Friday, April 13, 2012

Paleolithic Abydos: Reconstructing Individual Behaviors across the High Desert Landscape

                    Abydos Survey for Paleolithic Sites (Link)

Laurent Chiotti, Shannon R. McPherron, Deborah I. Olszewski, Utsev Schurmans, Harold L. Dibble, Jennifer R. Smith


"Recent work in the high desert of Egypt, near the historic site of Abydos, has revealed a Paleolithic landscape that, in many respects, has remarkable potential for archaeological research. It is a virtually undisturbed landscape with millions of lithic artifacts left as they were discarded tens and even hundreds of thousands of years ago. Furthermore, the extreme stability of the desert surface, coupled with the lack of vegetation, means that the visibility of archaeological materials is nearly one hundred percent complete. Yet, at the same time, the region lacks many kinds of evidence that would normally be considered essential for a comprehensive reconstruction of past behavior. In particular, there are no organic remains and there are no means of grouping materials into assemblages that can be reliably dated. Somewhat ironically, these problems are a result of the very same factors that makes the area so pristine: principally the stability of the desert surface. Thus, the Egyptian high desert is far from being perfect, but the same can be said for most any Paleolithic site or survey area; there are, after all, very few sites like Pompeii, particularly in deep time. The challenge in this case is the same as that faced by every archaeologist—to determine what can be learned from a site or study area and to develop a research design that is most suited to its potential. In this article we will present some of the results to date that illustrate the archaeological potential of the high desert for Paleolithic research, focusing on the discovery of several lithic knapping events that demonstrate the undisturbed nature of this area and which also are revealing insights into Middle and Upper Paleolithic behaviors on this landscape."

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