Archaeologists uncover clues about Paleolithic humans in southern Iran

December 28, 2021 - 18:28

TEHRAN – A team of archaeologists from Iran and Germany has discovered clues about Paleolithic humans in and near a cave situated some ten kilometers from the ancient city of Shiraz in southern Iran.

Archaeologists have discovered clues about the short-term but intermittent use of the cave by humans in the Late Middle Paleolithic and Early Paleolithic, CHTN reported on Tuesday.

Senior archaeologists Sirus Barfi from the Research Institute of Cultural Heritage & Tourism (RICHT), and Mohsen Zeidi from the University of Tubingen co-direct the stratigraphy project, which is aimed to investigate the order and position of layers of archaeological remains, the report said.

“Some stone tools, plant and animal remains have been found during the second archaeological season on the site, which has yielded very interesting and important preliminary results,” Barfi explained.

Future research by the excavation team will shift the focus on different aspects of the life of hunter-gatherer communities during the Pleistocene, the archaeologist said.

“Nevertheless, our overall discoveries show the short-term but intermittent use of the cave during the Late Middle Paleolithic and Early Paleolithic.”

Fars province, especially the Miankuhi plain of Shiraz in the south of the Zagros Mountains, is one of the first regions in Iran where traces of Paleolithic humans were discovered some 80 years ago, Barfi explained.

A 2019 study published in the Journal of Human Evolution, suggests that Neanderthals were roaming over the Iranian Zagros mountain range between 40 to 70 thousand years ago.

Until the late 20th century, Neanderthals were regarded as genetically, morphologically, and behaviorally distinct from living humans. However, more recent discoveries about this well-preserved fossil Eurasian population have revealed an overlap between living and archaic humans.

Neanderthals lived before and during the last Ice Age of the Pleistocene in some of the most unforgiving environments ever inhabited by humans. They developed a successful culture, with a complex stone tool technology, that was based on hunting, with some scavenging and local plant collection. Their survival during tens of thousands of years of the last glaciation is a remarkable testament to human adaptation.

Zagros mountain range in southwestern Iran, extending northwest-southeast from the border areas of eastern Turkey and northern Iraq to the Strait of Hormuz, is about 990 miles (1,600 km) long and more than 150 miles (240 km) wide. It forms the extreme western boundary of the Iranian plateau, though its foothills to the north and west extend into adjacent countries.

According to Britannica, the oldest rocks in the Zagros range date to Precambrian time (that is, before 541 million years ago), and the Paleozoic Era rocks date to between 541 million and 252 million years ago are found at or near the highest peaks.

Most of the rocks in the mountain range, however, are limestone and shale from the Mesozoic Era (252 million to 66 million years ago) and the Paleogene Period (66 million to 23 million years ago). The range was primarily formed by orogenies (mountain-building episodes) driven by the movement of the Arabian Plate underneath the Eurasian Plate during the Miocene and Pliocene epochs (23 million to 2.6 million years ago).