The Early Upper Paleolithic in the Nil Valley

quena 1912 aggsbachTwo bipolar Upper Paleolithic blade cores (up to 13 cm long) from the Nil valley.

The upper and middle Nil valley, the western desert and the oases were once populated by humans during OIS 5. During OIS4 there are no traces of human presence in the western desert and the oases, but there are clear indications of a renewed population in the Nil valley during early OIS3, which seems to become sparser around 40 k.a. BP.

Taramsa Hill, near Qena in Upper Egypt, is an isolated landform, situated some 2.5 km southeast of the Dandara temple. Excavations have been carried out at several sites, among them the important site  Taramsa 1, since 1989 by the team of the University of Leuven. During the Paleolithic,  Taramsa 1  was used for systematic quarrying of chert cobbles, as demonstrated by numerous pits and trenches. On the basis of both typology and stratigraphy, multiple quarrying phases fall into three main extraction periods, of early, mid and late Middle Palaeolithic respectively. The early Middle Palaeolithic is characterized by the presence of handaxes, foliates recalling Lupemban features and dated to OIS6. Nubian point and Levallois methods were rather scare. In stratigraphically superimposed assemblages, assigned to the mid Middle Palaeolithic, foliates and handaxes are lacking but the Nubian point and flake Levallois methods was strongly represented (OIS5). The latest assemblages (IV, V, VI; about 60 k.a. BP), established through stratigraphically observations, do not contain were characterized by different volumetric Levallois reduction systems transitional to the systematic production of blades. In these late Middle Palaeolithic assemblages (“Taramsan”) there is a changing from planimetic to volumetric Levallois production, not unlike the “transitional” assemblages known in the Negev (Boker Tachtit), but about 10 k.a. earlier. During the Taramsan “there was a clear tendency towards blade production from large cores, where, instead of obtaining a few Levallois flakes from each individual core, a virtually continuous process of blade production made it possible to create a large number of blades from each core”  (Vermeersch and Hendrickx 2000).

A child burial was found at Taramsa-1 dating to this time (c.55 k.a BP): The poorly preserved bones were those of a subadult AMH. The position of the body, as well as the depth of the pit in which it was found, suggest that the child had been deliberately brought here to be buried.

The Upper Paleolithic occupation of the Nile valley seems to have been very restricted. The assemblage from the nearby Al Tiwayrat is undated and might represent an early blade technology similar to the Taramsan but dated to OIS5. Other assemblages from the Upper Palaeolithic were described as Khaterian (42-30 k.a. BP; from Nazlet Khater 4 an extraction/mining site with a AMH burial sites at NK 4 and NK2) and the Shuwikhatian (about 25 k.a. BP; a blade industry with characteristic finely denticulated blades known from several small campsites).

Until now we do not know how the Taramsan relates to other IUP phenomena on the Sinai and the Levant between 50 and 40k.a. BP like the Emirian at Boker Tachtit , the Ahmarian at Boker, Ksar ‘Akil Rockshelter, Üçağızlı Cave and Kebara Cave.

Suggested Reading:

http://www.antiquity.ac.uk/projgall/vermeersch305/

http://www.academia.edu/1361586/A_Middle_Palaeolithic_burial_of_human_at_Taramsa_Hill_Egypt

http://upers.kuleuven.be/en/book/9789058677860

The Initial Upper Paleolithic of the Negev

 

 

 

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