Charting the timing of human occupation in the mountainous regions of the Caucasus during the Last Interglacial/Glacial periods is of particular interest to the understanding of past human adaptive and behavioural plasticity and capacity. In this paper we analyse palaeoenvironmental, faunal, and archaeological data gathered during 2006-2009 excavations of the Palaeolithic cave site of Hovk-1, Armenia, in order to address whether human presence in this cave correlates with episodes of mild climate and certain environmental and ecological conditions that were favourable to huminin occupation in such a region. In the second part of the paper we evaluate the implications of our results in understanding the nature of human presence in other mountainous regions such as the Alps and its potential implications for Palaeolithic research.Our analysis demonstrates that hominins occupied Hovk-1 Cave during milder climatic phases of the Last Interglacial sensu lato (MIS 5d-c) and Last Glacial (late MIS 4/early MIS 3) periods when the area surrounding the cave was an open meadow environment. The stratigraphic Units with noticeable traces of hominin occupation (Units 4, 5 & 8) contrast with others in the lack of cave bear fauna and suggest an inverse correlation between human and cave bear occupational phases in Hovk-1. We speculate that human groups visited this region to hunt specific prey species that prevailed in this habitat (such as the bezoar goat). However, the assemblages of large mammals from Hovk-1 do not provide any clear anthropogenic signal and therefore highlight the difficulty of teasing apart natural and cultural formation processes.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We thank Dimitri Arkelyan (Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology, National Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Armenia) for Figs. 1–3, Pavel Avetisyan (Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography, National Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Armenia) for his help during the 2006 season in Hovk and Nina Manaseryan (Yerevan Zoological Institute, National Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Armenia) for her assistance in taxonomic identifications. The Hovk project was supported by Roehampton University UK (2005–2007) , the Armenian branch of the Gfoeller Foundation , and Science Foundation of Ireland (SFI) Research Frontiers Programme grant (Grant No. 08/RFP/EOB1478 ).
- Middle Palaeolithic
- Palaeoenvironmental reconstruction
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Global and Planetary Change
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics