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Fernández-Jalvo, J., King, T., Andrews, P., Yepiskoposyan, L., Moloney, N, Murray, J., Domínguez-Alonso, P., Asryan, L., Ditchfield, P., van der Made, J., Torres, T., Sevilla, P., Nieto Díaz, M., Cáceres, I., Allué, E., Marín Monfort, M.D. & Sanz Martín T.
Journal Of Human Evolution
The Azokh Cave complex: Middle Pleistocene to Holocene human occupation in the Caucasus.
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Azokh Cave is located near the village of the same name in the Nagorno-Karabagh region of the south-eastern part of the Lesser Caucasus (3937.09’ N and 4659.19’ E, 962 metres –a.s.l.). Azokh Cave and other relevant Acheulian sites in the Caucasus (Fig. 1) were described by Lioubine (2002). Together with Mousterian sites (Klein, 1969, 1999; Hoffecker and Cleghorn, 2000; Hoffecker, 2002; Stringer and Andrews, 2005) and sites producing evidence of the Middle-Late Palaeolithic transition (Joris and Adler 2008), the Caucasus region has provided evidence of continuous human settlement of the area throughout the Pleistocene. The geographical location of these sites indicates the persistence of a natural corridor that Lioubine (2002) named the ‘Caucasus isthmus’ and which we describe as the Trans-Caucasian corridor.Based on a geological survey of Quaternary deposits in collaboration with the Armenian Academy of Sciences (Fernández-Jalvo et al., 2004; King et al., 2003), we observe that the topography of the area has changed considerably due to tectonic compression and periglacial isostasy. This is in agreement with estimations by GPS studies (Mosar, 2006, Mosar et al., 2007) and ESR (Gru¨n et al., 1999) that establishedan uplift rate of12 to14 mm/year or 0.8–1.0 cm/year, respectively. The corridor has changed greatly since the middle Pleistocene, with uplift and erosion altering the landscape, but it is likely that passage through the Caucasian mountains has always been possible. The Trans-Caucasian corridor and other routes via Turkey and towards Asia (Bar-Yosef and Belfer-Cohen, 2001) weremigration pathways during the Pleistocene.Fossil humans in the Caucasian area are scarce. The site of Dmanisi in Georgia yielded the earliest known Eurasian hominins (1.7 Ma, Gabunia et al., 2000; Rightmire et al., 2006; Martinon-Torres et al., 2008). Late surviving Neanderthals are present at several sites: Mezmaiskaya Cave, in the Northern Caucasus of Russia (30 ka, Skinner et al., 2005), provided remains of late surviving Neanderthals; a mandible of a 2–3 year old Neanderthal child was found at Barakay Cave (North Caucasus; Lubin et al., 2002). Two incisor fragments and one premolar from Kudaro I may be human (Lioubine, 2002). In this context, Azokh Cave fills an important temporal gap. Azokh Cave contains a nearly continuous stratigraphic section from >300 ka to the present, and mandible fragments of Homo heidelbergensis found at the site (Kasimova, 2001) represent the easternmost extent of this species. Here we review the finds of this long forgotten site and present results of our recent work.,
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