Population dispersal in Europe the archaeological perspective

There is little doubt that many of the current controversies in the interpretation of available genetic and anatomical evidence stem from the attempt to adopt a single, unified view for the emergence of anatomically modern populations which is applicable to all areas of the world, regardless of the character of local geographical and environmental circumstances, or the particular patterns of demographic and evolutionary development within each region. Fortunately, the issues here are simpler and concern specifically the European evidence, and particularly that from the western zone of Europe. Having already looked briefly at the basic biological and skeletal arguments, I will now focus on the bearing of the available archaeological evidence on the character of this transition. The question is how far the archaeological evidence can be used to argue forcibly either for or against a rapid dispersal of entirely new human populations across different regions of Europe, associated with the earliest appearance of anatomically modern morphology in these areas?

As I have discussed in more detail elsewhere, all the current arguments in this context hinge on one critical correlation, the assumption that the earliest and most securely documented specimens of fully modern anatomy in Europe are associated with one specific archaeological entity, the grouping of so-called Aurignacian industries (Mellars 1992b). Leaving aside some of the more controversial specimens, well documented associations of this kind have now been recorded from at least four or five separate localities in Europe - notably from Vogelherd (i.e. Stetten) in Germany, Mladec in Czechoslovakia, Velika Pecina in Yugoslavia and Les Rois and (perhaps less certainly) Cro-Magnon in western France (Fig. 13.8: Smith 1984; Stringer et al 1984; Gambier 1989, 1993; Hublin 1990). Certainly, no serious claim has been made for an association between typically Aurignacian assemblages and anatomically Neanderthal remains in Europe. If this critical correlation is accepted, then the whole of the archaeological aspect of this particular debate hinges on the specific origins and mutual interrelationships of these Aurignacian industries within the different regions of Europe. Specifically, do these industries reflect the dispersal of entirely new human populations over the different parts of the continent? Or do they reflect simply a diversity of essentially local patterns of technological and demographic development, stemming directly from the immediately preceding Middle Palaeolithic/ Neanderthal populations within each region? As a generalization it is probably fair to say that most European archaeologists who have recently expressed a view on this issue have opted strongly for the population-dispersal hypothesis, based on the following range of observations (Allsworth-Jones 1986, 1990; Kozlowski 1988, 1990, 1993; Demars & Hublin 1989; Demars 1990; Hublin 1990; Har-rold 1989; Mellars 1989a, 1992; Mussi 1990; Goia 1990; Farizy 1990; Bischoff et al 1989; Broglio 1993; Djindjian 1993):

1. Archaeologically, the most striking feature is the remarkable uniformity of Aurignacian technology, extending across almost all eastern, central and western Europe and into the northern parts of the Middle East - a span of over 4000 kilometres (Fig. 13.10). As Fran├žois Bordes (e.g. 1968: 200) and others have emphasized, industries recovered from sites such as Ksar Akil in Lebanon and Hay-onim and Kebara in Israel are virtually indistinguishable from those in many of the classic Aurignacian sites in western Europe, reflected not only in the detailed typology of the stone tools (Fig. 13.11) but also in several idiosyncratic forms of bone and antler tools, such as typical split-base and biconical bone points (Fig. 13.12: Bar-Yosef & Belfer-Cohen 1988). At no other point in the Upper Palaeo

Figure 13.10 Geographical distribution of Aurignacian industries in Europe and the Middle East, compared with the distribution of Chatelperronian, Szeletian and Uluzzian industries. In addition to the distribution shown, further occurrences of Aurignacian technology have been reported from Portugal, Britain, Sicily, southern Russia and Afghanistan. From Mellars 1992b.

Figure 13.10 Geographical distribution of Aurignacian industries in Europe and the Middle East, compared with the distribution of Chatelperronian, Szeletian and Uluzzian industries. In addition to the distribution shown, further occurrences of Aurignacian technology have been reported from Portugal, Britain, Sicily, southern Russia and Afghanistan. From Mellars 1992b.

lithic sequence can one demonstrate such a uniform technology extending over such a wide diversity of contrasting environmental and ecological zones. Whether this would have been possible without a similar uniformity in language patterns across this region remains an interesting point for speculation (cf. Cavalli-Sforza 1991; Renfrew 1987).

2. This uniformity in technology of the earlier Aurignacian industries contrasts sharply with the diversity of the immediately preceding Middle Palaeolithic technologies in different regions of Europe. As Kozlowski (1992) and others have emphasized, the final stages of the Middle Palaeolithic seem to have been characterized by a variety of technological patterns: typical Mousterian of Acheulian tradition (MTA) industries on the extreme western fringes of the continent; various forms of either leaf-point or 'eastern Charentian' industries in central and eastern Europe; Denticulate industries in parts of Italy and northern Spain; and a variety of either Levallois or Levallois-point dominated technologies in the Balkans and south-eastern Europe. It is difficult to see how a technology as uniform and widespread as the Aurignacian could have sprung, rapidly and essentially independently, from such a diversity of technological roots.

The Aurignacian Industry
Figure 13.12 Bone artefacts and animal-tooth pendants from the Aurignacian levels of the Hayonim cave, Israel. After Belfer-Cohen & Bar-Yosef 1981.

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