The southern Caucasus is home to a particularly rich record of Middle Paleolithic (MP) occupation. However, the potential contribution of the southern Caucasus to broader discussions of MP behavior and adaptations has remained largely unfulfilled because many key archaeological assemblages, deriving as they do from either surface scatters or sites that were excavated without the benefit of modern archaeological techniques, lack critical contextual information. What is more, the relatively small sample of sites where such data are available has been heavily biased towards caves and rockshelters. Here, we present a preliminary report on Bagratashen 1, an open-air MP site stratified within an ancient terrace of the Debed River in northeastern Armenia. While no faunal material has yet been recovered, site formation analysis suggests that the lithic assemblage, although subjected to subaerial exposure and some degree of post-depositional alteration, is neither severely biased nor substantially reworked. The presence of numerous cores and primary flaking debris indicate that at least some reduction occurred on-site. It appears that a majority of the raw material was probably procured locally from the nearby river channel, although a handful of obsidian pieces reveal raw material movements on the order of 80 km. The Bagratashen 1 lithic assemblage also includes several elongated points that recall early MP artifacts from the Levant and other sites in the southern Caucasus that date to between 250 and 90 ka BP. Optically Stimulated Luminescence samples from within the find horizon, however, returned dates of ~ 34 ka BP. While a terminal MP date requires confirmation, Bagratashen 1 provides an interesting case with which to test the utility of formal lithic artifacts as chrono-cultural markers.
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