Geoarchaeology of the Palaeolithic in the Aegean Basin, Greece: a deposit-centered approach and its implications for the study of hominin biogeography in the Pleistocene
Holcomb, Justin A.
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This dissertation consists of three articles that develop and implement geoarchaeological approaches to the study of hominin biogeography in the Greek islands, a region that may have played a key role during the initial peopling of southeastern Europe in the Middle to Late Pleistocene (770 – 13 ka). The first article addresses the need to find Palaeolithic sites in the Greek islands by reviewing geoarchaeologically informed archaeological surveys that prioritize deposits – Pleistocene sediments and soils – on mainland Greece. I operationalize and implement a four-phase approach for future deposit-centered surveys in the islands. I conclude that future surveys should target geomorphic settings conducive to paleosol preservation, such as in near-shore coastal areas (e.g., uplifted hillslopes and actively eroding alluvial fans) marked by paleo-sea-level-indicators (sea notches, marine terraces, and aeolianites), as well as sediment depo-centers (e.g., internally drained basins) in non-coastal geomorphic settings. The second article develops and employs a multiscalar geoarchaeological approach for investigating and interpreting complex hillslope formation processes at the newly excavated Palaeolithic site of Stelida, located on the island of Naxos, Greece. Here, I integrate traditional geoarchaeological methods (lithostratigraphy, pedostratigraphy, allostratigraphy) with microarchaeological techniques, such as thin-section soil micromorphology and portable x-ray fluorescence spectroscopy (pXRF) to separate sediments and soils aiding in the construction of a stratigraphic framework for Stelida.The third article further develops the method of integrating pXRF and soil micromorphology applied at the site-specific scale. In this article, I developed an Exploratory Spatial Data Analysis (ESDA) method for visualizing geochemistry-facies relationships through the application of pXRF to a resin-impregnated block sample preserving an Archaic (seventh century BCE) ash midden (eschara) from the site of Kalopodi, Greece.This dissertation addresses a primary research effort in Greece’s Aegean Basin (Greek islands): the search for and study of Palaeolithic archaeology dating to Middle and Late Pleistocene. Geoarchaeologically informed research designs, such as deposit-centered surveys in open-air environments, can increase Palaeolithic site inventories for the region by focusing on finding geomorphic settings conducive to paleosol preservation. Moreover, the multi-scalar geoarchaeological approaches here, which integrate sedimentology, pedology, micromorphology, and geochemistry, provide an effective approach for the identification and compositional (mineralogic and geochemical) study of paleosols within those settings.
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