutionary model contradicts replacement models that are supported by genetic evidence for a single African origin of all modern humans up to 200,000 years ago, as well as fossil evidence in the Near East that indicates early moderns contributed varieties of Middle Paleolithic industries to the archaeological record before those directly associated with Neanderthal skeletal remains.

The Wadi Aghar (J433) Rock shelter

Lithic blades from Wadi Aghar, bearing multi-facetted platforms and indicating a transitional Middle to Upper Paleolithic technology.

     A director of ACS (Gregory F. Walwer) conducted a field course in southern Jordan. Excavations were held at the "Wadi Aghar" site (J433) in the Wadi Qalkha drainage. The site lies near the "Tor Foraj Rockshelter" which contains clear, D-type Middle Paleolithic components. The Wadi Aghar site, however, contains an Upper Paleolithic blade-like assemblage with important traces of a Middle Paleolithic technology on many lithic artifacts. These include certain metric dimensions of lithic debitage, elongated projectile points, and multi-facetted platforms indicative of a Middle Paleolithic prepared-core technique, although the assemblage represents a blade industry and the tool typology clearly belongs to the early part of the Upper Paleolithic. Given the lack of clear phylogenetic relationships between intermediary fossil hominids of the Near East, the site provides a good example of a technological transition that may have been more associated with responses to climatic change and cultural adaptation rather than rapid hominid speciation or replacement.

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