Upper Paleolithic Sequence


LAYERS B, B1-B3, C - Early Ahmarian

Layer B is a thick deposit of orange-red terra rosa clay which washed into the cave from outside, probably through a hole in the roof. Layers B1-B3 contain clay mixed with large quantities of well preserved ash and other anthropogenic (human deposited) material. In some places the ash is soft and powdery, but in other areas water dripping from the roof has turned it into something like cement (and just as difficult to excavate). Layer C is another thick level of fairly pure clay. Radiocarbon dates range from 28,000 to 33,000 (uncalibrated or radiocarbon years) before present.


Layers B1 and B3 are especially rich in cultural materials, including bones, shell, and stone artifacts. More than 1500 retouched stone artifacts have been recovered to date. The most common tool forms are endscrapers. Retouched, pointed blades (Image #1, Image #2) are also quite common and take a wide variety of forms. Burins are very scarce. Layers B-B3 are also typified by a well-developed blade technology that utilized soft-hammer or indirect percussion and bidirectional cores. The stone artifacts from layers B-B3 most closely resemble "early Ahmarian" material from layer XVII at the site of Ksar ‘Akil (Lebanon). While he assemblage from layer C clearly falls within the definition of the early Ahmarian, it has several distinctive elements, including small discoid cores. Other finds from layers B-B3 include large pitted anvil stones and hammers, which could have been used for working flint or cracking open nuts or shellfish. Bone tools are not very numerous but include small awls or needles as well as larger pointed objects.

Layer B Pitted Anvil
Layer B Pitted Hammer
Layers B Points


Beads and pendants of marine mollusk shell are extremely common in layers B-B3. A unique find is the claw of a very large bird (vulture or eagle) that has been notched, probably to be used as a pendant. A large number of beads made from shells of Theodoxus jordanii were found in Layer C, a mollusk that prefers brackish or fresh water. The Ahmarian ornament assemblages are away the largest known from any early Upper Paleolithic site in the eastern Mediterranean region.


Another very unusual discovery in the Ahmarian is a low wall of stones, enclosing an area of especially ashy sediments along the back wall of the cave. The function of this feature is unclear. The stone alignment may have been used as a windbreak, to contain soft vegetation for bedding, or to secure the base of a smoking pit for curing meat.


The collections of animal bones from layers B-B3 are dominated by terrestrial herbivores, including roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) fallow deer (Dama mesopotamica) and wild goat (Capra aegegris). Remains of larger ungulates such as red deer (C ervus elaphus), Bos primegenius, as well as bears and pigs are present in small numbers. Two varieties of marine mollusk, limpets (Patella) and turbans (Monodonta) were also consumed in large edible quantities. Terrestrial small game animals, particularly birds, are present in significant numbers. Sparse remains of large marine fish suggest that these animals were sometimes eaten as well.


Micromorphological analyses indicate that the thicker ash deposits in layers B1-B3 were not formed as a result of burning in place. Instead, these thick lenses appear to be secondary deposits where cooled ashes were thrown. In fact, the richness of the deposits in these layers is due to the fact that much of area excavated had served as a dumping area or midden. The sheer volume of these dumps suggests that they represent substantial, long-term occupations.


Ash Deposits

LAYERS D – E. Transitional assemblages

Layer E is a massive deposit of red terra rosa clay, whereas Layer D is almost pure ash. Layer D varies in thickness from more than 20 cm to just a few millimeters. The thickness of layer E also varies across the excavation area. We know less about layers D are E than about the strata above and below them, because archaeological materials are relatively sparse in these deposits, suggesting that humans spent relatively little time in the cave during the formation of these layers. However, it does seem that layers C-E document a relatively smooth technological transition between the Initial Upper Paleolithic of layers F-H and the early Ahmarian of the B series. Technological indicators as well as the proportions of tool types seem to show a gradual change in stone tools and manufacture techniques. The lithic assemblages have some unique features that distinguish them from earlier and later deposits. As in other layers, large game animals are the most abundant food species. Marine shellfish first became a more important source of food over phases in which these strata were deposited.


Layers F – I. Initial Upper Paleolithic

Layers F, G, H and I are marked by a complex series of depositional events that produced anthropogenic as well as terra rosa clay layers. Layers F and H have been subdivided into sub-units (F1, H3, etc) based on small-scale variation in the anthropogenic content. Traces of human presence in layer I are confined to the top 20 cm: below that is more than 1.5 m of massive clay containing very sparse cultural material.


A series of AMS radiocarbon dates place layers G though I between 38,000 and 41,000 uncalibrated radiocarbon years before present. It is well known that the radiocarbon technique underestimates the true age of samples in this time range by between 2000 and 6000 years, however, so the true (calendar) age of the earliest Upper Paleolithic deposits at Üçağızlı Cave is likely between 41,000 and 45,000 years. Dates for layer F (34-34,5000 BP) present a chronologic reversal compared to the overlying layer E (36-37,000 BP). We have yet to resolve this anomaly, but it is not uncommon in radiocarbon determinations of this time period.


The stone artifacts from layers F through I exhibit a combination of Middle and Upper Paleolithic features. Some researchers have termed similar assemblages "transitional", though we prefer the term Initial Upper Paleolithic. The retouched tools are mainly Upper Paleolithic types, especially endscrapers and burins. Some typical Middle Paleolithic forms such as sidescrapers and Mousterian points are also found. Many tool blanks as well as blades, points, and flakes were manufactured using techniques that preserve features of Middle Paleolithic Levallois technology. These pieces possess broad faceted platforms and complex dorsal scar patterns typical of Levallois, although cores from layers F-I show that the actual methods of production were by no means typical. Layer I also yielded a number of chanfreins (Image #1, Image #2, Image #3). These artifacts are a fossil directeur for the earliest UP or transitional industries of the northern Levant. The assemblages from layers F though I at Üçağızlı I cave closely resemble materials from layer XXI at Ksar ‘Akil, as well as Bohunician material from central Europe.

Layer I Chanfrein
Layer I Chanfrein Flakes

Shell beads are common even in the earliest layers at Üçağızlı I cave . In contrast with the more recent strata, however, up to 90% of the beads are of a single species, Nassarius gibbosula. These artifacts are evidence for one of Eurasia 's earliest ornament-making traditions, of comparable age to early Upper Paleolithic beads from eastern Africa and central Europe. The IUP layers have also yielded a small number of well made bone tools, mainly awls and some larger bone points or pins.


The faunal assemblage from layers F through I consists almost exclusively of terrestrial game animals. Wild bezoar goat (Capra aegagrus) is most common, followed by fallow deer and roe deer. Bones of fallow deer are more common in layer I. There are also significant numbers of wild pig (Sus scrofa), an intelligent and dangerous prey animal. In layer F the bones of fur-bearing carnivores, including fox, wild cat, and otter are fairly numerous. Marine food resources are almost completely absent from layers F, G, and H; products of the sea were used only to make ornaments during these occupations of the cave. The small faunal sample from layer I (the earliest Upper Paleolithic level) does contain some food shells. Small terrestrial game is also present but uncommon in all of the early Upper Paleolithic levels.


The nature of the human occupations in the earliest layers contrasts with more recent strata at Üçağızlı I cave. The early layers are characterized by isolated hearths and small ash dumps separated by clay layers, rather than the massive ash and trash deposits of layers B1-B3. This contrast suggests that the earliest cave occupations were brief and sporadic compared to those represented by the upper layers.


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Statigraphic Sequence



Layers B1-B3


Layers B1-B3


Layers B1-B3



























Stone Wall












Micromorphology Sample







Layers D-E





























Layer F, G, & H

Flakes and Blades


Layer F, G, & H



Layer F, G, & H

Scrapers and Burins


Layer I






Nassarius gibbosula



















Layer I Hearth

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