Archived project

TDASP - Tübingen-Damascus Excavation and Survey Project

Goal: This goal of this research project was to understand the Paleolithic settlement in southwestern Syria. Research occurred between 1999 and 2010 and included a large-scale, regional survey, as well as four excavations at Baaz Rockshelter (UP, Epi, Neo), Kaus Kozah Cave (MP, Epi, Neo), Ain Dabbour Cave (Epi) and Wadi Mushkuna Rockshelter (MP, UP, Epi).

With the publication of four articles in 2017, we feel we have achieved our main goals and bring this research to an end:

Bretzke, B., Kandel, A.W. & Conard, N.J. (2017). The Middle Paleolithic sequence of Wadi Mushkuna Rockshelter and its implications for hominin settlement dynamics in western Syria. Quaternary International 435A: 106-114.

Bretzke, B., Kandel, A.W. & Conard, N.J. (2017). Establishing regional sequences: The Qalamunian Upper Paleolithic and its implications for the two-tradition model in the Levant. In: Wojtczak, D., al Najjar, M., Jagher, R., Elsuede, H., Wegmüller, F. & Otte, M. (Eds.) Vocation préhistoire: Hommage à Jean-Marie Le Tensorer. ERAUL 148, Liege, pp. 43-56.

Kandel, A.W., Bretzke, B. & Conard, N.J. (online). Epipaleolithic shell beads from Damascus Province, Syria. Humans and Quaternary environments Levant. Quaternary International. doi.org/10.1016/j.quaint.2017.07.021

Stahlschmidt, M.C., Miller, C.E., Kandel, A.W., Goldberg, P., Conard, N.J. (2017). Site formation processes and Late Natufian domestic spaces at Baaz Rockshelter, Syria: A micromorphological perspective. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 12: 499-514.

Date: 1 January 1999 - 31 December 2010

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Project log

Andrew W. Kandel
added a research item
A joint research programme based at the universities of Munich and Tiibingen focuses on primary animal domestication in the Upper Euphrates Basin. To gain a better understanding ofthe onset of the Neolithic, the project also examines the preceding Palaeolithic ofneighbouring regions. This approach affords afuller picture ofvariability among faunal accumulations in hunter/gatherer contexts and allows us to explore the changes that occurred as the Neolithic began. Westudiedfour Palaeolithic sites in southwestern Syria: Baaz Rockshelter, Kaus Kozah Cave, Ain Dabbour Cave and Wadi Mushkuna Rockshelter. These sites are situated in the central Levant in the foothills ofthe Anti-Lebanon Mountains 40-60 Ian northeast ofDamascus. Here we presents results from Baaz Rockshelter with its especially well preserved stratigraphic sequence beginning with an Early Upper Palaeolithic horizon, followed by Late Upper Palaeolithic, Natufian and Pottery Neolithic layers. In addition to the many parallels with supra-regional trends, the Natufian faunal assemblage also shows clear differences compared to the southern Levant, a region which shows higher percentages of wild sheep and hare. Shifting relative abundances of these species can be interpreted as a result ofeither changed human subsistence behaviour, or as a mere consequence ofenvironmentalparameters. In order to differentiate the osteomorphology, we developed new criteria during the course ofthe study. The identification oftwo different species ofgazelle among the material is noteworthy. The occurrence ofboth Gazella gazella and G. subgutturosa reflects the location of the site in an ecologically transitional area.
Knut Bretzke
added 2 research items
The reconstruction of human behavior is of central interest in archaeological research. Studies concerning this question operate on different levels of spatial resolution. Either patterns on the site level are analyzed or focus is placed on a landscape level. While for the first case a comprehensive methodology exists, there is a lack of specific methods for the latter. Since a decade or so, tools from geography have entered the archaeological community and enable quantitative analysis of the relationship between space and archaeological material. The importance of such studies is given by the possibility to develop hypotheses about past human behavior. As behavior underlies mechanisms of tradition, the use of a given landscape carries the potential to answer questions concerning the relationships between different populations. The present paper introduces a new approach to the analysis of Paleolithic land use. Instead of using archaeological sites and their spatial patterning, the density distribution of single artifacts is regarded to gain information about how the space was used. The study assumes that places with high artifact densities mirror areas preferentially used by a population. 70 Based on the results of the intensive survey work of the Tübingen Damaskus Ausgrabungs-und Survey Projekt (TDASP), this paper presents a model of settlement behavior of Upper Paleolithic populations in western Syria. Beside the identification of the analyzed period in the field, the main challenge was to get spatially continuous information about the artifact density. Due to the method of walking transects and collecting defined areas, the surveys provide punctuated information. Altogether 432 locations could have been included in this study. Hence the artifact density is known for these points in the landscape. Both positive and negative evidence for the Upper Paleolithic was taken into account. By interpolating these points with the Inverse Distance Weighted algorithm (IDW) a map representing the distribution of the artifact density could be created. 13 areas of intense use are visible. With one exception, the maximum distance from one area to the other does not exceed 10 km. Additional analysis based on topography dependent walking distance shows strong spatial tethering to the two known permanent springs. It further suggests that daily activity starts and ends at a base camp. Beside this, the relationship to the Plant Available Water Index (PAW after Drechsler and Bretzke), which assumes that more water available to plants results in a higher density of vegetation, hints at preferred usage of specific parts of the overall settlement space. Based on the activity pattern, a settlement cell of approximately 50 km² is postulated. This limited area reflects the proposed range of a small but highly mobile population of hunters and gatherers.
Simone Riehl
added 3 research items
The role of Iran as a center of origin for domesticated cereals has long been debated. High stratigraphic resolution and rich archaeological remains at the aceramic Neolithic site of Chogha Golan (Ilam Province, present-day Iran) reveal a sequence ranging over 2200 years of cultivation of wild plants and the first appearance of domesticated-type species. The botanical record from Chogha Golan documents how the inhabitants of the site cultivated wild barley (Hordeum spontaneum) and other wild progenitor species of modern crops, such as wild lentil and pea. Wild wheat species (Triticum spp.) are initially present at less than 10% of total plant species but increase to more than 20% during the last 300 years of the sequence. Around 9800 calendar years before the present, domesticated-type emmer appears. The archaeobotanical remains from Chogha Golan represent the earliest record of long-term plant management in Iran.
Pflanzen zu züchten, galt Forschern lange als Technologiesprung. Sie erachteten die neolithische Lebensweise als Revolution, die von einem einzigen Ursprungsort ausging. Jetzt mehren sich die Hinweise, dass es in Wirklichkeit anders war.
Andrew W. Kandel
added a project goal
This goal of this research project was to understand the Paleolithic settlement in southwestern Syria. Research occurred between 1999 and 2010 and included a large-scale, regional survey, as well as four excavations at Baaz Rockshelter (UP, Epi, Neo), Kaus Kozah Cave (MP, Epi, Neo), Ain Dabbour Cave (Epi) and Wadi Mushkuna Rockshelter (MP, UP, Epi).
With the publication of four articles in 2017, we feel we have achieved our main goals and bring this research to an end:
Bretzke, B., Kandel, A.W. & Conard, N.J. (2017). The Middle Paleolithic sequence of Wadi Mushkuna Rockshelter and its implications for hominin settlement dynamics in western Syria. Quaternary International 435A: 106-114.
Bretzke, B., Kandel, A.W. & Conard, N.J. (2017). Establishing regional sequences: The Qalamunian Upper Paleolithic and its implications for the two-tradition model in the Levant. In: Wojtczak, D., al Najjar, M., Jagher, R., Elsuede, H., Wegmüller, F. & Otte, M. (Eds.) Vocation préhistoire: Hommage à Jean-Marie Le Tensorer. ERAUL 148, Liege, pp. 43-56.
Kandel, A.W., Bretzke, B. & Conard, N.J. (online). Epipaleolithic shell beads from Damascus Province, Syria. Humans and Quaternary environments Levant. Quaternary International. doi.org/10.1016/j.quaint.2017.07.021
Stahlschmidt, M.C., Miller, C.E., Kandel, A.W., Goldberg, P., Conard, N.J. (2017). Site formation processes and Late Natufian domestic spaces at Baaz Rockshelter, Syria: A micromorphological perspective. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 12: 499-514.