Questions of Complexity and Scale in Explanations for Cultural Transitions in the Pleistocene: A Case Study from the Early Upper Paleolithic

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Matching scales of observation and explanation is an essential challenge for archaeology, Paleolithic archaeology in particular. This paper presents a case study from the Early Upper Paleolithic (EUP) in the Eastern Mediterranean to illustrate some of the scalar issues in explaining transitions in the Pleistocene. The cultural sequence at Üçaǧi{dotless}zli{dotless} Cave I documents both continuity and change in a range of behaviors over approximately 12 ky. The sequence spans the transition from one EUP cultural unit, the Initial Upper Paleolithic (IUP) to another one, the Ahmarian. There is evidence for changes in lithic technology and retouched tool forms, human diets, and the role of the site within a regional land use system, but few if any of these changes are closely timed with the shift from one archaeological "culture" to another. In this particular case, local and regional transitions seem to be largely unconnected. However, considering the local situations allows a more precise focus on what the broader cultural transition represents and how it might be studied.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)194-211
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Archaeological Method and Theory
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 2013



  • Complex systems
  • Emergent properties
  • Scale
  • Transitions
  • Upper Paleolithic

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology

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