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Tracking the Middle to Upper Palaeolithic transition in the Kermanshah Valley, West Central Zagros Mountains, Iran.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - MUP-Trans-Zagros (Tracking the Middle to Upper Palaeolithic transition in the Kermanshah Valley, West Central Zagros Mountains, Iran.)

Reporting period: 2016-10-01 to 2018-09-30

"The latest genetic analyses concerning human evolution in Eurasia have revealed that our species interbreed with ancient humans including Neandertals and Denisovans at Late Pleistocene even though there are not many fossil and archaeological evidence which show the overlapped times and spaces. Meanwhile, the most debated questions concerning the admixture of modern human and other subpopulations are the interaction between modern humans and Neandertals. These studies show the profound effects of the admixture of Neanderthals and modern humans such as physical appearance or changing our immune system . Geneticists have reported that the contact between these two groups happened most likely during 37–86 kya years ago consistent with late Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 4 to the end of MIS 3. Therefore, during recent years scientists have focused much more on the archaeological evidence relevant to Neanderthals and modern humans’ admixture within the stated time frame and the relevant events like ""overlapping Neanderthals and anatomically modern humans occupations"", ""disappearing of Neanderthals"", ""end of Mousterian technology"", and appearing Upper Palaeolithic technology"". Based on the analysis of 40 key sites from the Levant to Europe, scientists revealed that the end of Mousterian technology and most probably the disappearing of Neanderthals are not limited to specific area and occurred in a period between 41–39 kya in different places across western Eurasia, however, there is sufficient evidence of an overlap range from 2,600 to 5,400 years at 95/4% probability between Neanderthal and anatomically modern humans (AMH) in Europe. A good candidate for testing these hypotheses is the Zagros Region, because of its geographic position in Western Asia and it is diverse and large enough to act as a natural laboratory for the study of human interactions in Pleistocene. In addition, there is significant evidence of the occupations by two population groups of Neanderthals and AMHs throughout this region. The cave of Shanidar in the Northern, Bisetun Cave in the West-Central and Eshkaft-e Gavi Cave in the Southern Zagros Mountains are some of the sites, associated with physical remains of Late Pleistocene hominins. Considering the above-mentioned hypotheses this project entitled ‘Tracking the Middle to Upper Palaeolithic transition in the Kermanshah Valley, West Central Zagros Mountains, Iran' searched for the Middle Palaeolithic to Upper Palaeolithic transition in the Zagros Mountains of Iran, one of the key regions in south-western Asia in line with Neanderthal and modern human contacts. The Zagros Region has been somewhat neglected by Paleoanthropologists and has, so far, played little role in the story of hominin evolution. This situation partly results from the lack of extensive and purposeful Palaeolithic research in the region due to challenging political and logistical conditions."
The most important achievement of the first year was the discovery of a suitable region for investigating of the desired goals. Based on the long-term surveys and investigations in the Zagros Region, a small area was selected for further research. The area called Nawdaran, located in the Kermanshah Province, where it embraces a large number of the Palaeolithic sites under discussion. This research led to the significant discoveries in line with the questions of Neanderthal and AMH contact in the Palaeolithic site of ‘Bawa Yawan’ Rockshelter. The test trench in this site revealed at least five distinct geological horizons and finds include a. parts of Neanderthal skeletal remains in the Middle Palaeolithic layers; b. complete sequences of Late Pleistocene hominin occupation, Epipalaeolithic, Upper Palaeolithic and Middle Palaeolithic periods; c. long archaeological horizon showing two overlap and synchronic occupation by Neanderthals and AMH.
The most significant social achievement in the study area was the discovery of Neanderthal remain in the BawaYawan Rockshelter. Since the discovery of Neanderthal definitive remains for the first time in Iran has taken place this discovery was broadly displayed on local radio and television in Kermanshah province. With the meetings I held with the governor of Kermanshah Province and the chairman of the Cultural Heritage Organization of Kermanshah Province, it was supposed to construct a building close to the Bawa Yawan Rockshelter as a museum. The remains of Neanderthal man are now kept at the Archaeological Museum of Kermanshah Province, but in the near future, this finding will be sent to the Iranian National Museum in Tehran, the Capital of Iran.
Map shows the Zagros Mountains, Kermanshah Region and mentioned sites in the text
Map shows the topographic setting of the Bawa Yawan site and positions of the excavation
Figure shows the 3D model of excavation units and finds
Top Nawdarwan Valley, Razaear River, lower: Bawa Yawan Rockshelter