Hovk 1 and the Middle and Upper Paleolithic of Armenia: a preliminary framework

R. Pinhasi, B. Gasparian, K. Wilkinson, R. Bailey, G. Bar-Oz, A. Bruch, C. Chataigner, D. Hoffmann, R. Hovsepyan, S. Nahapetyan, A. W.G. Pike, D. Schreve, M. Stephens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The territory of present day Armenia is a geographic contact zone between the Near East and the northern Caucasus. Armenian Middle and Upper Paleolithic records are both few and patchy as a result of the historical paucity of systematic archaeological research in the country. Consequently, it is currently difficult to correlate the Armenian Middle and Upper Paleolithic records with those from other neighboring regions. We present new archaeological and chronometric data (luminescence, U-Th, and 14C) from our ongoing research at Hovk 1 Cave in northeast Armenia. We discuss in particular two activity phases in Hovk 1 Cave for which we have outline chronometric data: (1) an early Middle Paleolithic occupational phase, dated by optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) to 104 ± 9.8 ka BPOSL; and (2) a Paleolithic occupational phase characterized by microlithic flakes dated by AMS 14C to 39,109 ± 1,324 calibrated years BPHulu. The two phases are separated by a hiatus in hominin occupation corresponding to MIS 4 and an episode in early MIS 3. These chronometric data, taken together with the preliminary paleoenvironmental reconstruction of the Hovk 1 Cave and environment, suggest that these activity phases represent short-lived and seasonal use of the cave presumably by small groups of hunters during episodes of mild climate. Neither tool manufacture nor butchery appears to have taken place within the cave, and consequently, the archaeological record included, for the most part, finished tools and blanks. We address the chronology and techno-typological aspects of Hovk 1 lithics in relation to: (1) the Paleolithic records of Armenia, and (2) the broader interregional context of early Middle Paleolithic hominin occupation and the Middle-Upper Paleolithic transition in the Caucasus.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)803-816
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Human Evolution
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 2008

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Tonko Rajkovaca (University of Cambridge) for his drawing of the lithic artifacts ( Figs. 5 and 7 ), Erella Hovers (Hebrew University, Jerusalem) for her comments on the lithic artifact assemblage from Hovk, Dimitri Arkelyan (Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology, National Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Armenia) for drawing Figs. 1–3 , Pavel Avetisyan (Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology, National Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Armenia) for his help during the 2006 season in Hovk and Benik Yeritsyan for permitting us to publish the Yerevan 1 14 C dates and for discussion on the lithic assemblages of the Lusakert 1 and Yerevan 1 sites. We also like to thank the editors and anonymous referees for their useful comments and suggestions on an earlier draft of this paper. The Hovk project is supported by a British Academy Small Grant (SG-43653) and by Roehampton University. The Kalavan project is supported by the Armenian branch of the Gfoeller Foundation and the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Mission “Caucasus”).


  • Chronology
  • Levallois
  • Middle-Upper Paleolithic transition
  • Neandertals
  • Paleoenvironment
  • Southern Caucasus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Anthropology


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