The Early Upper Palaeolithic of Ucagizli Cave, Turkey. (News & Notes)

Article excerpt

Anatolia is the most direct land route into Europe from the Levantine corridor and, more distally, from Africa. Movements of human populations reconstructed from genetic evidence (e.g. Maca-Meyer et al. 2001) should have left traces in the late Pleistocene archaeological record of Turkey. The early Upper Paleolithic and late Mousterian of Turkey are therefore of great potential interest to palaeoanthropologists.

Ucagizli Cave, located in the Hatay region, is one of only three excavated early Upper Palaeolithic sites in Turkey. The partially collapsed cave (FIGURE 1), situated on a steep, rocky stretch of Mediterranean coastline, was discovered and first excavated by A. Minzoni-Deroche (1992). The current excavation project began in 1997. It is a joint Turkish/American undertaking, involving teams from Ankara University (under the direction of the senior author), the University of Arizona and other institutions.


The Upper Palaeolithic sequence at Ucagizli Cave is more than 3 m deep, spanning a period between roughly 28,000 and 41,000 years ago (uncalibrated [sup.14]C years). Minor Middle Palaeolithic and Epipalaeolithic components are present as well. Archaeological deposits consist of terra rosa clays mixed with varying amounts of anthropogenic material, including large quantities of ash (FIGURE 2). Conditions of organic preservation are excellent.


The earliest layers (F-H) at Ucagizli Cave yield assemblages of stone artefacts typical of the Levantine Initial Upper Palaeolithic. Retouched tool forms such as endscrapers and burins were manufactured on blanks produced with a modified version of the Levallois method (FIGURE 3), more typically associated with the Mousterian. Materials from the more recent layers (B-B3) represent a more classic form of Upper Palaeolithic (Ahmarian), with large numbers of endscrapers and points manufactured on prismatic blades. The intervening layers (C-E) appear to document a gradual technological and typological transition between the earlier and later components. The only human fossils recovered to date are two isolated teeth, attributable to Homo sapiens.


The sequence at Ucagizli Cave documents major shifts in foraging. The earliest Upper Palaeolithic faunal assemblages consist almost entirely of large terrestrial herbivores (deer, wild goat, pig and cattle). Over time, birds, marine molluscs, fish and, eventually, lagomorphs were added to the diet. …