25 February 2009

The Paleolithic of Turkish Thrace: PART 7- The age of the industries

This is a part from "The Paleolithic of Turkish Thrace: Synthesis and Recent Results".

The age of the industries
Yarımburgaz Cave provides the only archaeometric dates for the Paleolithic in Turkish Thrace, and even then the age of that site is not very secure. Based on the small mammal fauna found in the same layer as human occupation, cycle III, the Yarımburgaz assemblage can be assigned to a cold period in the middle of the Middle Pleistocene (W. SANTEL-W VON KOENIGSWALD 1998). Electron Spin Resonance (ESR) dates of several Ursus deningeri teeth associated with the Paleolithic horizon average 200-220±20-30 ka, assuming linear uptake, 270-390±40-60 ka, if recent uptake is assumed: the recent uptake model correlates better with the microfauna (G. ARSEBÜK-M. ÖZBAŞARAN 1999). This Tayacian-like Lower Paleolithic assemblage can thus be assigned to oxygen isotope stage 7 or 8 (G. ARSEBÜK 2003). At this point we note that the Yarımburgaz assemblage, with its predominance of retouched flake tools, could fit comfortably within either the Middle Paleolithic or the Lower Paleolithic (S. KUHN 2003).

It is very difficult to estimate the ages of other Lower Paleolithic industries in Turkish Thrace and the surrounding areas because of the small number of sites, relatively small samples, and because most are surface finds. Eskice Sırtı and Göksu finds can probably be assigned to a period earlier than Yarımburgaz (C. RUNNELS-M. ÖZDOĞAN 2001). The bifacial artifacts from Göksu, on the east side of the Bosphorus (A.J. JELINEK 1980), have been assigned to the Riss glacial or Riss-Würm interglacial (oxygen isotope stages 6 or 5) (U. ESİN 1992). The bifacial artifact of Kokkinopilos in Greece is estimated to date from 250-300 kya, whereas the Gajtan finds in Albania have assigned to the to Holstein interglacial (A. DARLAS 1995). It has been suggested that bifacial assemblages in the region should be assigned to different cultural contexts and different timespans (probably later) than the core-chopper assemblages (G. ARSEBÜK 1998b).

The finds from the province of Tekirdağ reported here are clearly Lower Paleolithic in character, and could in fact reflect a long span of time. Based on techno-typological features alone, the core-chopper industries in quartz and quartzite could be among the most ancient archaeological occurrences in the region. If we compare the sites near Tekirdağ with the Yarımburgaz and Eskice Sırtı assemblages, we can hypothesize that the Tekirdağ sites were occupied in the first half of the Middle Pleistocene. The few bifacial artifacts, which are not typical Acheulean handaxes, could date from a period after the Yarımburgaz occupation. Needless to say it is very difficult to draw firm conclusions about dates based only on the typology of artifacts, but until geological or radiometric age estimates are available we have no other recourse.

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