News from Abu Dhabi, where the recent find of some Levallois stone tools has pushed back the earliest known human occupation of the region from 7,500 years to somewhere between 35,000 and 150,000 years. I assume from these dates that the people responsible were either Neanderthals, or else early modern humans who were not part of the putative African exodus of around 50,000 bp, but who had either left Africa long before, or to go down the multi-regional route, humans that had evolved in Asia from Homo erectus populations dating to the Middle or Lower Palaeolithic, although this last idea is currently out of favour with the main body of palaeo-anthropological opinion. Here are some details of the finds, made by Dr Walid Yasin, manager of the archaeology division at the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage…
He (Dr. Walid Hasin) said that a number of flint cores and flakes of Levallois technique were collected from the site. Artifacts made of this technique were first discovered in the nineteenth century at the archaeological site of Levallois, near Paris.
Similar artifacts have been found in Europe, Africa and Asia. In the Near East, they are usually associated with Neanderthal man.
The dating of Abu Dhabi artifacts is, however, estimated to fall in the Middle Palaeolithic (150,000-35,000 years ago), according to Dr Ganim Wahida, a pre-historian from Cambridge University, UK, who specialises in this period.
“The significance of this major discovery lies in the fact that it alters our understanding of the beginning of first human activities in Abu Dhabi which seem to go back to the Old Stone Age, as opposed to the New Stone Age, some 7,500 years ago,” Yasin added.
I’m not sure how they’re dating this, as there isn’t much archaeological detail given – if the stone tools were picked up on the surface, I suppose they can only be dated by comparing them to other lithic industries, which in the case of Levallois, was long-lasting, as mentioned in this description…
Levallois is the name archaeologists have given to a distinctive flint knapping technique, which makes up part of the ancient Acheulean and Mousterian artifact assemblages. The stone tool making technique involves flaking pieces off the edge of a large piece of flint until it is shaped like a turtle shell, and using the core to make tools. The levallois technique is thought to have been used by Neanderthals in Europe beginning about 250,000 years ago, and then perfected during the Mousterian of 100,000 years ago.
But the use of Levallois technology wasn’t only restricted to Europe, as we see from this extract, courtesy of Wikipedia…
The distinctive forms of the flakes were originally thought to indicate a wide ranging Levallois culture but the wide geographical and temporal spread of the technique has rendered this interpretation obsolete.
As always, researchers will be keen to find more artifacts to build up a better picture, but it sounds unlikely from the description of the site, that much in the way of fossilised remains will be found on the surface, and I’m not sure if there are any caves or rock-shelters in the immediate vicinity, which could contain burials or old hearth lenses, which would allow for dating could be carried out – but interesting to consider whether this find marks a new Neanderthal site, and whether there is any connection with others in the Levant or even as far away as Dahe in China, where tools comparable with the European Mousterian were found, dating to between 36,000 and 44,000 bp.
p.s. Abu Dhabi has of course, in the guise of various members of her royal family, has featured in recent articles on this blog, with regard to the Hadzabe land saga, which although not strictly relevant to this story, I thought was worth mentioning in passing, if only to serve as a reminder of the situation in Tanzania.
see also: Abu Dhabi Islands Archaeological Survey