Emergence and Diversity of Modern Human Behavior in Paleolithic Asia

Emergence and Diversity of Modern Human Behavior in Paleolithic Asia

Emergence and Diversity of Modern Human Behavior in Paleolithic Asia

Emergence and Diversity of Modern Human Behavior in Paleolithic Asia


Despite the obvious geographic importance of eastern Asia in human migration, its discussion in the context of the emergence and dispersal of modern humans has been rare. Emergence and Diversity of Modern Human Behavior in Paleolithic Asia focuses long-overdue scholarly attention on this under-studied area of the world. Arising from a 2011 symposium sponsored by the National Museum of Nature and Science in Tokyo, this book gathers the work of archaeologists from the Pacific Rim of Asia, Australia, and North America, to address the relative lack of attention given to the emergence of modern human behavior as manifested in Asia during the worldwide dispersal from Africa.


Jiří Svoboda


We argue that the desertification of Sahara before and during marine isotope stage (MIS) 3 stimulated demographic pressures in the Mediterranean, pioneer penetration, and later expansion of modern human populations into the Neanderthal territories. However, central and eastern Europe not only played a passive role of a new home for the invading modern humans, but also the typical periglacial environment and richess in animal herds stimulated new behavioral patterns, complex hunting strategies, technologies, and symbolism.

The current evidence for the “transitional” Levalloisleptolithic technology (Emirian and the Bohunician) does not prove who were the producers anatomically, and the association of this technology with modern humans is only a hypothesis. A parallel expansion of the backed-blade and bladelet technologies provided controversial anthropological signals, including both modern humans (Uluzzian) and Neanderthals (Chätelperronian?). The subsequent Aurignacian clearly represents the first pan-European entity associated with modern human fossils (Mladec); however, the Aurignacian technotypology and symbolism were created after the occupation of central Europe. The question of Gravettian origin seems to be a more complex one, in which both the external impulses and local developmental trends are combined.

Symbolism appears in two stages. The first evidence of symbolism, in context of the Levallois-leptolithic and backed-blade industries, represents only a humble prelude to the complexity of symbolic expression and art as introduced later in the Aurignacian and the Gravettian. In this sense, the emergence of symbolic representations was a local process that took place in Europe after the early modern human immigrations and seems to have been reserved to this human species and this type of environment. We argue that the processes of modern human expansion and Neanderthal acculturation were interrelated during this time period.

The aim of this paper is to summarize current views on the early modern human migrations into regions adjacent to Asia in the west. The earliest finds of anatomically modern humans (AMHs) from Qafzeh and Skhul, outside Africa (dated between 120 and 90 ka), suggest that AMH reached as far as Levant before or during the last interglacial period (MIS 5e), but probably not much further. The earliest finds of modern humans in caves of southern and central Europe, at Cavallo, Pestera cu Oase, Pestera Muierii, Cioclovina, and Mladec, are dated as late as 45,000–35,000 cal BP (Benazzi et al. 2011; Dobos et al. 2010; Teschler-Nicola 2006; Trinkaus et al. 2013), as are the earliest dates from Kent’s Cavern in the far northwest of Europe (Higham et al. 2011). In sum, the present evidence suggests that modern humans stopped at the gates of Europe for some 80–50 ka and then dispersed relatively rapidly over the continent. This record calls for a complex evaluation from the viewpoints of climate, landscapes, resources, human society and demography, and effectivness of various human technologies.

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