25 February 2009

The Paleolithic of Turkish Thrace: PART 8- Conclusions

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

All three sites in the province of Tekirdağ were found by coincidence, without systematic survey. The accidental discovery of these sites shows that systematic survey is likely to reveal many more Paleolithic sites in the western part of Turkish Thrace. Given that modern agricultural activities are also destroying Paleolithic sites, a systematic survey is urgently needed. The existence of these sites also shows that we should re-evaluate previous theories about the geological history of the region with respect to the preservation of Paleolithic sites.

The assemblages from all three sites are dominated by choppers: chopping tools are numerous only at the Yatak locality. We do not believe that this is a result of our sampling strategy. Instead, it may represent functional or chronological differences between the sites. It is also interesting to report that we have documented few pieces that can be dated to periods other than the Lower Paleolithic. These include what are probably Epi-Paleolithic or Neolithic artifacts from the village of Karansıllı.

Archaeological and physical anthropological evidence indicates at least three waves of migration out of Africa between 1.8 and 0.7 Ma (O. BAR-YOSEF-A. BELFER-COHEN 2001). However, in our view the earliest Paleolithic industries in Turkish Thrace do not predate the Middle Pleistocene, given the limited evidence currently available. Even though Thrace has been considered a main route for the western dispersal of hominid species, our finds appear to show a relatively late date for the arrival of the Lower Paleolithic in the region. Oldowan or Mode 1 industries may have reached Turkish Thrace very late. Whereas typical Acheulean assemblages appeared both in western Europe and the Near East before 500,000 years ago, Lower Paleolithic industries with bifaces are extremely rare and atypical in eastern Europe, including Turkish Thrace, which may also point to a late arrival of the Acheulean culture in the region. In other words, rather than being a conduit for repeated movements of hominid populations, one could reasonably argue that the region was comparatively isolated from human movements in the early Pleistocene. Given the limited knowledge of early Paleolithic occupations in Turkish Thrace, however, further systematic research in the region is needed to provide more secure answers to important questions about human dispersals out of Africa and the colonization of Europe.

We would like to thank Güven Arsebük and Mehmet Özdoğan, who have always shown interest in our finds and who’s prior studies provide an excellent background for work the region. We also thank Tekirdağ Museum director M. Akif Işın and Harun Taşkıran, who participated one of our site visits and shared his extensive experience with the Lower and Middle Paleolithic of Turkey. Steve Kuhn helped to clarify some of the grammar and agruments in the English-language version of the paper. We also thank our friends, Olcay Avcı, Rana Dinçer, Murat Başlar, Ozan Özbudak and Yasemin Aydoğdu who participated our field work and supported us in many ways.

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