The Transition From the Middle to the Upper Paleolithic in the Southern Balkans: The Evidence From the Lakonis I Cave, Greece


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Publication Date

January 2008


Current models of interaction between Neandertals and modem humans, and the nature and timing of the Middle to Upper Paleolithic transition in western Eurasia suggest a complex, regionally-differentiated process. The lack of diagnostic fossil remains and as ociated lithic industries limit the extent to which the transition can be modeled, whether a result of overlap, acculturation or independent invention, or quite possibly a combination of all three. Fossil remains in southeastern Europe tend to be fragmentary, isolated, and poorly dated. This paper presents evidence from Greece where excavations at the recently discovered cave site ofLakonis have revealed a continuous stratigraphic sequence dated to between l20 ka and 43 ka BP. During the last glacial the site would have consisted of a series ofsmall caves overlooking a large open plain; however. with erosion and sea level rise, its roof has been lost and it is now at the water's edge, The majority of deposits are dominated by Middle Paleolithic assemblages associated with a series ofoverlapping hearth structures. Above this, however, the uppernlOst unit produced a lithic assemblage with clear mixed Middle and Upper Paleolithic affinities. On this basisit has been defined as transitional with the presence of either or both modem humans and Neandertals suggested. Support for the latter was found during the 2002 field season when a well-preserved Neandertal molar was discovered in the uppernlOst unit. Both the lithics and the tooth are relevant to the current debate concerning Neandertal and modem human interaction, and suggest that in this area, the makers of this transitional assemblage were Neandertals.




Eurasian Prehistory, Vol. 5, no. 2 (2008).