Bondi Cave and the Middle-Upper Palaeolithic transition in western Georgia (south Caucasus)

David Pleurdeau, Marie Hélène Moncel, Ron Pinhasi, Reuven Yeshurun, Tom Higham, Tamar Agapishvili, Maka Bokeria, Alexander Muskhelishvili, François Xavier Le Bourdonnec, Sébastien Nomade, Gérard Poupeau, Hervé Bocherens, Marine Frouin, Dominique Genty, Monique Pierre, Edwige Pons-Branchu, David Lordkipanidze, Nikoloz Tushabramishvili

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The late Pleistocene expansion of anatomically modern humans (AMHs) into Eurasia and the concurrent demise of the Neanderthals appears to be a complex and regionally variable process. The southern Caucasus region, with its rich cave-sites, has recently provided important results regarding this process. In this paper we report on the results of fieldwork in Bondi Cave, Western Georgia, providing a new radiocarbon chronology, stratigraphic observations, analyses of lithic technology and provenance, faunal and floral remains as well as paleoenvironmental data. The cave includes Middle Palaeolithic (ca, 45,000 ka cal. BP) cultural horizons and a long Upper Palaeolithic sequence (ca. 40,000-27,000 cal. BP from layer V to IV). A modern human tooth was found in layer Vb. We estimate its age at 39,000-35,800 Cal BP (95.4%), based on the Bayesian age model we built. If the context of the tooth is reliable, as we think it is, this would make it the oldest morphologically modern human in the Caucasus. Upper Palaeolithic hunting of tur and bison, as well as the collection of various plants including flax is attested. Mobile Upper Palaeolithic foragers inhabited the cave in generally cold and dry periods, but a mosaic of environments, including forests and meadows, was nonetheless available to them. The archaeological sequence of Bondi and adjacent sites indicates a substantial time gap between the Middle and Upper Palaeolithic occupations, thus disproving Neanderthal-AMH interaction in this area and lending support to a replacement scenario in the southern Caucasus, assuming of course that the Early Upper Palaeolithic (EUP) is related to the arrival of AMHs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)77-98
Number of pages22
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
StatePublished - 15 Aug 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The radiocarbon dating, as well as funding for Higham and Frouin, was supported in part by the “PalaeoChron” project via the European Research Council (grant 324139 ). We are grateful to all staff at the Oxford Radioarbon Accelerator Unit (ORAU) for their careful analytical work. Thanks are due to S. Ali, B. Steinhilber, and C. Wißing for their technical assistance in bone stable isotope analysis in Tübingen.

Funding Information:
Fieldworks and analyses were financially supported by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs , the National Museum of Georgia, Tbilisi and the National Museum of Natural History . We wish to thank them for their support throughout this collaborative programme. Part of the dates were funded by the Science Foundation of Ireland (SFI) Research Frontiers Programme grant (Grant No. 08/RFP/EOB1478 ).

Funding Information:
EDXRF analyzes were conducted thanks to the funding offered by the “ LaScArBx research programme ” supported by the ANR ( ANR-10-LABX-52 ) and the “ Conseil Régional d’Aquitaine ”. Authors are grateful to the AGLAE team for providing all the support during PIXE analyzes.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Elsevier Ltd.


  • C ages
  • Georgia
  • Lithic technology
  • Middle-Upper Paleolithic transition
  • Palaeoenvironment
  • South-Caucasus
  • Subsistence strategies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology
  • Geology


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