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Thread: Late surviving Lower Paleolithic in Central Asia

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    Post Late surviving Lower Paleolithic in Central Asia

    Prehistoric context of the Hindu Kush


    The chain of the Hindu Kush is the prolongation of the Himalayas towards the west, beyond the Indus, and it represents the geographical border between Central Asia and South Asia. It includes some of the highest peaks in central Asia, but does not constitute a barrier because there are several collars with less than 5 000 m in altitude. On the two sides of the Hindu Kush, in the piémonts and the plains, to the prehistoric vestiges testify to human activity which is expressed as of the Lower Paleolithic. During this long time two technical traditions coexisted: the Acheulian tradition, characterized by the presence of bifaces, and the Soanian tradition, represented by the industries rich in cut rollers (choppers) and deprived of bifaces. Although ever gone back to precise manner, Soanian is regarded as a technological facies of the Lower Paleolithic, but it is certainly prolonged during the following cultural time, and perhaps even into the Neolithic. The Acheulian, as for him, evolves in industries on glare then on blades jusqu'à the end of the Paleolithic one. With the transition between Paleolithic and Neolithic, one observes again, especially in the north of the Hindu Kush (Tadjikistan) the coexistence of two traditions. One leaves the Mesolithic era, characterized by the presence of geometrical microliths, seems imported from South-West Asia. The other leaves the Epipaleolithic, deprived of geometrical microliths, on the spot seems the result of evolution from the Paleolithic. It is in particular in the Pamirs where this second tradition is well represented, in sites of high altitude: industries which deliver remain rich in tools on roller and identify the Soanian tradition. The question is to know if this tradition is confined in the zones of altitude, if it is limited to the solid mass of Pamir or if it extends in the close mountains like the Hindu Kush for example. Moreover one can wonder whether it has an unspecified relationship to the Soanian tradition of the Siwaliks (southernmost Himalayan borders).


    Central Asia is a mosaic of plains and mountains in the heart of Eurasia. It constitutes a geomorphological and environmental entity with the crossroads between East and West, the North and the South of the "Ancient World". The prehistoric populations were occupats in the Lower Paleolithic. At the beginning of the Holocene, whereas the planet is heated, new regions are colonized, implying migrations. New technologies emerge; some enter they keep a close link with the past, especially in the mountains, while others probably evolve to the Neolithic era (agriculture and breeding, sedentarisation...) under the influence of South-West Asia and the Middle East. Environmental characteristics such qu'elles exist on average and high altitude (4000 m) can alone support mountain populations compared to the populations of the plains. Indeed high altitude implies a physiological adaptation, in more of the behavioral modifications relating to the strategies of subsistence, so that certain transportation routes could relate to only the zones of altitude. In addition, one is still unaware if with the Paleolithic there was a bond between the Soanian of the Siwaliks, in South Asia, and the Soanian of Tadjikistan, in Central Asia, passing by Karakoram or the Hindu Kush. One is unaware of also if there exists a chronological and technological continuity between on one hand the paleolithic Soanian and on the other the Epipaleolithic then the Neolithic era rich person out of cut rollers. The resemblances between industries can be a business of convergent evolution rather than of cultural continuity. It thus about knowing the mountain prehistoric populations up to what point preserves their old technological traditions, of the traditions which appear as simple as those of the Lower Paleolithic. Which is space and temporal extension of this cultural identity? So to study these problems, the present study is focused on the mountainous area of the north of Pakistan, and in particular on the southernmost slopes of the chain of the Hindu Kush, in the district of Chitral. It is a zone of transition, and possible passage during l'été, between Central Asia and South Asia.
    Last edited by morfrain_encilgar; Friday, April 9th, 2004 at 11:52 PM.

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    Post Re: Late surviving Lower Paleolithic in Central Asia

    Last prehistoric cultures: cultures of Markansou and Hissar


    The majority of the Epipaleolithic of this area of transition, between Central Asia and South Asia, are in very high altitude (more than 4 000 m) in the valley of Markansou to Pamir. They are exposed sites, with or without hearth, and industry, associated a wild fauna (not domesticated), including plates, out of selected flint, scrapers, scrapers, arrowheads, many nuclear tools and a notorious quantity of cut rollers. This particular tradition is dated to between 7 500 and 5 500 years B.C. Thereafter it seems that the prehistoric populations forsook Pamir, but at lower altitude and in particular in the valley of Hissar in the south of Tadjikistan, there are many witnesses to the contemporary tradition of the Neolithic era. This one is characterized by a great d'outils quantity on roller, however accompanied d'éclats and by plates, sometimes improved by pressure, output in flint whose source can be remote for reasons of quality. The polished axes are also present. It does not have pottery associated with this material but some ornaments in bone there are noticed. The sites are generally in the open air and the hearths are not frequent. It is difficult to know if these populations were wandering or sedentary. Among the osseous remainders, the domestic animals are represented as much than wild game.


    A mountain environment


    The explored area was selected by referring to the pilot sites of the cultures of Markansou and Hissar and which are specifically sites of high or average altitude. This zone is located on the southern slope of the North-Eastern part of the Hindu Kush, between 3000 and 4000 m high. The valleys are deeply dug by the glaciers and the rivers. The principal valley, which bears the name of Yarkhoun in this sector, is fairly broad; upstream, on the plates close to Boroghol, the landscape is open. Geology consists of metamorphic series which include primarily marbles, quarzites, mica schists, schists, gneiss, amphibolites, etc. This area belongs to the palearctic zone of the northern hemisphere, where the vegetation is of subalpine and alpine types; it is characterized by the alpine meadow on the slopes and the plates and only some trees in the funds of valley (poplars, willows and birches). Fauna rather rich and is diversified, with caprine savages, some carnivores, reptiles, many birds, etc.


    The exploration of the valley of Yarkhoun was led within the framework of the free-Pakistani archaeological mission carried out by the Laboratory of Prehistory of the National Natural history museum and in which E.P.H.E collaborated. (Dijon), the Department d Archeology and of the Museums of the Government of Pakistan and the Department d Archeology of the University of Peshawar. The financing was ensured by the French ministry of the Foreign Affairs, that the authors thank.


    Sites


    D'aval upstream along Yarkhoun, six sites were identified between 3000 and 4000 m high. They are generally localised on the alluvial terraces, between 10 and 25 m with the top of the current level of the water courses and distant of this one from 400 to 1000 m; d'eux one is close to a seasonal pond. They are sites of full delivered air and they n'ont which of lithic industries. No organic remainder, no hearth, no structure of habitation were associated. The rocks used for tool making are generally present on these sites, but are not majority. For example, with the site of Zeshtsh-o-Goutsh, richest (around fifty artefacts), a small survey showed that on one meter of depth the alluvia consisted of a conglomerate furnishs badly sorted with rollers of variable size (1 to 30 cm). The largest rollers (20 to 30 cm) are generally out of granite or gneiss; among smallest s'ajoute schist. The raw material characteristic of stone tools, amphibolite, is rather rare: in all the survey it n'y hardly had qu'une ten rollers of this rock measuring more than 10 cm.
    Last edited by morfrain_encilgar; Friday, April 9th, 2004 at 11:37 PM.

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    Post Re: Late surviving Lower Paleolithic in Central Asia

    The chronology


    It is difficult to attribute an age to the lithic industries in the valley of Yarkhoun, puisqu'elles are on the surface or hardly hidden and qu'elles are not associated an unspecified datable material. The only chronological reference is the quaternary geomorphology of this area of high altitude, where the glaciers generated various moraines according to the climatic variations, and where tectonic activity is still very intense. The moraines were studied with precision during the Eighties in the solid mass of Karakoram, (during Hindu Kush of l'autre side of the Indus), close to Gilgit. These studies made it possible to establish the chronology of the moraines, especially thanks to l intensity of the brown patina, or "vernis of the desert", which appears on the blocks of crystalline rock because of the periglacial conditions. This patina most intense and is best preserved on the deposits formed in the Lower Holocene, around 8000 years B.P. Along Yarkhoun the alluvia are marked by a level of large rollers with dark patina brown. This one is usually covered by a gravel furnishs gray with average rollers deprived of patina, which undoubtedly corresponds to average Holocene. The artifacts lithic resting on the surface of this gravel cannot thus be former to average l Holocene and considering qu'aucun d'eux n'offre a perfectly fresh surface, they cannot be either very recent. It is probable that they date from 5000 to 3000 years B.P.


    Lithic industries


    The collected tools are out of amphibolite, in quarzite, sometimes out of marble. In a context where the crystalline rocks metamorphic are dominant, it appears obvious that the raw material was selected. However, considering the abondance of the schist in the environnement and the scarcity of the sharp tools within the collected material, one can ask if sharp schist tools did not exist. Those perhaps disappeared because of the low resistance of the schist to erosion or they are still present on the sites, but impossible to recognize because all the schist fragments are sharp. The tools are generally worked starting from rollers, entireties or broken, thus qu'à to start from natural plates or d'éclats. These supports were selected for their low thickness. The shaping is summary and not consists in removing glares on the edges but rather with esquiller the edges, the direction of impact is not perpendicular but parallel with the great plan of the object. Removals which result from it are often very short and present an abrupt end. From the typological point of view one peutdistinguer a whole of large tools and one of small tools. Among the large tools some standard morphologies are found in various sites and generally deserve to be called "hache". Triangular contour is most outstanding; another form present of with dimensions the parallèlesavec a simple or double worked edge, which points out certain Neolithic axes of Central africa. In d'autres case the side edges are concave, evoking one of the traditional types of the Neolithic era aceramic of Kashmir. The small tools constitute about the third of the assembly. They are generally very simple tools such as scrapers, notches and scrapers, among which it is necessary to notice the scrapers with bipolar final improvement. All the tools carry traces of percussion, wear or of polish, which can be observed either on the worked edges, or on d'autres edges and edges, or on the faces.


    Discussion


    The most outstanding aspect of these industries very carries on the character fruste of their shaping and their small degree of elaboration. The forms of the rough supports remain the shapes of the tools, and the morphological criterion constituted certainly the principal factor of selection. Such a simple technology points out that of the Soanian industries, well-known in the Paleolithic of the Siwaliks, all along the Himalayas. It presents resemblances to the civilization of Markansou as well as finds in Pamir, at high altitude, during the Mesolithic era and the Neolithic era. Certain tools are found in the Neolithic era aceramic of Kashmir, or in the Neolithic era of Nepal. This discovery d'autant more interesting qu'elle n'est is not isolated. At the same time of the comparable industries, worked coarsely and without associated pottery, are known in close areas. Many prehistoric sites generally belonging to the Holocene mark out the southernmost edge of the immense massive Himalayan like its Western prolongations of the Hindu Kush and the Pamirs. They are characterized by their situation of average or high altitude (1500 to 4000 m). Lithic industries present an antiquated facies to it, quite qu'elles Neolithic era and following periods are contemporary. However it is known that the cultural contacts were well developed at these times, as of the end of the 4th millenium, between the north and the south of the Hindu Kush. At least these contacts took place in the plains, circumventing the Hindu Kush by the west to some extent and the south. It is possible that the sites of high altitude remained insensitive to such contacts. The altitude could be a factor of seperation between the populations of the plains on one hand and the tool assemblies on the other, which would have supported the conservation of the archaic technology. The sites of the valley of Yarkhoun, in the north of Pakistan, constitute new stakes confirming the reality of this cultural surface which, in the Holocene, preserves the practice of an archaic and not very elaborately designed tool industry.
    Last edited by morfrain_encilgar; Friday, April 9th, 2004 at 11:50 PM.

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    Post Re: Late surviving Lower Paleolithic in Central Asia

    The Soanian is a form of the Acheulian. Whatever race or races were involved in making the tool industries, the continuity suggests a late survival and perhaps local hybridisation over time at high altitude.

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