Abstract and Figures

Rodafnidia is an Acheulian site on Lesbos Island, in the north-east Aegean Sea. This chapter presents the model that guided Paleolithic investigations on the island, the history of research, and the results of the 2012 expedition of systematic work in the field, which consisted of surface survey and excavation. The typology and technology of lithic artifacts from the surface and the uppermost Unit 1, as well as the first cluster of luminescence dates, firmly place the early component of the site in the Middle Pleistocene. The Acheulian industry derives from fluvio-lacustrine deposits at a locale with abundant fresh-water and lithic resources. Situated in the north-east Mediterranean Basin, an area where research on early hominin prehistory is intensifying, Rodafnidia holds the potential to contribute to Eurasian Lower Paleolithic archaeology and fill the gap in our understanding of early hominin presence and activity where Asia meets Europe.
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of the Balkans
and Anatolia
Katerina Harvati
Mirjana Roksandic Editors
Human Evolution and its Context
Vertebrate Paleobiology and Paleoanthropology Series
Paleoanthropology of the Balkans
and Anatolia
Vertebrate Paleobiology
and Paleoanthropology Series
Edited by
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Vertebrate Paleontology, American Museum of Natural History
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Anthropology, Yale University
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of the Balkans and Anatolia
Human Evolution and its Context
Edited by
Katerina Harvati
Paleoanthropology, Department of Geosciences, Eberhard Karls
Universität Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany
Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution and Paleoenvironment,
Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany
PhD Program in Anthropology, City University of New York,
Graduate Center and New York Consortium in Evolutionary Primatology,
New York, NY, USA
Mirjana Roksandic
Department of Anthropology, University of Winnipeg,
Winnipeg, MB, Canada
Katerina Harvati
Paleoanthropology, Department of Geosciences
Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen
Tübingen, Germany
Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution
and Paleoenvironment
Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen
Tübingen, Germany
PhD Program in Anthropology
City University of New York
Graduate Center and New York Consortium
in Evolutionary Primatology
New York, NY, USA
Mirjana Roksandic
Department of Anthropology
University of Winnipeg
Winnipeg, MB, Canada
ISSN 1877-9077 ISSN 1877-9085 (electronic)
Vertebrate Paleobiology and Paleoanthropology
ISBN 978-94-024-0873-7 ISBN 978-94-024-0874-4 (eBook)
DOI 10.1007/978-94-024-0874-4
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Katerina Harvati and Mirjana Roksandic (eds.), Paleoanthropology of the Balkans and Anatolia,
Vertebrate Paleobiology and Paleoanthropology, DOI 10.1007/978-94-024-0874-4_8
Chapter 8
The Acheulian Site at Rodafnidia, Lisvori, on Lesbos,
Greece: 2010–2012
Nena Galanidou, Constantin Athanassas , James Cole, Giorgos Iliopoulos, Athanasios Katerinopoulos,
Andreas Magganas, and John McNabb
N. Galanidou (*)
Department of History and Archaeology, University of Crete,
74100 Rethymno, Greece
e-mail: galanidou@uoc.gr
C. Athanassas
Centre de Recherche and d’Enseignement de Géosciences de
l’Environnement (C.E.R.E.G.E.), Europôle Méditerranéen de
l’Arbois, Avenue Louis PHILIBERT BP 80-13545, Aix-en-
Provence cedex 04, France
e-mail: athanassas@cerege.fr
J. Cole
School of Environment and Technology, University of Brighton,
Brighton BN2 4GJ, UK
e-mail: J.N.Cole@brighton.ac.uk
G. Iliopoulos
Department of Geology, University
of Patras, 26504 Rio Patras, Greece
e-mail: iliopoulosg@upatras.gr
A. Katerinopoulos • A. Magganas
Faculty of Geology and GeoEnvironment,
University of Athens, 15784 Athens, Greece
e-mail: akaterin@geol.uoa.gr;
J. McNabb
Department of Archaeology, University of Southampton,
Southampton SO17 1BF, UK
e-mail: J.McNabb@soton.ac.uk
Abstract Rodafnidia is an Acheulian site on Lesbos Island,
in the north-east Aegean Sea. This chapter presents the model
that guided Paleolithic investigations on the island, the his-
tory of research, and the results of the 2012 expedition of
systematic work in the field, which consisted of surface sur-
vey and excavation. The typology and technology of lithic
artifacts from the surface and the uppermost Unit 1, as well as
the first cluster of luminescence dates, firmly place the early
component of the site in the Middle Pleistocene. The
Acheulian industry derives from fluvio-lacustrine deposits at
a locale with abundant fresh-water and lithic resources.
Situated in the north-east Mediterranean Basin, an area where
research on early hominin prehistory is intensifying,
Rodafnidia holds the potential to contribute to Eurasian
Lower Paleolithic archaeology and fill the gap in our under-
standing of early hominin presence and activity where Asia
meets Europe.
Keywords Lower Paleolithic • Large cutting tools • Middle
Pleistocene • West Asia • pIRIR dating
Rodafnidia, at Lisvori on Lesbos Island in the north-east
Aegean Sea (Fig. 8.1), is a new open-air site with a distinc-
tive Lower Paleolithic component. It lies at 26°1154.58 E
and 39°615.42 N, in a volcanic setting, near the local thermal
springs, and 2 km from the south-west shore of the Kalloni
Gulf (Fig. 8.2). The site has produced compelling evidence
for the presence of groups who used Acheulian tools on
Lesbos (Galanidou 2013; Galanidou et al. 2013). By virtue
of its content and position at the junction between west
Anatolia, the Aegean Archipelago and the Balkan Peninsula,
Rodafnidia links the early archaeology of south- east Europe
with that of west Asia. In this chapter, we report the key geo-
graphic features of Lesbos that guided research on early hom-
inin archaeology of the island, the history of site discovery,
the background work, the objectives of our project, and the
results of the 2012 campaign, including the first cluster of
pIRIR dating results obtained for the excavated sediments.
The Key Geographic Features of Lesbos
Guiding the Project
Lesbos is the third largest of the Greek islands, measuring
some 1600 km2. Its topography and landscape have been sig-
nificantly affected by volcanism, sedimentation, tectonism,
eustasy, and isostasy. Around Lisvori, the island’s Cenozoic
volcanic and sedimentary history is mainly manifested by vol-
canic rocks, volcaniclastic deposits including large ignimbrite
bodies and tuffs, siliceous and marly limestones, and geother-
mal springs (Hecht 1974; Pe-Piper 1978; Pe-Piper and Piper
1993, 2002; Lamera 2004; Kouli and Seymour 2006;
Lambrakis and Stamatis 2008; Thomaidou 2009). Within the
same area, various hard, mostly siliceous rocks of volcanic
and/or diagenetic origin, are commonly outcropped as layers,
nodules, or fracture fillings, which can be easily used as raw
materials for knapping. These rocks are also found as clastic
constituents of the Quaternary strata of the area.
Quaternary deposits are not widespread on Lesbos.
However, they are fairly abundant in the south and east part
of the island, consisting mainly of clastic fluvial and allu-
vial deposits (Soulakellis et al. 2006). Lesbos is separated
from the Asian coast by two sea straits. The north strait,
Lamna, is a faulted trough more than 150m-deep, lying
along a major splay of the south branch of the North
Anatolian Fault. The east strait, Mytilene, is mostly shal-
low, less than 50 m deep, with a flat, smooth seafloor
(Fig. 8.1). Thus, a glacial sea-level drop of only 50 m would
have been enough to expose the latter, connect the island
with the Anatolian mainland, and allow the migration of
hominins and terrestrial animals. Such a Pleistocene move-
ment can be attested to by the presence of several fossilifer-
ous sites at Vatera that have yielded a rich Early Pleistocene
paleontological record with over 15 mammal taxa, including
the giant macaque Paradolichopithecus arvernensis. This
evidence represents a fauna that can be characterised as con-
tinental (De Vos et al. 2002; Lyras and van der Geer 2007),
Fig. 8.1 Location map for the island of Lesbos (left), the Kalloni Gulf (upper right) and the Rodafnidia archaeological site (bottom right)
N. Galanidou et al.
Fig. 8.2 Panoramic view of the Kalloni Gulf area where Rodafnidia is situated, looking north
reflecting the long-term, close association of Lesbos with
Asia (Fig. 8.1).
Glacial periods with accompanying low sea levels were
the times for terrestrial animals to disperse onto what are
today the islands of the east Aegean Sea. These faunal dis-
persals likely also encompassed hominin population move-
ments, and Rodafnidia at Lisvori offers archaeological
evidence to support this hypothesis, adding a human compo-
nent to the rich paleontology of Lesbos. Interglacial periods
with accompanying high sea levels were key periods that cut
Lesbos off from the Asian mainland, producing the insular
picture that one sees today (Sakellariou and Galanidou
2016). Such events of land fragmentation occurred several
times during the Pleistocene, isolating animal and hominin
populations from the large expanses of Anatolia and limiting
them to the islands mentioned earlier.
A further important feature of Lesbos is the presence of
two shallow and enclosed gulfs, the Kalloni Gulf and the
Gera Gulf (Fig. 8.1). Both embayments are connected to the
open sea through shallow straits. During Pleistocene glacial
periods, both gulfs would have lain well above sea level.
However, it is not certain that they were dry. Our null
hypothesis, which is still only supported by a small body of
marine geological data, is that, during past low sea-level
periods, these gulfs may have been shallow, initially semi-
salted but eventually fresh-water lakes. If this were the case,
then, in addition to abundant lithic raw materials of chert
composition, hominins on Lesbos would have had a variety
of survival possibilities associated with fresh-water
resources. Envisioning the Kalloni Basin as a large,
resource-rich, Pleistocene lake suggests that it might have
been a point of attraction and persistent occupation for
hominins in west Anatolia and the larger Aegean landmass
during glacial periods (Lykousis 2009; Sakellariou and
Galanidou 2016).
The Site, Its Discovery, and Objectives
of Research
Rodafnidia is situated on a spur of a low hill, bordered to the
north by a small stream and to the west by the Glyfias stream
(Figs. 8.1 and 8.2). The Glyfias receives its brackish water
from the local geothermal spring that lies less than 400 m to
the south-east of the hill. It joins the little stream at the north-
west of the hill to debouch into the Kalloni Gulf east of the
Polichnitos salt pans. The south and west sides of the hill,
being made up of ignimbrites, are rather steep and rocky,
forming a small gorge, whereas the north side presents a
smooth relief with a gentle slope, covered now with olive
groves. The toponym ‘Rodafnidia’ refers to the oleanders,
which once used to grow in the area where a large olive grove,
segmented into numerous properties, stretches today (Fig. 8.3).
The hill is divided into a south and a north part by a narrow
farm track; its west end slopes down smoothly and meets the
Glyfias. Some 100 m north of this point, on the lowermost ter-
race, a nineteenth- century watermill represents the only stand-
ing historical monument on the hill, apart from the stone
installation with a now-dried-up fresh-water spring. The task of
recording the watermill’s plan brought to the area two medical
doctors with an interest in the cultural heritage of Lesbos. They
identified an extensive scatter of knapped stone artifacts, the
greater portion of which had Levallois, proto- Levallois, and
Acheulian affinities, and belonged to the Middle Paleolithic
and the end of the Lower Paleolithic (Harisis et al. 2000).
Against the sparse background of early hominin sites within
mainland Greece, the Aegean Archipelago and west Turkey
(Jöris 2014; Otte et al. 1999; Galanidou 2004; Harvati et al.
2009), this earlier brief report, coupled with an evaluation of
the island’s key geographic features, led to an initial visit to the
site by NG in 2009. A subsequent surface survey in 2010 with
8 Aegean Acheulian at Rodafnidia, Lesbos
a small team1 established the boundaries, character, and affini-
ties of the lithic scatter (Fig. 8.1).
From the results of the initial investigation it was determined
that the distribution of knapped stone artifacts was extensive,
ceramic finds were almost completely absent, and a component
of the lithic assemblage was Lower Paleolithic in character,
including several Large Cutting Tools (LCTs) (as described by
Kleindienst 1962; McNabb et al. 2004). Although the highest
concentration of lithic finds was indeed near the watermill, the
Lower Paleolithic component was not located in its immediate
vicinity. A good number of the surface finds belonged to later
Prehistory, namely the Late Neolithic and the Bronze Age.
Having ascertained that Rodafnidia had significant potential
for systematically exploring Middle Pleistocene hominin pres-
ence at the junction between Anatolia and the Aegean
Archipelago, the University of Crete obtained a permit in 2011
to undertake a 5-year (2012–2016) program of on-site and off-
site research in order to:
a) conduct archaeological excavation, surface survey, and
geophysical survey;
1 The members of the 2010 campaign team were Christina Papoulia, Elli
Karkazi, Aggeliki Garidi, and Mihalis Spyridakis.
b) establish a chronological framework for the archaeological
record based on relative and absolute dating; and
c) evaluate and correlate existing and new regional paleon-
tological, paleoclimatic, geomorphological, and oceano-
graphic evidence.
Put together, this work sheds new light on the history of
hominin movements and dispersals between Africa and
Eurasia, and on the early occupation of Europe, covering the
current lacuna of early sites in south-east Europe and the west
Anatolian coast (Dennell et al. 2011; Jöris 2014). Through an
extensive program of reconstructing the site catchment and
landscape evolution of the Aegean Archipelago, it further
explores the attractions that the Kalloni basin, Lesbos, and the
north-east Aegean basin offered to early humans during the
Middle Pleistocene (Sakellariou and Galanidou 2015).
Investigative Methodology
The investigation strategy of the first season in the field con-
ducted in August and September 2012, comprised archaeo-
logical surface, sub-surface, geological, and paleogeographic
Fig. 8.3 View of Rodafnidia, looking east. In the foreground, the site prior to excavations. In the background, the village of Lisvori
N. Galanidou et al.
work.2 A detailed topographic GPS survey was conducted
over the extent of the hill, with test pit, trench, and find locations
also being recorded (Fig. 8.4).
The excavation was guided by the initial 2010 surface
survey work that had identified areas containing concentrations
The members of the 2012 campaign scientific team were as follows:
James Cole, Giorgos Iliopoulos, Athanasios Katerinopoulos, Geoff King
(Institut de Physique du Globe, Paris), Andreas Magganas, John McNabb,
Ageliki Theodoropoulou (Institut de Paléontologie Humaine, Paris),
Chronis Tzedakis (University College London), Katerina Vasileiadou;
graduate students were as follows: Elli Karkazi, Thanos Rousis, Lena
Kouklamani, Eleni Zervaki, Stefanos Fotinis (Univ. of Crete); and the
undergraduate students were as follows: Ageliki Garidi, Elina Latsou,
Eirini Saloustrou, Vaso Kourkouli (Univ. of Crete), Jeanine Curvers
(Katholik Univ. of Leuven), and Roy Waterston (Univ. of York).
of finds from different periods. Given this assessment of
spatial variation present on the site, the 2012 field season
focussed on areas associated with LCTs in order to gain
insight into the stratigraphy, and to understand the geological
background to the Paleolithic remains. A major question,
therefore, was the origin of the surface scatters.
Intrusive investigation took place in two adjoining plots
on a north–south axis across the top of the Rodafnidia knoll
(Fig. 8.4), which form a continuous strip of land, a transect
across the top of the spur. The plots are named after their
owners, Hatzoglou to the south of the dirt track and Alvanos
to the north. Their surface survey during 2010 yielded numer-
ous LCTs. The location of these two plots was crucial in that
they allowed a geological assessment of the knoll at its widest
point. Along this transect we laid out a series of fourteen
Fig. 8.4 DEM showing the location of Rodafnidia, the 2010 and 2012
survey areas marked in gray, and the two successive properties where
excavations were conducted during the 2012 expedition (bottom). Plans
of the trench and test pit locations in the two successive properties,
namely Alvanos and Hatzoglou (upper middle and right)
8 Aegean Acheulian at Rodafnidia, Lesbos
1 × 1 m test pits at regular 20 m intervals and gave them the
Greek alphabet letters A to Ξ; of these we opened ten. Based
on the results of the smaller test pit sampling strategy, we also
opened three longer L-shaped trenches: Trench A Extension
(11 × 1–3 × 1 m), Trench B Extension (7.5 × 1–3 × 1 m), and
Trench H Extension (7 × 1–3 × 1 m) (Fig. 8.4). These were
dug in order to expose large geological sections at key loca-
tions (Fig. 8.5), to allow sedimentological and geological
sampling and to refine the preliminary geological interpreta-
tion of the site established via the test pits.
In September 2012, before leaving the site the majority of
trenches and test pits were backfilled so that the plots could
be returned to their owners as they were prior to excavations.
Test pits Γ, Θ and M, the most significant in terms of stratig-
raphy, to which we wanted to have immediate access in the
future for the purpose of stratigraphic referencing, paleo-
magnetic sampling and dating, were backfilled using geo-
textile and polystyrene blocks, topped by cobbles and loose
earth from the excavation debris (Fig. 8.6).
We conducted additional surface surveys in both the exca-
vated plots and in the surrounding areas (Fig. 8.7). Artifacts
lying on the topsoil (the top of Unit 0, see below) were col-
lected and their positions plotted using an RTK GPS (Fig. 8.8).
Stratigraphy and Date
The sedimentary series were exposed to a maximum depth of
approximately 2.5–2.7 m. These stratigraphic sequences
from different trenches excavated in the north and south
Fig. 8.5 Rodafnidia: view of the Hatzoglou property, test pits BI and B2 in the foreground and Trench A Extension, looking south-west
Fig. 8.6 Picture showing test pit backfilling in the Alvanos plot. In the
foreground, test pit M backfilling using geo-textile and polystyrene
blocks, topped by cobbles and loose earth from the excavation debris
(September 2012)
Fig. 8.7 Surface surveying at the Alvanos plot (August 2012)
N. Galanidou et al.
parts of the site have been correlated and are described as
follows. Four sedimentary units (Units 0–3) were identified
above both the weathered bedrock and the unaffected bedrock
proper (Fig. 8.9).
Unit 0 is the topsoil. It consists of brown silts with
scattered rounded pebbles of relatively small sizes, and
its upper part is loose due to farming activity.
Unit 1 is a matrix-supported conglomerate, with red/brown
silt as the matrix. In some places the matrix contains more
sand, as well as rounded to sub-rounded pebbles and cob-
bles of various sizes. The larger cobbles have a diameter
of about 20 cm.
Unit 2 is a red-brown mud with calcitic nodules and
numerous mud-cracks filled with calcium carbonate, par-
ticularly to the north of the site where the unit gets thicker.
Unit 3, of which at least the top 20–30 cm were exposed,
is a matrix-supported conglomerate with red silt as the
matrix, accompanied by pebble-sized clasts.
Units 0 and 1 contained archaeological finds, whilst Unit
2 was barren. Unit 3 yielded no artifacts in 2012. The recov-
ery of any archaeological finds in it will have to await fuller
and deeper excavation. The lithology suggests a relatively
small alluvial plain, which represents the depositional envi-
ronment for the artifacts. Two types of deposit can be distin-
guished: floodplain and fluvial. The floodplain sediments,
Unit 2, are red to red-brown muds with mud-cracks filled
with carbonates (cracks were formed when the muds were
exposed and dried, and during soil formation they were filled
with carbonates). The fluvial deposits are the conglomerate
accumulations of Unit 1 that characterise a fluvial network,
be it river or stream, that shifted its course over time, eroding
and forming new river beds that cut through the floodplain
sediments deposited during older flood events.
This picture can be made out in most trenches. The excep-
tion is the northernmost excavated test pit M, the one closest
to the present-day Kalloni Gulf shore. Here, green clay below
Unit 0 indicates the presence of a still fresh-water deposit: a
pond, a marsh, or a small lake (possibly an oxbow). The green
color of the clay is a result of its reducing conditions. The
presence of such still fresh-water bodies is a common feature
found alongside fluvial systems developing across alluvial
plains (Marriott 2006).
Sediment samples were collected for luminescence and
TCN dating (conducted by Constantin Athanassas), for micro-
Fig. 8.8 Map showing the Rodafnidia knoll; in beige the 2012 surface survey area and location of surface finds collected
8 Aegean Acheulian at Rodafnidia, Lesbos
fossil preparation (conducted by Katerina Vasileiadou), and
from test pit M for palynological preparation (conducted by
Chronis Tzedakis). The sediments from M were highly oxi-
dised and did not preserve any fossil content apart from a few
algae. More promising is the study of micro-fossil remains.
Amongst the finds from the first sample (H extension), the
presence of charophyte gyrogonite was noted; this stonewort
calcareous spore, if contemporary with the sampled sediments,
indicates a freshwater depositional environment.
For the luminescence dating method, the samples were
collected from depths well below the ground surface and
from soil profiles exposed in the trenches (Fig. 8.9). Cohesive
layers were sampled in the daytime by inserting aluminium
tubes into the sections, while loose sediments were sampled
at night under dimmed-red portable lighting, by delving into
the soil profile with a spade and sealing the extricated sedi-
ment into light-tight wrapping. Four of the samples were sub-
mitted to the Luminescence Dating suite of the Laboratory of
Archaeometry at N.C.S.R. ‘Demokritos’, Athens.
The speculated Mid-Pleistocene age of the artifacts neces-
sitated the employment of extended-range luminescence dat-
ing methods instead of conventional optically stimulated
luminescence from quartz (OSL), as the latter was expected
to be saturated on the time scales considered here.
Examination of the material revealed a predominance of tec-
tosilicate mineralogy, abundantly supplied by the extensive
volcanic contexts of the wider area.
Quartz from volcanic environments has been proven
unsuitable with respect to its luminescence properties
(e.g. Bonde et al. 2001). For that reason thermally trans-
ferred OSL from quartz (e.g. Wang et al. 2007) was avoided;
the abundance of feldspars instead dictated an infrared
stimulated luminescence (IRSL) approach. For preliminary
chronological evidence, fast track runs of the elevated-
temperature IRSL protocol of Thiel et al. (2011) were carried
out on the feldspars. This method, established as ‘post infra-
red infrared stimulated luminescence’ (pIRIR) dating, allows
estimation of the paleodose by measuring the IRSL at
290°C. Furthermore, it has the purported advantage that it
circumvents underestimations potentially induced by loss of
signal from feldspars in ambient conditions, a phenomenon
known as ‘anomalous fading’ (Wintle 1973; Spooner 1994).
Fig. 8.9 Showing the stratigraphy of the Rodafnidia site exemplified through Trench B Extension (middle) and Trench H Extension (bottom). The
origin of luminescence dating samples is denoted by red dots
N. Galanidou et al.
In the absence of in situ γ-dose rate measurements, dosime-
try was limited to radio-elemental analyses by inductively
coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS).
Even though pIRIR290 signal response was found not to be
close to saturation, two of the delivered ages (Lesbos-4:
164 ± 33 kBP and Lesbos-9: 258 ± 48 kBP) appeared broadly
spread (Table 8.1). Additionally, the age distribution of
Lesbos-1 brought forth two clusters: one centred at
272 ± 25 kBP and a second at 475 ± 48 kBP. The latter shows,
at least, consistency with the age of the sample Lesbos-7
(476 ± 62 kBP) (Table 8.1).
The bimodality seen in the distribution of these preliminary
results raises the obvious question as to the origin of this
behavior. It remains uncertain whether it is caused by environ-
mental, anthropological, microdosimetric, or laboratory mea-
surement conditions. In situations where adequate signal
resetting can be evidenced by the environmental conditions, a
series of post-depositional processes may be responsible for
altering the paleodose of some grains, leading to skewed and
multimodal age dispersal (Lomax et al. 2007). Employment of
age modelling is therefore necessary here to explore different
approaches to establishing the luminescence age.
The possibility that the observed scatter is a laboratory
artifact due to the acceleration of measurement procedure
cannot be ruled out in this case. Current ages were calculated
using default settings proposed by Thiel et al. (2011), but it is
recommended that the paleodose be measured over a range of
temperatures to establish optimum measurement conditions
of IRSL, and the maximum reproducibility of the paleodose.
Additionally, the ages should be further tested for the
presence of any anomalous fading in the pIRIR290 signal.
Despite the spread and the methodological challenges,
all pIRIR290 results suggest a Middle Pleistocene age for
Rodafnidia. The delivered ages for the samples from Unit 2
(Table 8.1) indicate that this unit might have been deposited
during MIS stage 13 and thus during an interglacial period
(interstadial). Conversely, the delivered ages for the samples
from Unit 1, Lesbos-4 and Lesbos-9 (Table 8.1), suggest that
Unit 1 in Trench H Extension was possibly deposited during
MIS 6 (164 ± 33 kBP) and Unit 1 in Trench B Extension dur-
ing MIS 8 (258 ± 48 kBP). Hence, despite the age difference,
the sediments in both cases appear to have been deposited
during glacial periods (stadials).
It is important to note that these observations are in agree-
ment with the lithological character of the sampled units
(Fig. 8.9). The fine grained Unit 2 must have been deposited
during an interglacial period when sea level was significantly
higher and the climate was wet enough with increased pre-
cipitation. On the other hand, the coarse grained deposits of
Unit 1, as well as of Unit 3, which is located below Unit 2 in
Trench H Extension, represent sediments deposited during
glacial periods when sea level was lower and the climate
drier. It should be noted that the deposits of Unit 1 appear
mostly as lenses undercutting the sediments of Unit 2, for
reasons explained later. We assume that during the stadial
MIS 13 Rodafnidia was located closer to the sea shore (the
paleo-Kalloni Gulf), thus representing a floodplain environ-
ment where marshes and temporary ponds would develop,
allowing the presence of fresh water dwellers (charophytes,
gastropods). Conversely, during glacial periods Rodafnidia
became an elevated inland area where erosional processes
would dominate. Hence fluvial systems would first develop,
eroding the substrate, which in this case would be the sedi-
ments of Unit 2; these fluvial channels would be subse-
quently filled by fluvial coarse-grained deposits of Unit 1.
Unit 1 might also represent coarse-grained fluvial deposits
that were deposited in different fluvial networks formed dur-
ing two different glacial periods, MIS 6 and 8, respectively.
These are the find-bearing sediments. The artifacts must
have accumulated originally in older sediments (units), pos-
sibly older than MIS 13, that were eroded upstream and were
carried downstream through the fluvial channels to where
they were finally deposited. Similarly, the coarse grained
Unit 3 represents fluvial deposits formed during a glacial
period before MIS 13.
In summary, based upon the surface survey collections and
excavations, a working hypothesis has emerged: that the pres-
ent surface material may have originated from the sub-
surface geological features. The presence of a buried channel,
or possibly network of channels, across the knoll is suggested
by the nature of the geological deposits with a spatial varia-
tion in the stratigraphy towards the Kalloni Gulf shore.
The Lithic Finds
The vast majority of Rodafnidia lithic artifacts recovered in
2012 were produced on chert of a wide range of colors. The
most common hues are light brown and beige, while dark red-
brown is occasionally present. Rarely, black, white, or trans-
lucent samples occur. The majority of these cherts are
fossiliferous; macro and microfossils are included. Many of
them present wood tissue and could be characterised as fos-
silised remains of plants. Others present faunal (mainly gas-
tropod) macrofossils; these are endocasts of the original
Table 8.1 pIRIR dates obtained for the excavated sediments at
Rodafnifia Unit 1 and Unit 2
Trench Unit Depth below
surface (m)
Lesbos-4 H Extension 1 0.8–0.9 164 ± 33 ka 6
Lesbos-9 B Extension 1 1.2–1.4 258 ± 48 ka 8
Lesbos-1 H Extension 2 1.3 272 ± 25 ka 9
(475 ± 48 ka) (13)
Lesbos-7 B Extension 2 1.6–1.7 476 ± 62 ka 13
8 Aegean Acheulian at Rodafnidia, Lesbos
gastropod shells and provide determinations only to the genus
level. In order to use fossils for accurate biostratigraphic dat-
ings, determinations to the species level are needed. In the
future, thin sections need to be produced in order to identify
and determine possible microfossils that will provide us with
relative dating of the age of the rocks. This in turn would
guide research into lithic raw material provenance.
Petrological analyses on siliceous raw materials recovered
from Rodafnidia and the wider Lisvori—Polichnitos area sug-
gest that cherts may have been formed either through chemical
precipitation of SiO2 from silica-rich fluids within a hydrother-
mal, possibly geyser-type environment, connected to the vol-
canism of the past; or by thermally induced diagenesis of the
lacustrine siliceous limestones of Pliocene date and the sili-
ceous marly limestones of the fresh-water swamp that occur
close to Rodafnidia. Within both environments, biogenic
(opal-A) and/or non-biogenic (opal-Aʹ) silica was transformed
to chert with microcrystalline quartz and chalcedony, through
an intermediate stage of opal-CT (Stamatakis and Magganas
1988). This change is mostly due to the existing high heat flow
in the area, while compaction and probably alkaline pore
waters played a subordinate role (Kelepertsis 1993).
The presence of handaxes and cleavers indicates a Lower
Paleolithic component to the Rodafnidia assemblage. Initial
observations on the lithic finds collected during the 2010 sur-
face survey suggested a broad similarity between artifacts
from Rodafnidia and those from Kaletepe Deresi 3 in
Cappadocia, central Anatolia (Slimak et al. 2008), Gesher
Benot Ya’aqov in north Israel (Goren-Inbar and Saragusti
1996) and even from certain African assemblages, for example
at Olduvai Gorge and elsewhere (Leakey and Roe 1994;
Sharon 2007). In light of this, a variation of the methodology
applied at the South African Acheulian sites of the Cave of
Hearths and Canteen Koppie (McNabb et al. 2004; McNabb
and Sinclair 2009; McNabb and Beaumont 2012) was used
to conduct a preliminary study of the artifacts. The major tech-
nogroups identified in Rodafnidia lithics are (Table 8.2) as fol-
lows: (1) Large Cutting Tools, (2) Prepared Core Technology
(PCT), (3) Non-PCT Flake Cores, (4) Flakes and Detached
Pieces, and (5) Retouched Flakes.
The Large Cutting Tools Technogroup
The 2012 database (for the preliminary investigations and
the first systematic survey and excavation season) records a
total of 30 Large Cutting Tools (LCT) (Table 8.3).
Handaxes are tools with a converging tip that have been
wholly or partially made by bifacial thinning and shaping.
They lack the flat/guillotine-shaped cutting edge (cleaver
bit), which is characteristic of cleavers. The database records
16 whole handaxes, two broken tip fragments, and two further
examples whose identification is less certain (a selection is
shown in Fig. 8.10).
Unifaces represent handaxes with converging tips where
all, or virtually all, of the thinning and shaping is confined to
one face of the tool. There are three unifaces and a possible
fourth in the database (Table 8.3). Trihedrals are tools that
have a triangular shape in cross-section. This is either a result
of the original cobble/nodule form, or of flaking on an unusu-
ally thick nodule/cobble. In some instances trihedrals may
result from flaking on an unusually thick natural or struck
flake. One clear example of a trihedral was found at
Rodafnidia (Table 8.3; Fig. 8.11c). Rough-outs are large flat
artifacts with a small number of flake removals on each face.
They tend to be flat in cross-section. It is often difficult to
distinguish these from ordinary cores, which happen to be
Table 8.2 Main artifact types found at Rodafnidia in the 2010 and the
2012 campaigns
Artifact type Artifact provenance
2010 surface
2012 surface
Blade 2 – 2
Core 74 20 111 205
Core (tool) 1 2 3
Discoidal core 1 1
Flake 240 30 164 434
Flaked flake 1 11 12
LCT 5 5 20 30
PCT (core) 2 2 4
PCT (flake) 2 2
Retouched Flake 1 7 8
Scraper – – 2 2
Simple prepared
– – 2 2
Total 323 58 324 705
Table 8.3 Counts of LCT types recovered from Rodafnidia in 2010
and 2012
LCT type Artifact provenance
2010 surface
2012 surface
Cleaver – 1 1
Cleaver flake 1 1
Cleaver? – 1 1 2
Handaxe 2 3 12 17
Handaxe tip 1 1
Handaxe? – 2 2
Rough-out – 1 1
Trihedral 1 1
Uniface 1 2 3
Uniface? – 1 1
Total 5 5 20 30
N. Galanidou et al.
made on a flat nodule. Their status as an unfinished LCT is
therefore a subjective call. Two examples were identified at
Rodafnidia (Table 8.3; Fig. 8.11d).
Cleavers are defined on a number of criteria (Mourre
2003). (1) The presence of a clear flat cleaver edge or bit. (2)
They are made on flake blanks. (3) The flake blanks show
evidence of preparation of the core prior to the detachment
of the flake. This evidence takes the form of large primary
flake scars whose point of origin, where discernable, origi-
nates well beyond the current margins of the cleaver. (4)
Adjacent to the cleaver bit, on the dorsal face, is a large flat
flake scar, which represents one of the original blank scars
just noted. With regard to criteria two to four, these cleavers
conform to Sharon’s Large Flake Acheulian (2007). (5)
Where it is possible to observe, the flake blanks are side-
struck and the lateral margins of the cleaver (i.e. the proxi-
mal and distal of the original flake-blank) have been removed.
Criteria two to five represent a common pattern in the African
Acheulian and one of us (JM) has seen numerous identical
examples from the Middle Pleistocene of South Africa.
So much so, that the cleavers at Rodafnidia could be said to
conform precisely to the ‘Acheulian package’ noted else-
where (Sharon 2008, 2009; McNabb and Sinclair 2009).
The flaking away of the proximal area, accompanied by
some thinning and shaping of the former distal end of the
blank, to form the cleaver sides, is particularly diagnostic.
The definition of cleavers adopted here is, primarily, a tech-
nological one. The database at the end of the 2012 season3
recorded one certain (Fig. 8.12a) and one possible example
of these cleavers (Fig. 8.12c), though the latter may be a
broken handaxe. A number of large flakes from Rodafnidia
would be suitable for LCT blanks. One in particular is highly
suggestive of a flake blank from the prepared surface of a
core or boulder (Fig. 8.12b). It was recovered from the exca-
vated Unit 1 of Trench B Extension.
Cleavers represent one of the most interesting aspects of
the Rodafnidia Acheulian lithic assemblage. In that a number
3 As the paper goes to print in 2016, four additional seasons in the field
have brought to light a larger sample of LCTs and cleavers.
Fig. 8.10 (a–e) Five examples of the handaxe component for the Rodafnidia LCTs
8 Aegean Acheulian at Rodafnidia, Lesbos
Fig. 8.11 Four examples of Lower Paleolithic artifacts from Rodafnidia. (a) Scraper; (b) Single platform core or massive scraper; (c) Trihedral;
(d) Rough-out
N. Galanidou et al.
Fig. 8.12 Three examples of the cleaver component for the Rodafnidia LCTs. (a) Cleaver on a side struck flake; (b) Cleaver flake; (c) Cleaver
broken at tip or handaxe broken medially
8 Aegean Acheulian at Rodafnidia, Lesbos
of cleavers are made on pre-prepared flake blanks, they are
closer in concept to the technologically defined Gesher Benot
Ya’aqov (GBY) cleavers (Goren-Inbar and Saragusti 1996),
than to other non-technologically defined assemblages else-
where in the Near East. Cleavers may be defined on morpho-
metric (Leakey and Roe 1994), or on typological grounds
(Kleindienst 1962; Wymer 1961). Even a brief perusal of
some of the Acheulian literature from Near Eastern sites sug-
gests, from the illustrations, that many of the LCTs described
as cleavers are in fact ovate handaxes with transverse tranchet
blows resulting in square-ended handaxes (the tips are plainly
convergent and are made by bifacial thinning and shaping
prior to the tranchet blow). We would restrict the definition of
cleavers to the purely technological definition set forth here,
and so see all convergent tips with square ends, whether made
by thinning and shaping detachments, or by tranchet finish, as
handaxes (narrow square-ended). Irrespective of this, the tech-
nologically defined cleavers from Rodafnidia present an inter-
esting problem. The large flake-blank cleaver, or Acheulian
package as described here (Sharon 2007; McNabb 2009), is
normally associated with intractable lithologies such as andes-
ite in South Africa or the volcanics of East Africa and GBY.
On more tractable rock types, particularly those that knap like
siliceous rocks, the preforming of flake blanks is usually
unnecessary. A future research question for our project will be
to examine why Acheulian knappers at Rodafnidia resorted to
this package, when the chert, which is a common lithology at
the site, knaps so well and did not require it?
While there is a strong African flavor to the Acheulian
assemblage at Rodafnidia originating from Units O and 1, it
is important to remember that any Acheulian settlement of
Lesbos will have originated from mainland Anatolia.
Kaletepe Deresi 3 is the only excavated Acheulian site in
Turkey (Slimak et al. 2008; Dinçer 2016). Located on a bank
of a seasonal drainage in the Göllüdağ region of central
Anatolia (well known for its obsidian sources), it has revealed
assemblages manufactured on obsidian and andesite with a
strong affinity to the Large Flake Acheulian described by
Sharon (2007). Since Rodafnidia also falls within this group
of assemblages, a key future research goal will be to compare
these two assemblages.
The Prepared Core Technology Technogroup
From Unit 1 we also recovered artifacts, smaller than LCT
flake-blanks, which demonstrate clear preparation of a sur-
face prior to flaking. The Prepared Core Technology (PCT)
technogroup can encompass Levallois, as well as other forms
of PCT such as Victoria West (McNabb and Beaumont 2011,
2012), Kombewa and simple prepared cores (McNabb and
Sinclair 2009), as well as the Tabelbala Tachengit technique
noted at Kaletepe Deresi 3 (Slimak et al. 2008; Dinçer 2016).
What unites them as a group is that one surface on the core
or flake will be considered more important than the other,
and from this preferential surface flakes or a single flake will
be removed. This is irrespective of whether preparation or
flaking of that surface has been conducted or not. Thus, the
common thread here is that all these artifacts are conceived
of as possessing a hierarchical relationship between their
upper and lower halves.
The two forms of classic Levallois present at Rodafnidia
are as follows:
Radial/centripetal. In practice the cores need not always
be circular in their plan form. One example of a radial
core in a worn state was found on the surface during field
walking (Fig. 8.13a).
Convergent/point. Two examples of Levallois convergent
cores were found (Table 8.3), both worn, the latter a surface
find possibly made on a flake. A single example of an
atypical Levallois convergent point was recovered from
one of the test pits, and a second atypical point was found
on the surface during field walking (Fig. 8.13b, c).
Additionally, there exists the artifact category known as
‘Simple Prepared Cores’ that represent a form of ‘Stripped
Down Levallois’ (White and Ashton 2003). They conform to
a number of the rules for Levallois as identified by Boëda
(Boëda 1995). However, a carefully prepared surface and
careful maintenance of lateral and distal convexities is not
practised (White and Ashton 2003). Two such simple pre-
pared cores were discovered during surface survey collection
(Table 8.2).
For many archaeologists the presence of PCT, and
Levallois in particular, signals the Middle Paleolithic (Clark
1994, 1999). However, the temporal boundary between these
periods based on tool typology is becoming blurred
(McBrearty 2001, 2003; Shea 2006; Beaumont 2011). There
are a number of sites from Africa where Acheulian artifacts
are clearly contemporary with Levallois and other forms of
PCT, e.g. the Kapthurin Formation, Kenya (Tryon et al.
2005), and Canteen Koppie, South Africa (McNabb and
Beaumont 2012). This has been noted elsewhere. Currently,
the presence of Levallois may signal an Acheulian with PCT
or the presence of a Middle Paleolithic assemblage. A major
question for future research will be determining the relation-
ship between the LCTs and the PCTs.
The Non-PCT Flake Cores Technogroup
A number of flake core morphologies persist throughout the
African Early Stone Age (Leakey 1971; Kuman 2007) and
N. Galanidou et al.
Fig. 8.13 Examples of PCT artifacts from Rodafnidia. (a) Radial Levallois core; (b) Convergent Levallois point (atypical); (c) Convergent
Levallois point
can be found in other parts of the Old World where similar
ranges of raw materials occur. These forms are choppers/
chopping tools, discoids/discoidal cores, single platform
cores (including the typological category of core scraper), and
polyhedrons and irregular polyhedrons (McNabb and Sinclair
2009; McNabb and Beaumont 2011). How culturally diag-
nostic, or indicative of a specific period (say Lower Paleolithic
but not Middle Paleolithic) they are, is open to debate. Raw
material considerations may weigh heavily in the choice of
knapping procedures. Furthermore, enigmatic types such as
spheroids/sub-spheroids are also reported from Early Stone
Age sites (Kleindienst 1962; Leakey 1971, 1979).
A single example of a chopping tool (Table 8.2) is present
in the Rodafnidia database, made of a coarse-grained lava and
found on the surface during field walking. A number of other
cores resemble chopping tools, but their morphology is not
sufficiently diagnostic for a confident interpretation. There
were two typological discoids (Table 8.2), both made by
alternate flaking. There is one example of a single platform
core, which would class typologically as a core scraper
(Table 8.2; Fig. 8.11b); as well as a spheroid made on lava
(Table 8.2).
The Flakes and Detached Pieces
A large number of flakes were recovered during field walking
and during the excavation of the test pits and the extension
trenches. The majority are un-diagnostic waste flakes. Some
possess dihedral butts, but this need not be an indicator of the
Middle Paleolithic alone. Some of the larger ones may have
been used as cores.
The Retouched Flake Technogroup
The Retouched and Modified Flake technogroup is divided
into two broad sub-groups. The first are the flaked flakes.
These are a common Lower Paleolithic tool type in which a
flake of any size is flaked again by one or more removals.
They are not cores, since the intent appears to be the modifi-
cation of the edge (Ashton et al. 1991). Our database records
12 examples (Table 8.2), all having the razor-sharp edges pro-
duced by this technique. Technologically they are similar to
those found at other Lower Paleolithic/ESA sites, with remov-
als being single or multiple, direct or inverse, proximal, distal
or from the laterals. The Retouched Flake group encompasses
scrapers, made on flakes (Fig. 8.11a) as well as on unworked
pieces, three denticulates, an un-diagnostic retouched point, a
possible wedge, and a potential awl.
Summary of Lithic Artifact Analysis
The artifacts recovered from controlled excavations (Unit 1)
and from systematic field walking around the excavated fields
(Unit 0) clearly demonstrate the presence of the Acheulian at
Rodafnidia. The Trench B Extension confirmed that diagnostic
Lower Paleolithic artifacts were present within the channel
8 Aegean Acheulian at Rodafnidia, Lesbos
fills of Unit 1. It is possible that Middle Paleolithic groups
associated with Levallois technology were also present there.
Given the very small numbers of diagnostic artifacts, the pres-
ence of the latter remains to be established by further research.
Lower Paleolithic sites in the north-east Mediterranean Basin
are sparse and discontinuous due to archaeological research
traditions and priorities in the countries involved (but see
Tourloukis 2016 for a geoarchaeological perspective). They
are found in a variety of settings, in caves or in the open air,
and associated with good quality lithic raw materials and
larger or smaller bodies of fresh water. Together they produce
a fragmentary picture of a number of hominin dispersal epi-
sodes at different times of the Early and the Middle
Pleistocene. In Turkey and in Greece, bifacial technology is
better known from material recovered on the surface rather
than through excavation (Galanidou et al. 2016, appendix 1;
Dinçer 2016). Working with material deriving from open
contexts presents us with a number of problems in discussing
the character and presence of Acheulian groups.
Recently, Kuhn (2010a) set out the research questions and
current status of Lower Paleolithic research in Anatolia, and
in this volume Dinçer offers an updated comprehensive
account of the evidence available. The issues here concern
the quality and the affordances of the record, which stem
from recovery conditions and procedures, rather than the
absolute numbers of the sites and the finds reported in the
large expanses of Anatolia. Out of a total of 170 Lower
Paleolithic sites documented in the Archaeological
Settlements of Turkey Project database (www.tayproject.
org), only a handful can be included in detailed paleoanthro-
pological discussion. In central Anatolia, the two major refer-
ence sites are situated at altitudes higher than 1000 m (Dinçer
2016). Kaletepe Deresi 3 near Cappadocia is the only exca-
vated site with what is described as a ‘geologically in situ
Acheulian component’ and a Middle Paleolithic component
overlying it (Slimak et al. 2008; Dinçer 2016). Its Acheulian
component provides the nearest published comparanda to the
Rodafnidia Acheulian assemblage. Further west, Dursunlu,
located in a lignite quarry, has yielded less than 30 quartz
artifacts, mostly flakes and flake tools, and associated faunal
remains. These, coupled with paleomagnetic dating, document
a hominin presence here in the Early Pleistocene, probably
sometime around or post 1 Ma (Güleç et al. 2009).
In Aegean Turkey, the Lower Paleolithic inventory
includes part of a Homo erectus skull found embedded in a
travertine block in a quarry near Kocabaş in the province of
Denizli, recently dated to around 1.1 Ma (Kappelman et al.
2008; Lebatard et al. 2014; Aytek and Harvati 2016), and
the odd site containing bifaces, big flakes, or chopping tools
(Dinçer 2016). The picture of Lower Paleolithic in Turkey
is completed with two reference cave sites in the far south
and the far north of the country. The earliest component of
the 11-m-long and impressive Karain Cave sequence (Otte
et al. 1998, 1999) on the Mediterranean coast south of the
Taurus Mountain consists of Clactonian flakes, denticu-
lates, and three bifaces manufactured on a variety of radio-
larite, flint, and calcareous stones. In European Turkey,
Yarimburgaz Cave contains Middle Pleistocene deposits
and a lithic assemblage with Middle Paleolithic affinities
(Arsebük 1993; Arsebük and Özbaşaran 1999; Kuhn 2003,
2010b). Yarimburgaz Cave may be combined with open-air
sites of low chronological resolution that contain choppers,
chopping tools, and other lithics (Dinçer 2016) to make up
the patchy and enigmatic record of Turkish Thrace.
In the southern part of the Balkan peninsula, the Lower
Paleolithic inventory numbers less than a handful of sites or
find spots, presenting fewer than a dozen Large Cutting
Tools (Harvati et al. 2009; Galanidou 2004, 2014a, b;
Panagopoulou et al. 2015). Three are key sites. First is
Petralona cave in Macedonia, yielding a precious Homo hei-
delbergensis cranium (Henning et al. 1982; Grün 1996;
Harvati 2009) and early artifacts, though neither can be
directly associated with the other (Darlas 2014).
The second key site is Kokkinopilos, an ancient wetland
site in the karstic landscape of Epirus with eroding terra rossa
deposits out of which three impressive flint LCTs originate:
an elongated ‘Micoquian handaxe’ (Runnels and Van Andel
1993a) and two more bifaces (Tourloukis 2009, 2016). Of
these latter pair, one may be considered to have Acheulian
affinities, but the other, originating from a stratified context,
has affinities with the Keilmesser group, and so perhaps may
be part of the Kokkinopilos Middle Paleolithic component
(Galanidou et al. 2016). At Kokkinopilos an overlap, in chro-
nostratigraphic terms, between the Acheulian and an early
Mousterian may be envisaged. This is concordant with
Tourloukis and Karkanas’ (2012) description of the site as ‘a
low energy depositional environment of a shallow lake formed
in a tectonic basin, at times drying out’ (2012: 4). Serious
attempts to come to grips with its stratigraphy and dating have
taken place, especially in the undisturbed localities.
Luminescence dating of the biface- bearing sediments sug-
gests minimum ages between 207 and 220 kBP (ibid.). These
match the Runnels and van Andel (1993a, 198) date calcu-
lated from the rate of sedimentation, namely 250 kBP, pro-
posed for the context of the first handaxe. The two lines of
evidence combined give us confidence that hominin presence
at Kokkinopilos began during the late Middle Pleistocene.
The question that remains open is who these hominins were
(Galanidou 2016).
The third Lower Paleolithic site is Marathousa 1 in the
Megalopolis basin, an area long-known for its rich paleonto-
N. Galanidou et al.
logical yield. Archaeological excavation on this Middle
Pleistocene site has produced the remains of Elephas
(Palaeoloxodon) antiquus and lithics (mainly flakes and
various kinds of fragments though no bifacially worked
specimens) in a fine-grained geological matrix (Panagopoulou
et al. 2015). Ongoing research is expected to clarify the dep-
ositional history of these remains.
Beyond these three instances, if one adds in Lenormant’s
(1867) nineteenth-century reference to a biface claimed to
originate from the Megalopolis basin in the Peloponnese, the
handaxe discovered by Eric Higgs (1964) in west Macedonia
during his first expedition to Greece in the 1960s, as well as
two more sites in the Peneios River, Thessaly (Runnels and
van Andel (1993b) and Nea Artaki, Euboea (Sarantea 1986)
whose assignment to the Lower Paleolithic sites is possible
yet lacks secure chronostratigraphic confirmation, one has
enumerated the whole of the scanty Lower Paleolithic record
of mainland Greece.
Claims for Lower Paleolithic finds from a handful of
island sites that include Milos, Aegean Sea (Chelidonio
2001), Kefallonia, Ionian Sea (Foss 2002), Loutro and
Plakias in south Crete, Libyan Sea (Mortensen 2008; Strasser
et al. 2010), and Gavdos, Libyan Sea (Kopaka and Matzanas
2009, 2011), are based on artifact typology, as most finds
derive from low-resolution surface collections. At Plakias
they are also based on dating the associated geological con-
texts (Strasser et al. 2011); unequivocal evidence, however,
is absent, since association of the claimed early finds with
the better dated geological contexts has not been adequately
shown (Galanidou 2014a, b).
Rodafnidia is unique for the richness of an Acheulian
lithic assemblage, which has to date no counterpart within
the Lower Paleolithic of the Aegean Turkey or Greece
(Galanidou 2013; Galanidou et al. 2013). The site therefore
stands out as an exciting target for enriching the Lower
Paleolithic record of the north-east Mediterranean and for
obtaining dates for Acheulian activity. The importance of
this site and thence of our project lies in (i) the time and
duration of the hominin and human presence, with pIRSL
results suggesting that the upper part of the excavated
sequence dates to the Middle Pleistocene. (ii) The size of the
entire site—the Acheulian site may be extensive: explaining
the archaeological assemblage distribution forms a central
focus for future research. And (iii) the geography of the
site which has a critical element to it: both on a local scale,
in a fluvio-lacustrine environment of the Kalloni basin right
by geothermal springs, and on a regional scale, with its cen-
tral geographical position on the border of two continents
and the heart of Eurasia. The proximity of Lesbos to Anatolia
makes Rodafnidia a key site in the attempt to comprehend
both hominin migration into Europe (Bar-Yosef and Belfer-
Cohen 2001; Moncel 2010), as well as Acheulian occupation
northwards of the Jordanian Rift Valley (Dennell et al. 2011;
Goren-Inbar et al. 2000; Otte et al. 1999; Lordkipanidze
et al. 2000). Further systematic exploration of the site will
furnish research into human origins with archaeological data
to address the role of these two key Eurasian regions, either
as areas of occupation and stasis, or as mere passageways in
hominin dispersals during the Middle Pleistocene.
Acknowledgments The first year of systematic research at Rodafnidia,
Lisvori was supported by the University of Crete, the Secretariat General
for the Aegean and Island Policy and the authority of the North East
Aegean Region. We are grateful to the Municipality of Lesbos for its sup-
port and lab space granted. Doukas and Toula Alvanou and Theodoros
Hatzoglou granted us permission to excavate their properties in 2012, and
for this they deserve our special thanks. We thank the Editors and anony-
mous reviewers for the helpful comments and suggestions.
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... In considering a terrestrial wetland Aegean serving as a refugial area and dispersal corridor for eastwest population movements in the Middle Pleistocene (Tourloukis 2010), the evidence from Rodafnidia, Lesbos (ID11438), came as no great surprise, especially because the island would have been connected to the mainland of Asia Minor during sea-level lowstands (Charisis et al. 2000). The site has yielded a lithic assemblage of Acheulian and Middle Palaeolithic artefacts collected as both surface finds and excavated material unearthed from the deposits of a Pleistocene riverbed (ID6595; Galanidou et al. 2016). The lithics are heavily rolled and battered due to fluvial transport, but a preliminary presentation of the assemblage discerned morphological affinities to Acheulian industries known from the Levant and Turkey (Galanidou et al. 2016). ...
... The site has yielded a lithic assemblage of Acheulian and Middle Palaeolithic artefacts collected as both surface finds and excavated material unearthed from the deposits of a Pleistocene riverbed (ID6595; Galanidou et al. 2016). The lithics are heavily rolled and battered due to fluvial transport, but a preliminary presentation of the assemblage discerned morphological affinities to Acheulian industries known from the Levant and Turkey (Galanidou et al. 2016). Luminescence dating of the sedimentary matrix produced ages of 164±33 ka and 258±48 ka BP, placing the site at the end of the Middle Pleistocene. ...
In contrast to a relatively long history of Palaeolithic investigations in western Europe, research on the Palaeolithic period in Greece has lagged behind considerably. This article reviews the last decade of Palaeolithic research in Greece, with the aim of highlighting key aspects of recent developments in the field. Newly discovered Lower Palaeolithic sites, such as Marathousa 1 in Megalopolis, have offered rare, high-resolution windows into hunter-gatherer adaptations during the earliest-known peopling of the Greek peninsula. Palaeolithic sites in insular settings, exemplified by the latest discoveries in Crete and Naxos, have stirred up intriguing discussions about early seafaring but, most importantly, provide support to a revised view of the role of the Aegean in early human dispersals. Zooarchaeological, palaeoenvironmental and dating analyses of Middle and Upper Palaeolithic materials from new and older assemblages have provided valuable insights that help contextualize the information distilled from lithic industries. In sum, recent excavations, surveys and assessments of new and older collections have together contributed to the compilation of an important corpus of novel and significant data. Palaeolithic Greece is no longer a terra incognita , and it carries the potential to become a key player in understanding early human societies in southern Europe.
... The aim of our project is to determine the Palaeolithic occupation of Çanakkale and Balıkesir province and establish their relation to Lesbos, with which they would have been connected during this period. It is generally accepted that the Aegean islands constituted important land bridges between Anatolia and mainland Greece (Carter et al. 2019;Galanidou et al. 2016). Palaeogeographical reconstruction of Aegean Sea levels over the last 500 000 years demonstrates that many islands in the Eastern Aegean would have been connected to Anatolia. ...
Full-text available
The Çanakkale-Balıkesir Coastline Palaeolithic Survey Project covers the Çanakkale and Balıkesir coastlines of the Aegean. It aims to reveal Palaeolithic assemblages and their connection to the surrounding islands—primarily Lesbos. In 2021, four important findspots were detected on the Çanakkale coastline, and more than 500 lithics were uncovered, exhibiting the characteristics of large cutting tools, as well as pebble and prepared core technologies. These tools attest to the presence of hominins along the Çanakkale coastline during the Lower Palaeolithic.
... Lower Paleolithic sites in the Balkans are rare anddwith the exception of Greeceddo not share the easily recognized Acheulean (Mode 2) technology (Galanidou et al., 2016;Tourloukis and Harvati, 2018), creating a perception of cultural and demographic isolation of the Balkans in the Chibanian Age (i.e., Middle Pleistocene, 774e129 ka; Cohen et al., 2020). This notion persists despite biogeographic evidence that this would be unlikely, and despite the climatic and geographic factors that argue to the contrary (Tzedakis and Bennett, 1995;Tzedakis, 2004). ...
Neanderthals are Eurasian fossil hominins whose distinctive morphology developed in the southwestern corner of Europe and later spread throughout the continent, reaching Southwest Asia before the Late Pleistocene and spreading into Central Asia by 59–49 ka. The timing, tempo, and route of the Neanderthal movements eastward are poorly documented. The earliest probable evidence of Neanderthals in Asia comes from Karain E Cave (Anatolia, Turkey), dated to 250–200 ka. We present four Chibanian (Middle Pleistocene) hominin specimens, representing at least two individuals, from Velika Balanica Cave (Serbia): a permanent upper third molar (BH-2), a deciduous upper fourth premolar (BH-3) refitted to a poorly preserved maxillary fragment with the permanent first molar in the alveolus (BH-4), and a permanent upper central incisor (BH-5). We provide descriptions of the teeth, as well as a comparative analysis of the well-preserved M1 (BH-4), including assessments of cusp angles, relative occlusal polygon area, relative cusp base areas, two- and three-dimensional enamel thickness, and taurodontism. Morphology of both the occlusal surface and the enamel dentine junction of the M1 indicates that the maxillary fragment and associated dP4 belonged to an early Neanderthal child. The heavily worn I1 and M3 are consistent with the Neanderthal morphology, although they are less distinct taxonomically. These Chibanian remains with provenance from layer 3a are constrained by two thermoluminescence dates: 285 ± 34 ka and 295 ± 74 ka. They represent the earliest current evidence of Neanderthal spread into the Eastern Mediterranean Area. We discuss these findings in light of recent direct evidence for cultural connections between Southwestern Asia and Southeast Europe in the Chibanian.
... For example, hand axes and bifacial shaping technology, hallmarks of Acheulean or Mode 2 technologies, are very widespread across Europe and Western and Southwest Asia throughout the Middle Pleistocene (i.e., Chibanian Age/Stage, 774e129 ka; Cohen et al., 2020). Yet large bifacially shaped implements are unknown from the Balkans and Central Europe, except for a very few examples from Greece (Runnels et al., 2014;Tourloukis et al., 2015;Galanidou et al., 2016). Contemporaneous artifact assemblages are instead composed of small flake tools (Burdukiewicz and Ronen, 2003;Burdukiewicz, 2009;Rocca, 2016;Doronichev, 2016). ...
Major changes in the technological, economic, and social behavior of Middle Pleistocene hominins occurred at the onset of the Middle Paleolithic, 400–200 ka. However, until recently it was not possible to establish when, where, and how certain forms of Middle Paleolithic behavior appeared and spread into Southeastern Europe, mainly owing to gaps in the Paleolithic record. Here we report new results of dating, material culture, and the archaeological context of finds from the Balanica Cave Complex in Sićevo (Serbia). Two methods—thermoluminescence and electron spin resonance—were used to date the sequence. The geoarchaeological context was examined through sedimentology, micromorphology, and spatial analysis. Microfaunal remains were used to constrain the dates within an ecological zone, whereas macrofauna was analyzed for taxonomy and taphonomy to examine the source of accumulation and hominin behavior. Technological and typological features of the lithic assemblage were used to characterize lithic production at the site. Materials recovered from Layer 3 in Velika Balanica and from Layer 2 in Mala Balanica, both dated to MIS 9–7, include a distinctive set of archaeological assemblages which resemble contemporaneous Yabrudian assemblages from the Levant in important ways, and which are unlike contemporary material from the surrounding regions. In Velika Balanica, the lithic assemblages are associated with a large fireplace containing evidence of human activities similar to those from Qesem Cave (Israel). Dental remains uncovered in the same layer are consistent with Neanderthals. These findings suggest that the end of the Middle Pleistocene (before 300–240 ka) saw population movement and/or cultural transmission between Southwest Asia and the Balkans, which led eventually to a transfer of technology between Middle Eastern and European hominin populations and contributed to the shaping of Neanderthal behaviors throughout the eastern and northern Mediterranean.
... Despite this, the known human fossil record from Greece comprises a number of fossil human individuals representing different taxa. Recently, new research has focused both on systematic interdisciplinary fieldwork-aiming to discover new Paleolithic/paleoanthropological sites preserving evidence of early human presence and activity in Greece (e.g., Panagopoulou et al. 2015;Galanidou et al. 2016;Harvati et al. 2018; Thompson et al. 2018;)-and on the state-of-the-art reconstruction and analysis of the existing human fossil record, aiming to clarify their taxonomy, chronology, and phylogenetic relationships (e.g., Harvati 2009;Harvati et al. 2011Harvati et al. , 2013Harvati et al. , 2019Röding et al. in press). This work has uncovered the earliest currently known evidence of human occupation of the region at the site Marathousa 1, Megalopolis basin, dated by multiple dating approaches to ca. 400-500 ka (Blackwell et al. 2018;Jacobs et al. 2018;, as well as the earliest known possible evidence of early Homo sapiens in Eurasia at ca. 210 ka at Apidima, Mani (Harvati et al. 2019). ...
Conference Paper
The sedimentary basins of Greece contain an important record of fossil vertebrates that has been known and studied for nearly two centuries. Here, we present our collective effort to review and summarize this fossil record. A combination of our original research and previously published records permits the complete reassessment of the identified vertebrate species in Greece, per family or clade. A historical analysis suggests the division of the vertebrate paleontological research in Greece into three principal stages: the Early Stage until the end of World War II, the Intermediate Stage roughly until the end of the 20th century (1980s–2010s depending on the taxonomic group), and the Modern Stage since then. Nearly 900 primary publications dealing specifically with Greek fossils have been published so far, and almost half of them appeared during the past two decades; the complete number of all references is much greater. Based on our reassessment, more than 1100 different vertebrate species are identified in more than 500 fossiliferous localities, spanning from the Silurian to the latest Pleistocene/Holocene; the vast majority is from the Neogene–Quaternary. At least 254 of these valid species were new to science, and named based on unique Greek fossils. Many additional taxa have been established based on Greek material, but they are currently treated either as subjectively invalid or unavailable. Presently, the active Greek palaeontological community is more populous and diverse than ever before. However, looking towards the future, the continuation of palaeontological research in Greece requires serious investment and fundamental structural changes.
... Despite this, the known human fossil record from Greece comprises a number of fossil human individuals representing different taxa. Recently, new research has focused both on systematic interdisciplinary fieldwork-aiming to discover new Paleolithic/paleoanthropological sites preserving evidence of early human presence and activity in Greece (e.g., Panagopoulou et al. 2015;Galanidou et al. 2016;Harvati et al. 2018; Thompson et al. 2018;)-and on the state-of-the-art reconstruction and analysis of the existing human fossil record, aiming to clarify their taxonomy, chronology, and phylogenetic relationships (e.g., Harvati 2009;Harvati et al. 2011Harvati et al. , 2013Harvati et al. , 2019Röding et al. in press). This work has uncovered the earliest currently known evidence of human occupation of the region at the site Marathousa 1, Megalopolis basin, dated by multiple dating approaches to ca. 400-500 ka (Blackwell et al. 2018;Jacobs et al. 2018;, as well as the earliest known possible evidence of early Homo sapiens in Eurasia at ca. 210 ka at Apidima, Mani (Harvati et al. 2019). ...
Human paleontology is a relatively limited field, given that human fossil remains tend to be extremely rare. Furthermore, it differs from paleontology in that it is intrinsically bound with Paleolithic archaeology, at least for the later parts of human evolution, and cannot be considered independently from human early prehistory. Modern paleoanthropology is by nature interdisciplinary, drawing not only from paleontology and archaeology but also from other closely related fields, such as genetics, geoarchaeology, taphonomy, and others. In contrast to other European countries, such as France, Croatia, or Spain, this discipline is still in its infancy in Greece and in the past has been focused almost exclusively on important individual fossils. Despite the relative paucity of research, however, the human fossil record from Greece is surprisingly rich, highlighting the potential of the region for illuminating human evolution, dispersals, and adaptation.
Turkey is one of the rich countries in terms of the Lower Palaeolithic period. The favourable climatic and environmental conditions and quality stone raw material resources in the Pleistocene period caused the country to be heavily occupied by the people of the Lower Palaeolithic. Turkey has biface and flake industries of the Lower Palaeolithic period. Biface industries are more common in open-air sites and are often linked to the Acheulean. Biface tools are only found in the deposits of Karain Cave. The eastern and south-eastern parts of Turkey are the densest regions in terms of biface industries. This density decreases towards the west. However, this general appearance may have resulted from the insufficient level of excavations and surveys of Palaeolithic archaeology throughout the country. In this article, we try to draw a general framework of the Lower Palaeolithic period in Turkey, based on the important Lower Palaeolithic settlements in the country.
After the discovery of Homo erectus remains (circa 1.2 Ma) in Denizli, through examination of their surviving material culture, many sites containing lithics which could be attributed to Homo erectus have been located. It have revealed quartz assemblages in the parts of Denizli connected to the Menderes and Gediz Massif. The assemblages detected in Buldan and Güney associate with Mode 1 and Mode 2 techno-complexes. As the first systematic bipolar knapping study in the Paleolithic of Turkey, techno-typological analyses supported by experimental analyses will be a guide for future studies. As a result of these analyses, bipolar knapping, freehand technique, and the alternate use of both could be suggested as strategies for dealing with environmental raw material limitations or as a technical behavioral choice. In this context, the lithic assemblages in question, with their specific characteristics, shed new light on the dispersal of the early hominins out of Africa.
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This paper presents the results from the pilot analytical study of the Aegean Late-Final Neolithic/Anatolian Middle-Late Chalcolithic (c. 5500-3200/3000 BC) pottery from the Kastro-Tigani settlement, located in southeast Samos (east Aegean). In addition to Crete, the region of the insular eastern Aegean has produced the earliest evidence for Neolithic habitation. The archaeological traces at Kastro-Tigani are so far the earliest known on Samos, being partly contemporary with the recently discovered Middle-Late Chalcolithic layers at the Heraion, lying in close proximity to the former site, and at the Agriomernos cave (Megalo Seitani) in the northwest part of the island. The re-evaluation of the ceramic assemblage from Kastro-Tigani has led to the laboratory analysis of 34 samples, using a combination of thin-section petrography and Wavelength Dispersive X-Ray Fluorescence Spectroscopy, in order to determine provenance and establish reference groups for the earliest local production on Samos. This first compositional characterisation of the pottery contributes new data in a relatively under-studied region and provides grounds for comparison with analytical results from the Heraion, with the aim to investigate possible relations between the sites. Hence, the identification of different strategies in pottery production, reflected in the overall distinct fabric and chemical groups, further indicates the practice of several production units and the exploitation of various raw material sources at the Pythagoreion/Chora plain. Isolated examples of possible imported ceramic vessels, as well as exotica (e.g. obsidian, acrolithic and Kilia figurines, ring-shaped features, marble vessels, kratiriskoi) are highlighted as markers of macro-scale interaction in the context of Aegean early maritime connectivity.
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Conversations in Human Evolution is an ongoing science communication initiative seeking to explore the breadth and interdisciplinarity of human evolution studies. This volume reports another twenty interviews (referred to as ‘conversations’ as they are informal in style) with scholars at the forefront of human evolution research, covering the broad scientific themes of Palaeolithic archaeology, palaeoanthropology and biological anthropology, earth science and palaeoclimatic change, evolutionary anthropology and primatology, and human disease co-evolution. This project features academics at various different stages in their careers and from all over the world; in this volume alone, researchers are based at institutions in eleven different countries (namely Iran, India, the United Kingdom, Greece, Australia, South Africa, the United States of America, the Netherlands, Germany, France and Israel), covering five continents. Having arisen at the start of the COVID19 pandemic, Conversations in Human Evolution aims to encourage engagement with both human evolutionary studies and the broader socio-political issues that persist within academia, the latter of which is particularly pertinent during this time of global uncertainty. The conversations delve deeply into the study of our species’ evolutionary history through the lens of each sub-discipline, as well as detailing some of the most current advances in research, theory and methods. Overall, Conversations in Human Evolution seeks to bridge the gap between the research and researcher through contextualisation of the science with personal experience and historical reflection.
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Miocene volcanism on Lesvos was particularly explosive giving rise to two extensive pyroclastic formations, the Sigri pyroclastics to the west and the Polychnitos ignimbrite to the east of the island. The Polychnitos ignimbrite at 17.2±0.5 Ma (Borsi et al.1972) is part of the shoshonitic succession on Lesbos which ranges in composition from basalt to rhyolite and is both underlain and overlain by calcalkaline volcanic rocks (Pe-Piper and Piper 1993) resting on a late Paleozoic metamorphic basement which has acted as an impediment to the free flow of the ignimbrite. The Polychnitos ignimbrite consists of eight lithological units, six of which are presumed to be facies of the same ignimbrite sheet ("PK", "PU", "MGF I, II, III", "Z"). Ignimbrite deposition at elevated temperatures is advocated by its columnar jointing, eutaxitic texture, gas escape structures and glassy zones of intense welding. The typical mineral assemblage of all Polychnitos ignimbrite units consists of plagioclase, Kfeldspar and biotite. It displays phenocryst microtextures indicative of magma mixing. Magma mixing is corroborated of glasses of two discrete compositions. Lithic clast measurements indicate a northeasterly trending fissure vent passing from the northeastern corner of the Kalloni Gulf.
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Lower Paleolithic evidence from the Mediterranean region holds a prominent position in discussions about the earliest peopling of Europe. Most studies examining patterns of human occupation focus on purported behavioral capacity, habitat preference, and environmental tolerance of different hominins. This chapter employs a geoarchaeological perspective through the examination of landscape dynamics as a complementary approach. In this context, Lower Paleolithic records of the Mediterranean and the Balkans are reviewed with an emphasis on the geomorphological settings of the best-studied sites. Since most of the oldest, well dated and primary-context material occurs in open-air sites situated in basins, the last part of the chapter explores how basin dynamics could have conditioned the preservation and accessibility of artifact-bearing strata. Spain, Italy, and Greece are used as case-studies and a conceptual model is proposed as a means to assess possible patterned relationships of site locations. A “basin model” offers a working hypothesis for evaluating site distributions and outlines first steps towards a geosciences-based methodology, which can be used to locate new sites.
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The timing and route of early human dispersals out of the African continent are among the most important issues currently discussed in paleoanthropology. Several questions arise concerning both early and later dispersals: When did migration events happen? From which populations did these dispersing hominins stem? Which routes did they use? One of the likely dispersal corridors passes through Turkey, which is situated between three continents and therefore can be seen as an important bridge between them. Despite its geographic position, paleoanthropological research in Turkey has been limited, and the known fossil human record from this region is small. Although most of the known fossil human remains were found during early investigations, in the last decade new finds have further highlighted the region’s potential for paleoanthropological research. This chapter reviews the human fossil record from Turkey, and presents the results of a preliminary geometric morphometric study of the Kocabaş hominin, the oldest and most important fossil human specimen known from the country.
This volume represents a report of excavation conducted at the site of Canteen Koppie, Barkly West, Northern Cape, South Africa. It is a straight site report describing how the work was conducted and an analysis of the lithic assemblages recovered. This report describes the lithic assemblages associated with the sedimentological column for the Canteen Koppie site. The assemblages represent the first controlled excavations in this world famous locality