Early Upper Paleolithic shell beads at üçaĝi{dotless}zli{dotless} Cave I (Turkey): Technology and the socioeconomic context of ornament life-histories

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Abstract

Ten early Upper Paleolithic layers in üçaĝi{dotless}zli{dotless} Cave I (41-29 uncalibrated ky BP) on the Hatay coast of southern Turkey preserve a rich and varied record of early Upper Paleolithic life, including the production and use of large numbers of shell ornaments. This study examines shell bead production, use, and discard in relation to site function and the diversity of on-site human activities. Four factors are expected to contribute to variation in the ornament assemblages, one environmental and three behavioral. The behavioral factors relate to winnowing for quality as a function of distance from the raw material source, changes in the size of user groups, and symbol standardization. The accumulation rates for shell beads, bones, and stone tools paralleled one another through time, indicating that ornament discard followed the pulse of daily life at this site. All stages of manufacture and use are well represented in each assemblage, and half or more of the ornaments show evidence of extended use. Changes in the local marine environment do not explain much of the variation in the assemblages, pointing instead to behavioral causes. The richness of shell types that were collected as raw material correlates to greater exploitation of edible marine shellfish and greater occupation intensity. Much of this variation in the ornament raw material was eliminated during the manufacture stage, almost certainly reflecting the influence of cultural norms. A focus on basket-shaped shells changed remarkably little over thousands of years, despite significant changes in other domains of technology. This last result suggests that beads were the most irreducible and conservative elements of more complex design traditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)380-398
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of human evolution
Volume64
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2013

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Keywords

  • Shell ornaments
  • Taphonomy
  • Technological experiments
  • Zooarchaeology
  • üçaĝizli

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Anthropology

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