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2005 – 2006

2005 – 2006

A Dating Framework for the Lower and Middle Palaeolithic in Levantine Rivers

[Funded by the Council for British Research in the Levant]

Work was continued on the terraces of the Orontes, SE of Homs, strengthening the precision of height information. This involved ‘ground-truthing’ of digital information prepared in Durham using GIS. Further survey of the same terraces, looking for Palaeolithic evidence, particularly artefacts in situ in cemented gravels, proved moderately successful. Small artefact collections (maximum four pieces) were recovered from a number of lower and medium height terrace gravels stretching from the Arjun terrace up to and including the Bwayda al-Sharqiyya terrace. Photographs of artefacts lying in situ were taken. The collections consist largely of cortical and non-cortical flakes, along with a number of amorphous cores. A single handaxe was identified in conglomerate outcropping from a bluff south of Tir Mala. In the main, these artefacts (including the handaxe) are highly abraded and display signs of iron staining. An exception to this is a pyramidal bladelet core in near mint condition that was recovered from the Arjun quarry. This artefact can be securely dated to the Upper Palaeolithic or later. The present survey demonstrates that at least some of the Palaeolithic artefacts found in the Homs region originate from the terrace gravels.

No artefacts were recovered from within the higher terrace gravels, although dense scatters containing a significant amount of Levallois material was noted in close proximity to some of these deposits. The data imply that these artefact collections represent erstwhile knapping scatters dating to the late Middle Pleistocene for which the Lower Pleistocene gravels served as the raw material source.

Samples of cemented gravel were collected from the various Orontes terraces in the area between Al Qsair and Tir Malafor attempting uranium series dating of the calcite cemente, together with calcite geochemistry, and OSL dating of contained sand grains.

Survey of Terraces of the Euphrates

This involved mapping and recording gravels along the Euphrates valley between the Turkish border and Deir ez-Zor. In part it involved checking earlier French mapping. At selected outcrops the gravel composition was analysed by identifying the lithologies of gravel samples, each of a minimum 250 clasts between 16 and 32 mm sieve size (using square holes cut in stiff cardboard in lieu of test sieves). The results confirmed the highly polygenetic nature of Euphrates gravels, directly comparable with similar data obtained from southern Turkey. This allows main-stream Euphrates gravels to be distinguished from the deposits of local tributaries (asper similar studies in the Orontes carried out in 2003).

Several instances of basalts capping Pleistocene gravels were confirmed and the basalts sampled. These are from Shirrin, Jabal Mankar, Halibiyah, Zalibiyah, and Ayash. Isotopic dating of these lavas using the Ar-Ar method has been undertaken at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts. Publication is in press.