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Near East Kingdoms

Early Cultures


Ahmarian Culture (Upper Palaeolithic) (Near East)
c.46,000 - 42,000 BC

The Near East's Ahmarian was an Upper Palaeolithic (Late Old Stone Age) culture of the Levant which developed out of the earlier Emireh. It has often been regarded as a precursor of the proto-Aurignacian (the early Upper Palaeolithic in Europe) in arguments which support the occurrence of a cultural spread in association with the dispersal of Homo sapiens from the Levant into Europe.

The contemporary Bohunician in Europe bore similarities, unsurprisingly as it serves to express the presence there of the first pockets of modern human habitation. In fact, the Ahmarian has been claimed as the bedrock of all subsequent human expansion across the world after the initial stages of adapting to life outside of Africa. That's hardly realistic, of course, as humans had already reached as far afield as Australia by this date, but it could have been highly influential to all connected cultures.

Recent studies show that there is a significant degree of variability in the Early Ahmarian between the northern and southern Levant. One theory, proposed by Kadowaki et al, postulates that the southern Early Ahmarian appeared later than the northern Early Ahmarian with little or no overlap.

The same team offers a scenario in which the Early Ahmarian could have fed into the proto-Aurignacian before the southern Early Ahmarian even appeared. If that hypothesis is substantiated then the structural model for early Levant cultures may need to be reconsidered, although probably not to any great extent.

The culture name comes from the Israeli type site of Erq el-Ahmar (which can also be shown as Erk el Ahmar). This Judean Desert rock shelter is located in the northern Dead Sea rift area. It was explored and excavated in 1951 by the French prehistorian, René Neuville, although the Ahmarian has only been recognised as a distinctive culture since the 1980s.

Before that it was classed as 'Phase II Upper Palaeolithic' or 'Ksar Akil Phase B'. Later phases of the Ahmarian can be sub-grouped under the Masraqan label. It was succeeded in the Levant by the Antelian culture.

Ahmarian tools

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from Stone Tools in the Palaeolithic and Neolithic Near East: A Guide, John J Shea (Cambridge University Press, 2013), and from External Links: 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 Selected Figures from Chapter 5. Upper Palaeolithic, John J Shea (Excerpt from Stone Tools in the Palaeolithic and Neolithic Near East: A Guide, available via Academia.edu).)

c.46,000 BC

While a general date of 40,000-30,000 BC can certainly apply to the Emireh culture, it has been assigned dates which stretch back as far as 100,000 BC as researchers attempt to get it to cover the entirety of early Homo sapiens presence in the Levant.

How the Ahmarian culture of the Levant fits into that is not yet fully clear. If the Emireh's general dates are to be used then the Ahmarian comes first, but otherwise it cam be seen as a development of the Emireh which occurred during the latter part of the Interpleniglacial (or Middle Würm glaciation), one of several short-lived Initial Upper Palaeolithic (IUP) cultures.

Ahmarian stone tools
A typical tool to be found at Ahmarian sites is the el-Wad point, a blade or bladelet which is made of flint and which has an additional, intentional modification, a so-called retouch

c.42,000 BC

Whether or not it is a development out of the Emireh culture or it precedes its emergence, the Ahmarian now fades out while the Emireh certainly continues onwards. That in turn is eventually succeeded by the Levantine Aurignacian.

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