The earliest Upper Paleolithic in the Nil Valley

nil

Last year Douka et al. published that McBurney’s Layer XXV Haua Fteah cave (Cyrenaica, northeast Libya), associated with Upper Palaeolithic Dabban blade industries, has a clear stratigraphic relationship with the (CI) Y-5 tephra. Regarding this more complete “long stratigraphy” for the EUP on both sides of the Mediterranean, it remains unclear where the EUP really started. Maybe not in the Levant, as it has been suggested since Garrod’s time. However the redating of key-sites like Boker Tachtit  remains an important cross check for the new model and is urgently awaited…

The Upper Paleolithic blades, shown here, come from the Nil Valley near Thebes. It is exactly the Middle and Upper Nil where the first Upper Paleolithic industries of Egypt appeared.

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 maybe 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.

Emireh points and the Levantine Initial Upper Paleolithic

The Initial Upper Paleolithic of the Negev

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