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The Initial Upper Paleolithic of Northern Mongolia: Site Function, Mobility and Assemblage Plasticity

Author(s): Nicolas Zwyns ; Damien Flas ; Aurora Allshouse ; Johua Noyer ; Kevin Smith

Year: 2017

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Summary

In the broadest sense, the term Initial Upper Paleolithic refers to archaeological assemblages that, without being necessarily ‘transitional’, combine retained Middle Paleolithic and derived Upper Paleolithic features. Here, we present an assemblage that documents such a phenomenon at the site of Tolbor 16, northern Mongolia. Although we suggest that the layer 7b can be assigned to the northeast Asian variant of the IUP, a detailed analysis and the use of a narrow definition highlights some aspects of the technical systems as being subject to functional plasticity. For example, measured frequencies of MP tool types and blade blanks may not exclusively represent an evolutionary stage, but also reflect patterns of recycling and export. With a lack of well-preserved fauna, the lithic assemblage could then be used as a proxy to address issues of preservation bias, spatial distribution and site function. By comparing our results with other examples from the Tolbor Valley and from Siberia, we discuss how settlement patterns influence our understanding of the IUP phenomenon and its evolution. Our observations suggest that, while plasticity may affect our ability to recognize IUP, the technological structure of lithic assemblages remains surprisingly consistent.


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The Initial Upper Paleolithic of Northern Mongolia: Site Function, Mobility and Assemblage Plasticity. Nicolas Zwyns, Damien Flas, Aurora Allshouse, Johua Noyer, Kevin Smith. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430973)


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Abstract Id(s): 16791

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America