Hominin survival and lithic procurement strategies at a Pleistocene desert refugium during periods of environmental stress: a case study from Shishan Marsh 1 in the Azraq Basin, Jordan




Beller, Jeremy A.

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A century of intermittent archaeological research in the Azraq Basin of the eastern desert of Jordan has demonstrated that a long period of hominin occupation exists in this environmentally inhospitable region during the Pleistocene. Recent excavations at the site of Shishan Marsh 1 in the Azraq Basin have uncovered several artifact-bearing layers that correspond to the Middle (266 ± 40 kya) and Upper (125 ± 12 kya) Pleistocene. An examination of paleoclimatic data from this period indicates predominantly warm and dry conditions in the region and a gradual reduction of water availability. These factors forced hominins to modify their resource acquisition strategies and exploit the receding spring- and wadi-fed Azraq wetlands. This dissertation investigates the nature of lithic procurement strategies practiced by hominins at Shishan Marsh 1, a Middle-Upper Pleistocene site in the former wetlands, during periods of environmental stress. It involves a provenance analysis of sources within the region and a sample of lithic artifacts from Shishan Marsh 1 through laser ablation-inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS). The results indicate that the artifacts were procured from local and regional sources and likely through embedded procurement in an effort to provision individuals. They further provide insight into the nature of survival within the Azraq Basin, as hominin groups performed tethered mobility whereby they contracted around the Azraq wetlands. In this case, this stable water source operated as a desert refugium for hominins within the Azraq Basin.



hominin occupation, Azraq wetlands, provenance analysis, Pleistocene