The Initial Upper Paleolithic of the Altai: New radiocarbon determinations for the Kara-Bom site

Rybin, E.P., Belousova, N.E., Derevianko, A.P., Douka, K., Higham, T., 2023. The Initial Upper Paleolithic of the Altai: New radiocarbon determinations for the Kara-Bom site. Journal of Human Evolution 185, 103453.

The Initial Upper Paleolithic (IUP) is one of the most important phases in the recent period of the evolution of humans. During a narrow period in the first half of Marine Isotope Stage 3 laminar industries, accompanied by developed symbolism and specific blade technology, emerged over a vast area, replacing different variants of the Middle Paleolithic. In western Eurasia, the earliest appearance of IUP technology is seen at the Boker Tachtit site, dated ca. 50 ka cal BP. The earliest evidence of IUP industries in the Balkans and Central Europe, linked to the spread of Homo sapiens, has been dated to around 48 ka cal BP. A key area of IUP dispersals are the mountains and piedmont of southern Siberia and eastern Central Asia. One of the reference assemblages here is Kara-Bom, an open-air site in the Siberian Altai. Three major settlement phases are distinguished in the sediment sequence. In this paper, we present the results of new radiocarbon determinations and Bayesian models. We find that the latest phase of the IUP, Upper Paleolithic 1 (‘UP1’) is bracketed between 43 and 35 ka cal BP (at 95.4% probability). The earliest IUP phase, ‘UP2’, begins to accumulate from ca. 49 ka cal BP and ends by ca. 45 ka cal BP. The Middle Paleolithic ‘MP2’ assemblages all fall prior to 50 ka cal BP. We can detect a spatial distribution of dates from the geographic core of the IUP beyond the Altai where it appears around 47–45 ka cal BP. The current distribution of dates suggests a west–east dispersal of the IUP technocomplex along the mountain belts of Central Asia and South Siberia.

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