The Zagros Epipalaeolithic revisited: New excavations and 14C dates from Palegawra cave in Iraqi Kurdistan

Authors: Asouti, E., Baird, D., Kabukcu, C., Swinson, K., Martin, L., Garcia-Suarez, A., Jenkins, E.L. and Rasheed, K.

Journal: PLoS One

Volume: 15

Issue: 9

ISSN: 1932-6203


Palegawra cave, alongside its neighbouring Zarzi, has been an emblematic site of the Epipalaeolithic (Zarzian) cultural horizon in the NW Zagros of Southwest Asia ever since its first exploration in 1951 by Bruce Howe and Robert Braidwood in the context of the Iraq-Jarmo project. At the time scientific excavation, sampling and analysis methods were either underdeveloped or did not exist. In this paper we present the first results of new excavations at Palegawra conducted in 2016–2017 by the Eastern Fertile Crescent (EFEC) project, a research collaboration of the University of Liverpool and the Sulaymaniyah Directorate of Antiquities and Heritage. Our research has produced the first radiometric evidence pushing back the chronology of the NW Zagros Epipalaeolithic to the Last Glacial Maximum, thus fully aligning it with Epipalaeolithic facies until now known only from the Levant and the south Anatolian coast. We have also unearthed, for the first time in the Palaeolithic of the Zagros, direct archaeobotanical evidence for hitherto elusive Zarzian plant exploitation and the vegetation of the NW Zagros piedmont zone from the LGM to the end of the Lateglacial (~19,600–13,000 cal BP). The new Palegawra chronology alongside our detailed studies of its material culture and faunal and botanical assemblages suggest that the prevailing Epipalaeolithic habitation pattern in the NW Zagros (centred on generalised persistent occupations of small caves and rock-shelters alongside task-oriented ephemeral open-air campsites) remained an enduring characteristic of the Zarzian horizon throughout this period. The Palegawra data clearly show that neither resource levels and climate conditions nor geographic and/or cultural isolation provide adequate explanations for the stability and longevity of Zarzian lifeways during this long timespan. More fieldwork is required, including the discovery, excavation and intensive sampling of other Zarzian sites, for reaching a datainformed understanding of the nature and evolution of the NW Zagros Epipalaeolithic.

Source: BURO EPrints