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The Azokh Cave complex: Middle Pleistocene to Holocene human occupation in the Caucasus

Fernández Jalvo, Yolanda and King, Tania and Andrews, Peter and Yepiskoposyan, Levon and Moloney, Norah and Murray, John and Domínguez Alonso, Patricio and Asryan, Lena and Ditchfield, Peter and Made, J. van der and Torres, Trinidad and Sevilla García, Paloma and Nieto Díaz, Manuel and Cáceres Cuello de Oro, Isabel and Allué, Ethel and Marín Monfort, M.D. and Sanz Martín, Teresa (2010) The Azokh Cave complex: Middle Pleistocene to Holocene human occupation in the Caucasus. Journal of Human Evolution, 58 . pp. 103-109. ISSN 0047-2484

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Abstract

Azokh Cave is located near the village of the same name in the
Nagorno-Karabagh region of the south-eastern part of the Lesser
Caucasus (3937.09’ N and 4659.19’ E, 962 metres –a.s.l.). Azokh
Cave and other relevant Acheulian sites in the Caucasus (Fig. 1)
were described by Lioubine (2002). Together with Mousterian sites
(Klein, 1969, 1999; Hoffecker and Cleghorn, 2000; Hoffecker, 2002;
Stringer and Andrews, 2005) and sites producing evidence of the
Middle-Late Palaeolithic transition (Joris and Adler 2008), the
Caucasus region has provided evidence of continuous human
settlement of the area throughout the Pleistocene. The geographical
location of these sites indicates the persistence of a natural
corridor that Lioubine (2002) named the ‘Caucasus isthmus’ and
which we describe as the Trans-Caucasian corridor.
Based on a geological survey of Quaternary deposits in collaboration
with the Armenian Academy of Sciences (Ferna´ndez-Jalvo
et al., 2004; King et al., 2003), we observe that the topography of the
area has changed considerably due to tectonic compression and
periglacial isostasy. This is in agreement with estimations by GPS
studies (Mosar, 2006, Mosar et al., 2007) and ESR (Gru¨n et al., 1999)
that establishedan uplift rate of12 to14 mm/year or 0.8–1.0 cm/year,
respectively. The corridor has changed greatly since the middle
Pleistocene, with uplift and erosion altering the landscape, but it is
likely that passage through the Caucasian mountains has always
been possible. The Trans-Caucasian corridor and other routes via
Turkey and towards Asia (Bar-Yosef and Belfer-Cohen, 2001) were
migration pathways during the Pleistocene.
Fossil humans in the Caucasian area are scarce. The site of
Dmanisi in Georgia yielded the earliest known Eurasian hominins
(1.7 Ma, Gabunia et al., 2000; Rightmire et al., 2006; Martino´ n-
Torres et al., 2008). Late surviving Neanderthals are present at
several sites: Mezmaiskaya Cave, in the Northern Caucasus of Russia
(30 ka, Skinner et al., 2005), provided remains of late surviving
Neanderthals; a mandible of a 2–3 year old Neanderthal child was
found at Barakay Cave (North Caucasus; Lubin et al., 2002). Two
incisor fragments and one premolar from Kudaro I may be human
(Lioubine, 2002). In this context, Azokh Cave fills an important
temporal gap. Azokh Cave contains a nearly continuous stratigraphic
section from >300 ka to the present, and mandible fragments of
Homo heidelbergensis found at the site (Kasimova, 2001) represent
the easternmost extent of this species. Here we review the finds of
this long forgotten site and present results of our recent work.


Item Type:Article
Uncontrolled Keywords:Azokh cave; Human ocupation
Subjects:Sciences > Geology > Paleontology
ID Code:14577
Deposited On:20 Feb 2012 12:37
Last Modified:20 Feb 2012 12:37

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