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Thread: Upper Paleolithic Cultural Diversity in the Iranian Zagros Mountains

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    Upper Paleolithic Cultural Diversity in the Iranian Zagros Mountains

    "This paper aims to understand the cultural diversity among the first modern human populations in the Iranian Zagros and the implications of this diversity for evolutionary and ecological models of human dispersal through Eurasia. We use quantitative data and technotypological attributes combined with physiogeographic information to assess if the Zagros Upper Paleolithic (UP) developed locally from the Middle Paleolithic (MP), as well as to contextualize the variation in lithics from four UP sites of Warwasi, Yafteh, Pasangar, and Ghār-e Boof. Our results demonstrate (1) that the Zagros UP industries are intrusive to the region, and (2) that there is significant cultural diversity in the early UP across different Zagros habitat areas, and that this diversity clusters in at least three groups. We interpret this variation as parallel developments after the initial occupation of the region shaped by the relative geotopographical isolation of different areas of the Zagros, which would have favored different ecological adaptations. The greater similarity of lithic traditions and modes of production observed in the later phases of the UP across all sites indicates a marked increase in inter-group contact throughout the West-Central Zagros mountain chain. Based on the chronological and geographical patterns of Zagros UP variability, we propose a model of an initial colonization phase leading to the emergence of distinct local traditions, followed by a long phase of limited contact among these first UP groups. This has important implications for the origins of biological and cultural diversity in the early phases of modern human colonization of Eurasia. We suggest that the mountainous arc that extends from Anatolia to the Southern Zagros preserves the archaeological record of different population trajectories. Among them, by 40 ka, some would have been transient, whereas others would have left no living descendants. However, some would have led to longer term local traditions, including groups who share ancestry with modern Europeans and modern East/Southeast Asians."

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    Interesting conclusions. Who could that intrusive industry be? I'd bet on the arrival of ANE-rich populations from Central Asia, considering that Basal Eurasian ancestry was already widespread as far north as Georgia (Dzudzuana) by the early LGM. I wonder if all that cultural diversity (and presumably also ethnic diversity) was maintained up to the early Neolithic era or was totally diluted by a regional homogeneization process during the later phase of the UP, in which they say "a marked increase in inter-group contact" and "greater similarity of lithic traditions and modes of production" occurred. Would they have also mixed genetically in such an extensive way that we can really talk of one big Iran_Neolithic cluster without significant genetic substructure? I have always "felt" it was unlikely that the Iran_Neolithic spread just one language family, or even that they were all totally homogeneous culturally and genetically.

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    Thus, at a regional level, the UP of the Zagros could chronologically derive from the Early Ahmarian of the Levant, which itpostdates, but this hypothesis has limited support in the technotypology of these industries. Some of the Zagros UP industries(Rostamian, and presumably, the early UP at Warwasi) predate theUP of the Caucasus, but the latter also lacks particular affinities tothe Zagros traditions. The chronology of the Zagros UP is broadlycontemporaneous with the European Aurignacian and does notsupport an origin of this widespread industry in the area. TheZagros UP shares features with the Levantine Aurignacian, such asan emphasis on twisted bladelets, which similar to the UP of theCaucasus, has been considered an intrusive industry. Together withthe lack of evidence for the in situ development of local UP traditions from the Zagros Mousterian, this suggests that the Zagros UPlikely reflect East-West regional population movements andcontacts.
    So same old 'eastern' hypothesis. This begs the question, since the earliest UP transitioners (Oase, Ust-Ishim) went extinct, where did the Sungir and Goyet populations come from? For the latter my guess would be Turkey/Levant, but Sungir is more difficult. Indus? Where did they converge with Tianyuan to form ANE/Siberian?

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