Aaron Stutz

Grant Type

Post PhD Research Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Emory U.

Grant number

Gr. 9358

Approve Date

October 5, 2016

Project Title

Stutz, Dr. Aaron J., Oxford College of Emory U., Oxford, GA - To aid research on 'In Camp and Out: Tracing Environmental Context and Human Activity Patterns in and Around the Early Upper Paleolithic Mughr el-Hamamah Site, Jordan'

Preliminary abstract: The Early Upper Paleolithic period (ca. 45-30 thousand years ago) encompasses Neandertal extinction and a decisive dispersal of anatomically modern human (AMH) populations in Eurasia. The state of knowledge about when and why AMH-Neandertal turover occurred in the Levant–which critically connects Africa with western Eurasia–has been thrown into turmoil with recent finds. We lack a comprehensive account of why Early Upper Paleolithic technologies–including flint blade production, the more frequent use of bone tools, and the widespread use of tools such as endscrapers and burins–were adopted in this period of biological change. Mughr el-Hamamah (Ajloun Governate, Jordan) is the first cave site to be found with substantial Early Upper Paleolithic deposits in the ecologically rich Jordan Valley since Francis Turville-Petre investigated Emireh Cave in 1925. Preliminary work has documented a remarkable abundance of botanical traces, including charred wood and fruit phytoliths. Radiocarbon dates confirm that the single Early Upper Paleolithic layer spans ca. 45-39 thousand years ago. This proposal outlines planned excavation of three small, especially well-preserved areas of the Early Upper Paleolithic layer in Mughr el-Hamamah, using a recovery protocol involving flotation and careful nested dry screening of 50% of the sediment. This intensive recovery approach aims to make the Early Upper Paleolithic utilization of plant food, tool, fuel, and other resources more fully visible, along with other more durable traces of off-site and on-site hunter-gatherer activities–and the climatic and ecological context in which they occurred. The proposed work will yield new methods and an archaeological source of comparison for understanding what human activity patterns were changing in this critical timeframe, why they changed, and how they were connected to social interactions and demographic dispersal.