Even after a century of research, the nature of the transition from the Lower-to-Middle Paleolithic in the Levant remains elusive. Responding to the sharp discontinuity in material culture, Jelinek argued that Unit X of Tabun Cave, Israel, can offer the bridgehead necessary to traverse the divide. His proposal was based on (1) the unit’s stratigraphic position and on (2) the unique combination of traits it embodied. However, this interpretation of Unit X was later dismissed and the combination of features attributed to post-depositional mixture. In this paper, we revisit these arguments and analyze Layer J72S of Unit X. We address two major obstacles to our understanding of the Lower-to-Middle Paleolithic transition. The first is our poor understanding of the Acheulian facies of the Acheulo-Yabrudian and its implications for technological variation and settlement dynamics. The second obstacle is the insufficient attention to temporal trends that span the Lower and Middle Paleolithic. Our analysis demonstrates that the Acheulo-Yabrudian assemblages within the cave, including J72S, represent but a fraction of an extensive array of practices distributed across the landscape. We also document trends toward greater affinity with the Middle Paleolithic. Although of limited scope, these trends could suggest that the Lower-to-Middle Paleolithic shift is not a process of displacement but a synthesis of “old” and “new” technological concepts. An exchange of ideas and genes among not-so-distantly-related hominins may have played a much greater role in shaping the Paleolithic than has been hitherto recognized.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We wish to thank Nicholas Conard and M. Gema Chacón for organizing the “Current research on settlement dynamics and cultural variability during the Middle Stone Age and Middle Paleolithic” session at the 2018 UISPP, Paris, as well as for editing this volume. We also wish to thank Arthur Jelinek, who kindly enabled us to study the material from his excavation at Tabun. The study was supported by the Israel Science Foundation (1955/16) and the Gerda Henkel Foundation (AZ35/F/16).
© 2021, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature.
- Lower Paleolithic
- Middle Paleolithic
- Paleolithic transitions
- Tabun Cave
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