The University of Arizona

Chronology of the Obi-Rakhmat Grotto (Uzbekistan): First Results on the Dating and Problems of the Paleolithic Key Site in Central Asia

A I Krivoshapkin, Y V Kuzmin, A J T Jull

Abstract


The Obi-Rakhmat Grotto is one of the key Paleolithic sites in Central Asia. Archaeological excavations have revealed 22 strata containing archaeological materials. Lithic assemblages from all cultural layers display features similar to both late Middle Paleolithic blade industries and early Upper Paleolithic complexes in Southwest Asia and the Siberian Altai Mountains; this suggests a gradual Middle-to-Upper Paleolithic transition occurred in western Central Asia. Hominid remains found at Obi-Rakhmat (layer 16) show a mixture of archaic and modern traits. Different chronometric methods (radiocarbon, optically stimulated luminescence [OSL], U-series, and electron spin resonance [ESR]) were applied to the site's deposits. It appears that 14C dates are more reliable in terms of correspondence to the general framework of the Paleolithic of Central Asia and neighboring regions, and after critical analysis and the deletion of outliers, the upper part of the site's cultural sequence can be dated between 36,000-41,400 BP (layer 7) and ~48,800 BP (layer 14.1). The U-series dating results are less secure due to the high uranium content and the presence of detritus, which contaminates dated sediments (travertine). The OSL dating gave uniform ages for all cultural succession (~8 m of deposits), and confirms a very rapid sedimentation rate. Results of ESR dating depend greatly on the choice of uptake model. Dates calculated for the early uptake to some extent correspond to 14C data. The linear uptake chosen by Skinner et al. (2007) makes sediments very old (about 55,000-90,000 yr ago), which contradicts 14C dates and does not correspond well to the regional archaeological context.

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