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Near East Kingdoms

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Early Levant

FeatureThe system which has evolved to catalogue the various archaeological expressions of human progress is one which involves cultures. For well over a century, archaeological cultures have remained the framework for global prehistory. The earliest cultures which emerge from Africa and the Near East are perhaps the easiest to catalogue, right up until human expansion reaches the Americas. The task of cataloguing that vast range of human cultures is covered in the related feature (see link, right).

MapThe region's earliest cultures are perhaps the easiest to catalogue, starting with the near-universally widespread Mousterian culture which reached Africa and Europe, immediate predecessor of the first wholly Homo sapiens-driven cultures, the Baradostian and Emireh. The latter is especially interesting as it charts human progress after around 25,000 BC, roughly around the time at which the most recent ice age was building to a peak (very severely in Europe and less so in Central Asia, although routes into Siberia and the Americas would long remain difficult to access - see map link, right, for more on Europe's ice age), and around the time at which the last of Europe's Neanderthals were dying out. Now humans had no cultural competition except from other humans, provided of course that they could survive another 15,000 years of ice age.

IndexThe Emireh has no recognisable African influences, potentially making it the Levant's first home-grown culture. Furthermore, it is generally seen as a transition culture which bridged the gap between the Neanderthal-originated Mousterian and later, wholly Homo sapiens cultures. The similar and contemporary Bohunician in Europe has the same footing. It is also central to the idea of a Levantine corridor through which early human groups accessed Europe from around 40,000 BC (or perhaps a little earlier). However, a good deal of debate and disagreement about the Emireh's precise role, nature, and timeline remains after many decades of disagreement. Although it was eventually succeeded by the Ahmarian culture, its influences can also be seen in the subsequent Levantine Aurignacian, the first of a series of specifically Levantine cultures (see the 'Prehistoric World' index for information on pre-modern human Earth, via the link on the right).

Anatolian relief

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from Makers of the Early Aurignacian of Europe, Steven E Churchill & Fred H Smith (Yearbook of Physical Anthropology Vol 43:61-115 (2000)), from The Palaeolithic Prehistory of the Zagros-Taurus, Harold L Dibble, and from External Links: Encyclopaedia Britannica, and Encyclopaedia of Human Evolution and Prehistory, Second Edition, N Benco, A S Brooks, E Delson, C Kramer, & J J Shea (PDF Extract, 2000), and Makers of the Early Aurignacian of Europe, Steven E Churchill & Fred H Smith (2000).)

Levantine Aurignacian / Antelian Culture (Upper Palaeolithic)
c.30,000 - 18,000 BC

The Emireh culture which terminated as the Levantine Aurignacian replaced it had no recognisable African influences, potentially making it the Levant's first home-grown culture. Furthermore, and like the contemporary Bohunician in Europe, it is generally seen as a transition culture which bridged the gap between the Neanderthal-originated Mousterian and later, wholly Homo sapiens cultures. Although it was eventually succeeded by the Ahmarian culture, its influences can also be seen in the Levantine Aurignacian, which set the scene for a series of specifically Levantine cultures.

The Emireh is also central to the idea of a Levantine corridor through which groups of modern human first accessed Europe, from around 40,000 BC (or perhaps a little earlier), despite good deal of debate and disagreement remaining about this idea. The Levantine region was still closely connected to the European influx which is why both have an Aurignacian culture. It has been proposed that the Levantine Aurignacian was the result of the European version feeding back along the migratory route, but this is far from agreed amongst the experts, and the reverse is just as likely to be true.

The process of migration into Europe via the Levant would have continued through the Levantine Aurignacian period and the associated Antelian culture. This was an Upper Palaeolithic (Late Old Stone Age) culture in the Levant which evolved out of the Ahmarian. The Antelian name has now fallen out of favour, however, with the Levantine Aurignacian being used to describe both the Upper Antelian and Lower Antelian periods before this overall phase was succeeded by the Kebaran culture.

Aurignacian tools from southern France

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from Makers of the Early Aurignacian of Europe, Steven E Churchill & Fred H Smith (Yearbook of Physical Anthropology Vol 43:61-115 (2000)), from Stone Tools in the Palaeolithic and Neolithic Near East: A Guide, John J Shea (Cambridge University Press, 2013), Variability in Early Ahmarian lithic technology, Seiji Kadowaki, Takayuki Omori, & Yoshihiro Nishiaki (Journal of Human Evolution, Vol 82, May 2015, pp 67-87, and available via Science Direct), and from External Links: Encyclopaedia Britannica, and Encyclopaedia of Human Evolution and Prehistory, Second Edition, N Benco, A S Brooks, E Delson, C Kramer, & J J Shea (PDF Extract, 2000), and Makers of the Early Aurignacian of Europe, Steven E Churchill & Fred H Smith (2000).)