Ex Oriente Lux: New Zooarchaeological Insights on Late Pleistocene Subsistence Strategies at Ghar-e Boof (Southern Zagros)

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URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10900/150922
Dokumentart: PhDThesis
Date: 2026-01-26
Language: English
Faculty: 7 Mathematisch-Naturwissenschaftliche Fakultät
Department: Geographie, Geoökologie, Geowissenschaft
Advisor: Conard, Nicholas (Prof. Dr.)
Day of Oral Examination: 2024-01-26
DDC Classifikation: 550 - Earth sciences
Other Keywords:
Zagros Mountains, Pleistocene, Upper Paleolithic, Middle Paleolithic, Prey Choice Model, Site Occupation intensity
License: http://tobias-lib.uni-tuebingen.de/doku/lic_ohne_pod.php?la=de http://tobias-lib.uni-tuebingen.de/doku/lic_ohne_pod.php?la=en
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Dissertation ist gesperrt bis 26.01.2026 !


The Zagros Mountains lie not far away from the junction of Africa, southwestern Asia, and Europe. During the late Pleistocene, the presence of rich archaeological and paleoanthropological records has confirmed that during the Late Pleistocene, these mountains and their valleys constituted biographic corridors and migration routes for different groups of hominins, including Neanderthals and Anatomically Modern Humans (AMHs). Despite the strategic location of the southern Zagros of Iran, alongside the Mesopotamian plains and the Persian Gulf, the region has remained considerably understudied in comparison to the central and northern Zagros. Since 2004, the Tübingen-Iranian Stone Age Research Project (TISARP) team has focused on investigating and documenting the Paleolithic record of the Dasht-e Rostam region, in Fars Province (Iran). Excavations at Ghar-e Boof have revealed one of the longest Pleistocene sequences in the Zagros Mountains, which ranges from ca. 81 to 35 kya, and has demonstrated the potential of the southern Zagros to provide new insights on settlement dynamics, techno-cultural adaptations, and the timing of Middle and Upper Paleolithic transition. Yet, little is known about the foraging conditions and subsistence strategies of the MP and early UP hominins that lived across the region. Here I summarize the results of the zooarchaeological and taphonomic analyses of the Late Pleistocene faunal assemblages from Ghar-e Boof in order to reconstruct the paleoenvironment and hominin subsistence strategies, and examine changes in prey choice and site occupation intensity through time. In addition, I discuss the archaeological implications of my investigation within the context of the Middle-to-Upper Paleolithic transition across Eurasia. Based on the representation of small vertebrate taxa and their ecological requirements, the landscape surrounding Ghar-e Boof was mainly dominated by warm, dry conditions, open meadows, and rocky slopes. Despite the aridity, there were also some water sources nearby, and the vegetation cover consisted mostly of grass and shrubs. Even though the environmental conditions of the Zagros are very diverse due to their complex topography, the available paleoenvironmental evidence from the region indicates that both MP and UP hominins inhabited and exploited similar mosaic environments across the entire range of the Zagros Mountains. Changes in the small mammal record of Ghar-e Boof point to a shift towards colder and/or dryer conditions around 48-45 kya, which seems to be coeval with the Heinrich event 5, and may have impacted demographic turnovers and cultural adaptations regionally. I also demonstrated that the different hominins that occupied Ghar-e Boof during the Late Pleistocene maximized their foraging efforts by targeting the higher-ranked prey available in the nearby landscape, namely caprines. MP and UP foragers also harvested tortoises and hunted gazelles for dietary purposes, and on occasion they exploited carnivores, most likely for their pelts. Although there is no unequivocal evidence for the use of small, fast-moving prey during the MP at Ghar-e Boof, early UP Rostamian hunter-gatherers did hunt partridges, and possibly fish. My research has shown that even if hominins relied mainly on ungulates to meet their daily nutritional demands of meat and marrow during the MP and early UP, their animal subsistence practices were more diversified than previously recognized in the Zagros. The use of different types of prey and resources allowed people of different sexes, ages, and diverse skills to actively contribute to the subsistence economy of the group. From a diachronic perspective, the exploitation of lower-ranked animals, mostly partridges, relative to small, slow-moving, or easy-to-capture tortoises increased over time. The shift in prey choice does not appear to be the result of environmental changes. Additionally, the adoption of a new technology and more efficient procurement methods might have lowered the capture costs of partridges. However, there is also an increase in site occupation intensity over the sequence, which can be tied to either larger groups of people living at the site, longer periods of occupation, more frequent visits, or a combination of some, if not all, of these possibilities. Changes in occupation intensity and subsistence strategies at Ghar-e Boof are consistent with resource intensification due to population growth and higher hunting pressures during the early UP, similar to what many scholars have suggested for other parts of Eurasia, such as the Levant and the Balkans. Thus, my research evinces the complex interplay of shifts in demography, technology, socioeconomic decisions, mobility, and occupational patterns that accompanied the onset of the early UP cultural traditions and the definitive arrival of AMHs across the Zagros Mountains and the rest of Eurasia.

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