Prey choice, site occupation intensity & economic diversity in the Middle – early Upper Palaeolithic at the Üçağizli Caves, Turkey


Mary Stiner


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Publication Date

January 2009


Recent excavations at Üçağizli Caves I and II on the Hatay coast of Turkey have yielded abundant well-preserved archaeofaunas of the Middle Palaeolithic, Initial Upper Palaeolithic, and Ahmarian periods. Patterns of small game use in this region testify to an exceptionally early shift in human diet breadth between ca 50,000-42,000 years ago. The phenomenon is paralleled by increasing feature complexity and expanded artefact repertoires at the Middle to Upper Palaeolithic (MP, UP) transition and through the Ahmarian phases. The density of material accumulations, including the repetition or stacking of simple features, in the sediments varies independently of these variables and is less helpful for identifying changes in site occupation intensity. Differences in lithic raw material economics are informative, but systemic cultural differences in land use seem to complicate any interpretations of why some of the occupations were more intensive than others through the MP-UP series. The zooarchaeological results, in combination with aspects of site structure, expose a fundamental contrast in how these Palaeolithic populations were able to fill gaps in the availability of large game. The implied greater flexibility in foraging regimens during the UP is linked to changes in the patterns of labour allocation and networks of cooperation.


Upper Palaeolithic, Middle Palaeolithic, Zooarchaeology, Turkey, Northern Levant, Site Occupation Intensity, Diet Breadth, Hunting, Demography, Division Of Labour

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Before Farming, Vol. 3 (2009).