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Playing hide and seek with the European Lower Palaeolithic. A critical re-evaluation of the spatial distribution of sites in Central and Eastern Europe

Playing hide and seek with the European Lower Palaeolithic. A critical re-evaluation of the spatial distribution of sites in Central and Eastern Europe
Playing hide and seek with the European Lower Palaeolithic. A critical re-evaluation of the spatial distribution of sites in Central and Eastern Europe
The pattern of spatial distribution of sites in Lower Palaeolithic Europe shows a significant disproportion of known find spots between the west and the central and eastern part of the continent. Early and Middle Pleistocene sites are very rare in Central and Eastern Europe, they do not come in clusters, and they do not seem to be associated with ancient river terraces like in the west. This is a robust pattern that has been previously recognized but not addressed as a distinct research topic so far. It may represent either a real past phenomenon of different population densities in Lower Palaeolithic Europe or reflect a modern research bias. Three hypotheses explaining the dichotomy in site distribution were proposed so far: i) History of Research, ii) Dispersal Routes, and iii) Climate. It is a common, although usually not loudly pronounced assumption that history of research accounts for the rarity of finds in Central and Eastern Europe. However, a thorough historiographic analysis reveals that archaeological research and especially Stone Age studies in the region started very early (Sklenar 1983) and were for most of the time generously supported by the authorities. Also, the results were widely disseminated and Central and Eastern European researchers were part of the international Palaeolithic community. The second hypothesis, Dispersal Routes Hypothesis, was evaluated through an Agent-Based Model which showed that given the current understanding of the first ‘Out of Africa’ (starting point in Africa, faster dispersal over grasslands etc.) it is highly unlikely that the dispersal pattern would generate the dichotomy in site distribution. Finally, the Climate Hypothesis can be largely challenged on the basis of current evidence regarding the Early and Middle Pleistocene environment of Europe. However, further research may bring more data supporting or refuting this hypothesis. Nevertheless the environmental impact is unlikely to be strong enough to generate a pattern as robust as the one observed. Given the above, a new alternative was proposed to explain the phenomenon of the low density of Lower Palaeolithic sites in Central and Eastern Europe based on recent developments in geological mapping and taphonomic studies. It argues that an uninterrupted mantel of glacially derived silt (loess) seals interglacial soil levels potentially bearing Lower Palaeolithic sites at significant depths exceeding 5 metres throughout most of Central and Eastern Europe. It also highlights the potential for deeply stratified sites preserved in situ within an easily datable and already well-investigated environmental context.
Romanowska, Izabela
9322eef3-59bc-4718-bf0e-ab4e16b052b2
Romanowska, Izabela
9322eef3-59bc-4718-bf0e-ab4e16b052b2
Mcnabb, John
59e818b1-3196-4991-93eb-75ed9c898e71
Brughmans, Tom
4e474b05-a9a5-47dc-8c2d-3594557f589b

(2012) Playing hide and seek with the European Lower Palaeolithic. A critical re-evaluation of the spatial distribution of sites in Central and Eastern Europe. University of Southampton, Faculty of Humanities, Masters Thesis, 126pp.

Record type: Thesis (Masters)

Abstract

The pattern of spatial distribution of sites in Lower Palaeolithic Europe shows a significant disproportion of known find spots between the west and the central and eastern part of the continent. Early and Middle Pleistocene sites are very rare in Central and Eastern Europe, they do not come in clusters, and they do not seem to be associated with ancient river terraces like in the west. This is a robust pattern that has been previously recognized but not addressed as a distinct research topic so far. It may represent either a real past phenomenon of different population densities in Lower Palaeolithic Europe or reflect a modern research bias. Three hypotheses explaining the dichotomy in site distribution were proposed so far: i) History of Research, ii) Dispersal Routes, and iii) Climate. It is a common, although usually not loudly pronounced assumption that history of research accounts for the rarity of finds in Central and Eastern Europe. However, a thorough historiographic analysis reveals that archaeological research and especially Stone Age studies in the region started very early (Sklenar 1983) and were for most of the time generously supported by the authorities. Also, the results were widely disseminated and Central and Eastern European researchers were part of the international Palaeolithic community. The second hypothesis, Dispersal Routes Hypothesis, was evaluated through an Agent-Based Model which showed that given the current understanding of the first ‘Out of Africa’ (starting point in Africa, faster dispersal over grasslands etc.) it is highly unlikely that the dispersal pattern would generate the dichotomy in site distribution. Finally, the Climate Hypothesis can be largely challenged on the basis of current evidence regarding the Early and Middle Pleistocene environment of Europe. However, further research may bring more data supporting or refuting this hypothesis. Nevertheless the environmental impact is unlikely to be strong enough to generate a pattern as robust as the one observed. Given the above, a new alternative was proposed to explain the phenomenon of the low density of Lower Palaeolithic sites in Central and Eastern Europe based on recent developments in geological mapping and taphonomic studies. It argues that an uninterrupted mantel of glacially derived silt (loess) seals interglacial soil levels potentially bearing Lower Palaeolithic sites at significant depths exceeding 5 metres throughout most of Central and Eastern Europe. It also highlights the potential for deeply stratified sites preserved in situ within an easily datable and already well-investigated environmental context.

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Published date: August 2012
Organisations: University of Southampton, Archaeology

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Local EPrints ID: 374736
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/374736
PURE UUID: 193c3ceb-c3e8-4b27-b749-6a74550ad9a0

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Date deposited: 10 Mar 2015 14:28
Last modified: 17 Jul 2017 21:23

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