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Near East Kingdoms

Early Cultures


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

The Near East's long-lived Emireh culture in the Levant faded as the Levantine Aurignacian replaced it. The earlier culture 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 may have spawned the relatively short-lived Ahmarian culture, the Emireh's 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 48,000 BC, despite good deal of debate and disagreement remaining about this idea.

The Levantine region is 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 despite the long gap between the two (twelve thousand years, suggesting a degree of survival under another cultural label).

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 eventually succeeded by the Kebaran culture around 18,000 BC.

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), from 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 (700 pages), 2000), and Makers of the Early Aurignacian of Europe, Steven E Churchill & Fred H Smith (2000).)

c.30,000 BC

The Levantine Aurignacian emerges as the successor to the long-lived Emireh culture, while perhaps also inheriting elements of the now-defunct Ahmarian culture, both of which are Levantine cultures.

The culture can be divided into two phases, with a site in Manot Cave providing firm evidence of both. These are indicated by a change in bladelet production methods and morphology, alongside an increase in the significance of the bladelet component within the flint assemblage, the disappearance of composite osseous industries, and a steep decrease in mollusc shell representation in the late occupation phase.

An artist's depiction of Aurignacian people
This artist's recreation of people of the European Aurignacian - one of a series by Tom Björklund - includes some guesswork regarding hair styles and ornamentation, while even the precise skin tone is still a matter of debate although all his choices are reasonable and with some small connection at least to the available evidence in cave paintings and archaeology

(Skin tone is unlikely to have changed much at all this close to man's first departure from the Near East into Europe, although perhaps ten or twenty thousand years of Near East habitation may already have lightened it beyond this level)

c.18,000 BC

The Near East's Levantine Aurignacian and its absorbed Antelian components now fade out. Changes and improvements in stone industries in the Levant now produce the succeeding Kebaran culture.

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