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J Hum Evol. 2012 Jan;62(1):89-103. doi: 10.1016/j.jhevol.2011.10.010. Epub 2011 Dec 2.

Chronology of the Middle to Upper Palaeolithic transition at Abric Romaní, Catalunya.

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Anthropology Department, Center for the Advanced Study of Human Paleobiology, The George Washington University, 2110 G Street NW, Washington, DC 20052, United States.


This paper presents new data from Abric Romaní, a key site in the region of Catalunya, northeastern Iberia, which is central to discussions of the transition between the Middle and Upper Palaeolithic in Europe. Until now, the Mid-Upper Paleolithic transition had been dated at the site through samples from the remaining baulk sections of levels A and B (typologically classified as 'earliest Aurignacian' and Mousterian, respectively) at the rear of the rockshelter, which were left from excavations in the late 1900s and early 1910s. We dated samples of bone and charcoal from these remnant sections with accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) methods. We also analysed several humanly-modified artefacts (bone points and perforated shells) excavated from other areas of the same layers. From the initial series, we obtained ages of c. 20 ka BP (thousands of years before present); much younger than expected if they indeed dated to the early Upper Palaeolithic. We sampled additional material to test the robustness of these initial ages, and older determinations that were more comparable with the chronology outlined by Bischoff et al. (1988, 1994) resulted. All of the old and new results have been compared in a Bayesian model using the new INTCAL09 (14)C calibration dataset. The results appear to confirm the suggestion of some researchers (e.g., Zilhão and d'Errico, 1999) that there was no Aurignacian in the north of Iberia until c. 36,500 BP. The chronometric model shows a good level of agreement between the radiocarbon and U-series chronologies previously obtained, and the new results published in this paper.

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