HABITATION IN LAVE TUBES BY EARLY HUMANS IN THE UPPER PLEISTOCENE IN THE SOUTHERN ARMENO-JAVAKEHET VOLCANIC PLATEAU IN NORTHWESTERN ARMENIA
Surveys in the Lori Plateau, in the Southern Armeno-Javakehet Volcanic plateau in Northwesten Armenia, conducted in 2003 revealed a cave, Peshcka, excavated by Dolukhanov and colleagues in 2004-2005. The initial publication suggested a Mesolithic lithic assmeblage with no geological analysis. Dolukhanov passed in 2007 and research in the cave was halted. Here we present preliminary geo-archeological results from our 2013 excavations.
The Lori Plateau is composed of Pliocene-Quaternary volcanic rocks. The landscape is dominated by: i) valley-filling, alkali basalt flows, ii) ridge-forming andesite to rhyolite flows, and iii) andesitic cinder cones. The cave appears to be a lava tube formed resuling from magmatism associated with the intermediate to felsic lavas of the ridge-forming series.
Pedogenesis within the cave was shallow, but included 4 different soil layers in a depth of ~ 70 cm. A thin O-horizon was present (3-7 cm) containing MP & UP lithics and modern glass. The A-horizon was relatively thick (~60 cm) and consisted of sandy clay loam with abundant collapse material from the roof of the cave. A B-horizon was encountered at depths of >60 cm and consisted of compact, silty clay. The A-horizon was separated into two strata: stratum B and stratum C. Stratum B contained a mixed assemblage of MP and UP lithics as well as medieval ceramics. A large UP lithics assemblage was found in strata C, prepared on obsidian and similar to Dzudzuana, Georgia. The assemblage consisted mostly of debitage and includes the chain opératoire with no tools. Tools were identified in the assemblage collected in the 2005 excavation. stratum D (stratigraphically equivalent to the B-horizon) contained a Middle Paleolithic (MP) assemablge. The assemblage was made from entirely on basalt, with mostly non-diagnostic tools. Tools are indicative of Levallois technique on blades.
Results point to the presence of a stratified MP-UP site in the Lori, with a unique geological structure. We point to its potential to shed light on the Middle -Upper Paleolithic transition in this critical time human evolution and to early human use of their landscape during this time period.