The Lower Pleistocene Lithic Assemblage from Dursunlu (Konya), Central Anatolia, Turkey

By Gulec, Erksin; White, Tim et al. | Antiquity, March 2009 | Go to article overview

The Lower Pleistocene Lithic Assemblage from Dursunlu (Konya), Central Anatolia, Turkey


Gulec, Erksin, White, Tim, Kuhn, Steven, Ozer, Ismail, Sagir, Mehmet, Yilmaz, Hakan, Howell, F. Clark, Antiquity


Introduction

Some of the most enduring questions in palaeoanthropology concern evidence for the repeated expansions of genes, populations and/or cultural practices from sub-Saharan Africa into Eurasia. The initial dispersals of Pliocene hominins and the dispersal of anatomically modern humans during the Upper Pleistocene are the best known examples, but not the only ones. For instance, some researchers hypothesise that a distinct hominin dispersal event was associated with the spread of developed Mode 2/Acheulean technologies with symmetrical handaxes and flake cleavers into Eurasia (Carbonell et al. 1999; Goren-Inbar et al. 2000), whereas other investigators have suggested that H. erectus evolved biologically and technologically in Eurasia and subsequently dispersed back into Africa (Clarke 2000; Roebroeks & Dennell 2005:1100-01).

Our understanding of the timing, mechanisms and archaeological signatures of major dispersal events is limited by large geographic gaps in the database. An increasing amount is known about hominin biological and cultural evolution within Africa, and we have a great deal of information about Western Europe. The Palaeolithic record of the Mediterranean Levant is also extensively documented, particularly given the small size of the area. However, the Pleistocene archaeological and fossil records of much of the rest of the territory that lies between Africa and western Eurasia are considerably less well understood.

Anatolia, or Asian Turkey, represents an especially conspicuous lacuna in most maps of Pleistocene hominin geography. It is certain that the region was traversed by hominin populations during various dispersal events. Anatolia is the most direct land bridge between Africa, central Asia and Europe. Moreover, two of the oldest sites in western Eurasia, 'Ubeidiya (Bar-Yosef & Goren-Inbar 1993) and Dmanisi (Gabunia et al. 2000; Vekua et al. 2002) are situated a short distance to the south and north of Anatolia, respectively. Yet direct, chronologically-controlled archaeological or fossil evidence for early human presence in Anatolia is extremely sparse. For example, numerous surface finds of handaxes and other potential Lower Palaeolithic artefacts have been reported from north-central and especially eastern Turkey (Harmankaya & Tanindi 1996; Kuhn 2002; Takaran 2008). However, Lower Palaeolithic industries and faunas have been documented in geological context at only four sites (including the locality that is the subject of this paper). Two of these, Karain E (Yalcinkaya et al. 1992; Otte et al. 1998) and Yarimburgaz (Kuhn et al. 1996), are caves situated on or near the Mediterranean coast. Dating of the earliest layers at both sites is problematic, but it is unlikely that either exceeds 500 mya. A single locality in central Anatolia, Kaletepe Deresi 3, contains Lower and Middle Palaeolithic assemblages in good context (Slimak et al. 2004, 2008) but the Lower Palaeolithic strata have yet to be dated.

This paper presents findings concerning the lithic artefacts from the Palaeolithic locality of Dursunlu, in south-central Anatolia, initially reported in Gulec et al. 1999. Investigations within this now-disused lignite quarry have brought to light a diverse fauna as well as a small assemblage of chipped stone artefacts. Palaeomagnetic stratigraphy of the sediments as well as faunal indicators provide strong evidence that the artefact-bearing levels at Dursunlu predate the Brunhes/Matuyama magnetic reversal. As such, Dursunlu currently represents the first unambiguous evidence of a hominin presence in this pivotal region during the early Pleistocene.

The site and sediments

The Dursunlu locality is situated in south-central Anatolia, roughly 60km north-west of the city of Konya (Figure 1). Deposits yielding fauna and stone artefacts are exposed within a now-disused and partially-flooded lignite quarry a short distance from the village of Durnslu.

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